The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted businesses and industries in many unexpected ways. Restrictions on mobility has made it difficult to proceed with business as usual, forcing many companies to shift to a remote work setup. Apart from business owners, consumers have also faced major disruptions in their daily lives, thus causing their preferences and lifestyles to change.

The shifts in consumer demands and adjustments forced by the pandemic have disrupted all industries, without any being an exception. With that said, different industries faced different impacts, with some being hit negatively and others showing a surprisingly positive outcome. The travel, hospitality, and entertainment industries are some of the hardest-hit segments, especially since people are more cautious about face-to-face contact and being in crowded places.

One of the more interesting cases observed in the market can be related to how vehicles fared in the pandemic. While stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements have limited people’s time outdoors, it has also prompted them to make certain lifestyle changes. Take a look at how the recreational vehicle (RV) industry performed in 2020, along with the market outlooks for 2021 in this yearend review.


RV Sales Up Due to Air Travel Restrictions

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the RV industry has unexpectedly skyrocketed. It has boomed so much that the market registered record sales in the past few months, with first-time buyers dominating most of the sales. Now, the big question is why? With lockdown measures and quarantine restrictions, the expectation was that RVs would not be in demand as many are staying at home.

While people are generally still cautious about leaving their homes, they have also been looking for ways to destress and move around without having to travel by air. The many months of lockdown have deprived people of their vacations. As such, many have turned to and found solace in RVs, which can be used for road trips and camping trips.

Back in June this year, the total number of RV shipments reached a record-breaking high since October 2018, with over 40,000 RVs shipped out in the month. Earlier in April, the RV Industry Association noted an 82% decrease in sales from last year, likely caused by the intensive lockdowns implemented at that time. In May, the prospects improved but sales were still down by 30%.

Surprisingly, demand started to spike in spring and summer of 2020, shown by the turnaround in June. People were looking for alternative ways to spend their vacations.. Since many were still apprehensive about flying or staying in a hotel, an RV helps solve this problem by providing them with transportation and lodging in one. With an RV, people can go on outdoor trips while still staying in their own place, effectively solving the common concern that they have today.

Another reason why RVs have been so in-demand has to do with businesses reopening and transitioning into the new normal. While many have started to resume operations, strict safety guidelines are still put in place. As such, maintaining a controlled environment in company trips has become a top priority, and RVs can help companies achieve this.

Pandemic Encourages First-Time RV Buyers

According to RV dealers, as much as 50% to 80% of the buyers fueling the boost in sales are first-time buyers. A year ago, the number was only at 25% to 35%, showing how the pandemic has largely influenced customers’ purchase decisions. Unexpectedly, it has pushed more new customers to venture into the world of RVs.

The spike in first-time RV buyers can be seen in Thor Industries’ performance in the latest fiscal year, which ended in July. The company reported a backlog of orders amounting to $5.74 billion, a sharp increase compared to $2 billion last year. This backlog is particularly attributed to a large number of younger enthusiasts who are drawn to the idea of an RV, especially during these times.

According to industry experts, the increase in sales is not just pent-up demand. Rather, there was likely a huge market of new buyers that were interested in purchasing RVs long before. However, it was only during the pandemic that they were pushed to get one as they wanted to travel with less risks.

Supply Challenges Caused by Unprecedented Increase in Demand

With shipments reaching an all-time high this year, the industry has struggled to keep up with the rising demand. The unexpected turn of events has led dealers to struggle with shortages in their inventory. The supply chain challenges were mostly caused by the many RV manufacturers that had to close down in the early phases of the pandemic. During this time, factories had to shut down and dealerships had to sell off all their existing inventory.

Given the current situation, the biggest challenge faced by dealers is scarcity in parts and shortages in inventory. While sales and demand are undeniably high, customers are unable to meet all the demands. Due to supply chain disruptions and limited working hours caused by the pandemic, manufacturers are unable to produce parts as quickly as before. This problem has resulted in a significant backlog of sales, with companies selling models before they are even completed.

