How AVB Marketing is Helping Members Navigate COVID-19
AVB Marketing (AVBM), a division of the AVB/BrandSource buying organization for independent dealers, says it is harnessing its resources and helping transition its members into the new world of social distancing, in light of drastic changes in consumer buying habits over the course of the past few weeks.
With distancing becoming the new norm, AVB’s marketing team has noted some very specific shopping trends as increasingly homebound customers shop in a decidedly different way.
The organization further states that the typical shopper was already trending toward at least a partial virtual shopping experience – and the pandemic has dragged them there seemingly overnight. With online activity across all retail, including in the independent retail sector, skyrocketing, AVBM notes that it is seeing a pivot toward the digital shopping experience on all BrandSource websites across all markets.
Taking a deeper dive into the data, AVBM found numbers that underscore this shift. When comparing month-over-month figures from the 2020 President’s Day sales period (Feb. 13-27) to just one month later (March 12-26, after the early spread of COVID-19), it reported the following spikes online:
• Web traffic was up over 30 percent;
• Web conversions were up over 40 percent;
• Calls from digital ads were up 19 percent;
• Online orders from digital ads were up 81 percent;
• Chats from ads were up 140 percent;
• Baskets (numbers of items in checkout carts) were up 34 percent; and
• There was a whopping 393 percent overall increase in online orders.
It is clear, the organization says, that customer habits are changing fast. AVBM has helped members capture this shift through a host of tools, and says it wants to make sure that the BrandSource member has a strong online presence. This includes having a transactional website with chat features and keeping their customers apprised of the status of their business, including hours of operation and delivery and cleanliness protocols.
“Now is the time to eliminate wants-based messaging and move to a needs-based purchase strategy,” said Eric Hunter, director of ecommerce for AVBM. “What is most important to communicate immediately is whether and when you are open, which items you have in stock, and how soon you can deliver them. Your customers aren’t currently shopping for new products out of desire, they are doing so out of need. Make it easy for them to do so.”
For members who’ve leveraged the group’s live chat, payment gateway, online merchandising, customer communications, and other digital assets, the effort has paid off, as reflected in the website analytics. For those without transactional websites, AVBM says it can now implement full ecommerce functionality in just seven days, compared to the industry’s typical turnaround time of one month or more. The cost to members starts at $499 per month, which includes access to hundreds of brands, managed product pricing, live chat, and in-stock management and POS integration.
“Simply being ‘online’ is table stakes,” added Hunter. “Taking the time today to enhance your online experience will only set you up for future success.”
Said Jim Ristow, CEO of AVBM parent AVB Inc.: “We have been laser-focused on keeping dealers afloat digitally, and transactional websites with chat are a necessity. There are many dealers looking for guidance that need our organization’s help right now. Many retailers are closing their stores or limiting their hours but can still make curbside deliveries. Others are closed completely but are looking to reinvigorate their digital strategy, so they are ready to access the virtual shopper when the market stabilizes. This is the dealer we are trying to help.”
Customers have been pivoting to the digital realm for some time, and the COVID crisis has expedited that transition seemingly overnight. The group is of the view that dealers’ digital facings are going to be their primary showrooms through the duration of the pandemic and far beyond, and they need to adjust their business models to align with changing consumer shopping habits and seamlessly fulfill customer needs.
“If your website is not transactional, you need to make it so immediately,” Ristow advised. “AVB Marketing can get you there fast and painlessly.”