The changing behaviour series: Dutch auto market revving up

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With over 17 million residents, 92% of whom live in urban areas, The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. And although it has a reputation for being a bike friendly country, nearly 80% of the Dutch population aged 17 and over hold a valid driving licence. 

Six months on from the first coronavirus case in the country, safety measures, social distancing and working from home still pervade. Throughout the period car dealerships across the country remained open and in this post from The changing behaviour series we examine the patterns of behaviour of Dutch consumers visiting auto dealerships across the country.  

On 1 June, as the country entered phase 2 of a five step road map to reopening, bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and concert halls all opened for business with restrictions and social distancing measures in place. Looking at our data we can see that in the first two weeks of June car dealerships experienced low foot traffic to stores. The low levels of visitors to dealership floors is likely linked to the social opportunities that re-emerged at the same time. However, this soon picked up with consistent double digit week on week growth until the end of July, as visitors gradually returned to car dealerships.

This upward trajectory persisted throughout July as case numbers remained at their lowest since early March. However, a gradual decrease of visitors, starting in August, coincided with an increase in cases that began to rise at the same time across the country. 

In an effort to avoid public transport and risk catching the virus, the desire for individual mobility is increasing. People who normally travel to work by train are beginning to look for alternatives, with many looking to purchase a car. 

For car dealerships to attract those looking to purchase, keeping front of mind is more important than ever. Sharing new dealership opening hours, test-drive centres and any COVID-19 precautions dealerships and driving centres are taking is key. As we enter the winter period, auto brands in The Netherlands could try some of the following: 

  1. As with other retailers, digitising the customer and purchase experience will help to engage audiences. ‘Test drive’ and ‘build your own car’ games, can encourage people to book a real test drive at their local dealership or modify their new purchase. Integrating drive times to local dealerships and interactive store locators will help consumers easily find the nearest one. 
  2. With 9.1% share of electric cars, consumers in The Netherlands are among the highest in Europe to make the switch to electric motoring. This is bolstered by government plans to provide up to €4.000 towards the cost of new electric vehicles. This is a great opportunity to upweight on content about eco-cars. Consumers are increasingly looking for environmentally and eco-conscious products and services. With financial uncertainty high on many people’s minds, focusing not only on short term value benefits but longer-term sustainability will help win these consumers over.  
  3. Purchasing a car usually involves multiple people in the household deciding what works best for their needs. Using historical data, brands can identify targeted audiences, including those who have visited dealerships or garages over the past six months or those who have been seen on car apps looking at auto content. Serving ads to this refined audience and the households they reside in will help ensure that your brand is front and centre with all decision makers. 
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