Back in September, the shortage was so severe that customers who ordered in the month would have to wait until October or November before receiving their RV. As such, many people are now trying to order as early as possible to ensure they can get their vehicle in time for their trips.

New RVs Accommodating Remote Work Needs

Dealers have recognized the rising demand for the vehicle as an opportunity to innovate it and address more needs for consumers. Originally, RVs have been effective in helping travellers relive the excitement of going outdoors without flying on a plane or booking a hotel. However, RV manufacturers are starting to see that the vehicle can do so much more, particularly with remote work.

New RVs are working towards responding to shifting customer priorities by designing models that cater to remote work demands. With many people now working from home, personal and rented vehicles have become the go-to choice for travel plans. As such, customers are now seeking more infrastructure within their RVs. Features like internet connectivity and adequate working space are particularly important as these can help people stay productive with their remote work.

One RV company noted that about 30% to 40% of customers are sending inquiries about their vans’ mobile office features. Most of the first-time buyers are particularly interested in how their RVs can support remote work capabilities to cater to their flexible lifestyles. Dealers have started to see the potential in this growing segment, especially with the uncertainties about returning to face-to-face work.

Due to the success of making more innovative RV models, manufacturers are now working on digitally optimizing vans to create a more ideal remote workspace. Aside from internet connection, better soundproofing and ergonomic seating options are only some of the features being incorporated into RVs for people working from home. Given the limited space dimensions in an RV, manufacturers will have to be strategic about fitting all the necessary amenities inside the vehicle.

RV Rentals Exceeded Expectations in the Pandemic

In line with the increased demand for RVs, RV rentals have also shown to be extremely profitable during the pandemic. About 75% of RV owners generated more rental income this year than last year, showing just how popular these vans have become in the past few months. Evidently, travel is an innate part of many people’s lifestyles, so even with social distancing requirements, people are looking for creative ways to hit the road.

During this time of uncertainty, RVs provided individuals and families with a safe way to enjoy a socially distanced vacation. According to RVshare, a platform where users can rent RVs, rental traffic has increased by 1600% since April and 93% of its users reported their plans to spend their summer vacation in a smaller crowd.

Fortunately, the RV rental process is extremely easy and convenient. To make it better, the entire process can be done online, so customers need not worry about face-to-face contact. With platforms like RVshare, they can choose where to pick up the RV, how long they will rent it for, and how many people must fit inside. Other options also include how luxurious they want the vehicle to be, as well as customizations like having a pet-friendly van.

With RV demands on the rise, rentals are expected to grow even further over time. Thus, purchasing an RV comes with tons of appeals and benefits for customers. It can be used as a vacation vehicle to practice social distancing, a mobile van to travel while still working from home, or an investment vehicle to rent out when not in use.

Trends Shaping the RV Industry in 2021

Another question that looms is: What will happen to the RV industry in 2021? Will the unexpected boom in sales this year be sustained further, and what can dealers expect with the market moving forward? These are some of the top trends expected to shape the market outlook for next year as 2020 comes to a close.

1. Tiny Homes

Now, more than ever, the tiny home trend has grown more significantly as it is more cost-effective. For some, the idea of a mobile home has also been particularly appealing, which has led to the concept of an RV as a permanent home. That said, RVs as a home will have to feature a more “homey” design that resembles the stability of a regular home to address the emotional and sentimental needs.

2. Smaller RVs

Smaller RVs are on the rise as they are more environmentally-friendly and affordable, allowing people to have more money to spend on food and travel experiences. The trend for smaller vehicles is expected to grow further, now that consumers are becoming more cautious of their expenses but still want to have vacation arrangements from time to time.

3. Family-Friendly Spaces

While RVs are generally equipped to house many people for camping trips and other similar adventures, not all can accommodate as many guests. However, with the social isolation caused by the pandemic, people are starting to invite their friends and family more often. As such, family-friendly RV spaces that can house multiple people is expected to become even more popular in the coming year.

