Shifting demands, shifting gears

Garages have been adapting as circumstances change, and have even bucked some trends along the way according to marketing agency Digital Incubator

Published:  02 September, 2020

Garages that thought they would be veering away from MOTs in favour of essential repairs during the Coronavirus lockdown are still doing MOT tests at roughly the same rate, it has been suggested.

While DVSA figures showed a 78% drop in MOT performed between 30 March and 24 April, marketing agency Digital Incubator says the independent garages it works with that remained open during the lockdown have not seen such a steep drop.
“We have a lot of garage clients that have switched from MOT campaigns to clutch and gearbox work,” explained Jamie Stoulger, Sales Director and Operations Manager at Digital Incubator. “However, our clients are still generating a steady flow of MOT enquires.”

The marketing agency works with garages across the UK, and currently has over 1,200 motor trade campaigns ongoing. 80% of customers are in the independent sphere.

Jamie continued: “Regardless of the MOT not being relevant, people are still getting their cars picked up. A lot of our clients run a collect and delivery service. We are running that via the ad campaigns and on the website.”
There has been an impact, Jamie confirmed, but a mild one at best, and work overall continues: “MOTs have slowed down slightly, that just what it is, but regardless of us being in the middle of this pandemic, if someone still has to go into work and their car breaks down, they still need to get it repaired. They are not going to just leave it on the side of the road and deal with it six months later. You need it done. As a result, our clients are still generating leads.”

We asked Jamie he thought this has taken many of their garage clients by surprise. “I wouldn’t say so,” he replied. “There are a lot of franchised dealerships and service centres that have just closed their doors without even thinking about it. They just went ‘we can get funding, let’s just put everyone on furlough’. The garage businesses that decided to pummel through this, they are still performing. There might be a small dip in some cases, but across the board, our averages have not really dropped. I don’t want to make a bold statement and say it isn’t affecting anyone – it is – but they are on average not far behind where they usually are. It has hit them, but we are not talking about 50%. The drops in business are probably around 10% to 15%.”

On what has been in many cases blanket closure by across much of the franchised network, Jamie observed: “I worry about the outlets that are closing their doors without making the slightest attempt at generating business. It’s still out there. People forget that. Across the board, if you think about it logically, there might only be 50% of the business available, but if 80% of the outlets are closing down, the garages staying open will benefit. I think a lot of businesses are going to come back to a very big decline in their own customer base. Their customers have had chance to test another garage out. If they had a better service, I know where they will go the second time around.

 “I think some businesses have taken things a little too far. There are things you can put in place, like contactless pick-up and delivery. Dealerships could have put in place what the independents have done to keep their workers safe and the customers safe. If you can, do everything contactless. A lot of companies are going to go bust because of this. The best bet is to do things safely, ensure it is all contactless, but keep the doors open. The business is out there, they just need to be a bit more open about how to get it.”

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