4. Unique Floor Plans

RVs today have gone a long way from the traditional units, so you can expect more unique floor plans to dominate even further. Should you decide to shop for an RV this year or next, you may be surprised to see how the floor plans have transformed. RV designers have worked towards making the vans even more accommodating to consumers’ needs, thus seeking for better ways to maximize the space inside.

5. Innovative Technology

Technology continues to advance over time, and with the RV industry, such is no exception. Nowadays, manufacturers and designers are incorporating various technologies in their vehicles to give customers a better experience. Some innovations include smarter work stations, dual battery charging systems, and automation functions. Fortunately, customers have responded positively to these improvements, with many embracing the technologies infused into RVs today.

6. Increased Competition

More competition is expected to ensue in the RV industry, especially with more people going on socially distanced vacations and living in tiny homes. While the industry offers relatively low threats and barriers to entry, many large companies are now utilizing more innovations. As such, new entrants will have to prepare for intensifying competition.2020 has seen several transformations in the RV industry, and it is expected to innovate even further as the year comes to a close. In today’s technological age, RVs have evolved into so much more than being vacation vans as they now come in various sizes, designs, and features.

Without a doubt, the RV industry is one of the few that have seen an unexpected turn of events. While sales may have decreased in the earlier part of the year, things took a drastic turn in spring and summer when demand suddenly spiked. In the midst of the pandemic where social distancing has become a new normal, people have found that RVs can help them proceed with their vacation plans.

It is no secret that in today’s digital age, the online space is a powerful and valuable asset. Nowadays, gadgets have become something of a necessity, making it normal to see everyone carrying a smartphone wherever they go. Likewise, the Internet has evolved into a top source of information, which billions of users browse through daily to learn about various things. With the level of advancement that technology has achieved in the present day, it is no surprise that businesses are capitalizing on it to further grow and scale their operations.

 

Harnessing the capabilities of search engines can prove to be useful, especially for businesses. Having an established digital presence can attract a larger customer base and ultimately generate more leads and sales. Thus, strategies like search engine optimization (SEO) have become essential in any marketing plan. SEO is now a household name for every business and marketer as it is the ultimate cornerstone to solidifying your online presence.

 

When using SEO, it is important to stay updated and well-informed about Google’s algorithms to ensure that your site ranks high in search engine results pages (SERPs). Back in 2019, Google launched a major algorithm update known as BERT to better understand how people use language. As one of the biggest changes to Google’s algorithms in the past five years, many questions are now being raised on how SEO strategies can be refined to optimize for BERT.

What is BERT?

 

BERT is short for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers and is a natural language processing pre-training that aims to understand the nuances in language. It was designed to help the Google search engine understand how people communicate. When users search for information online, they expect to get accurate answers to their queries. BERT was developed to address this need and better process search queries to understand the intent behind them.

 

With BERT, search engines can better understand what users mean when they search for particular things. Thus, the smallest nuances, such as the use of prepositions, can affect the entries that appear in the SERPs. With this update, the search process is expected to be much more helpful, providing users with accurate answers to their questions.

 

BERT Emphasizes Natural Language

 

Keyword research is one of the essential aspects of SEO. However, BERT prioritizes natural language and writing since it tries to understand how people communicate and write queries. The term bidirectional in BERT means that Google reads searches from left to right or right to left, allowing the search engine to process queries more comprehensively.

 

For example, the search query is “do RV dealers offer online payment options.” Before the BERT update, Google would have shown search results with keywords like RV dealers or online payment. However, with BERT, Google would show results that directly answer the query. As such, RV dealerships must optimize their content to answer the common questions that first-time buyers may have, especially since the online buying process is still new to many.

 

Overall, the main point is that BERT can detect search intent even without matching keywords. Thus, your content need not force keywords or jam them together if it makes the language sound unnatural. While using keywords will still be helpful, it should not be the top priority. Instead, more focus should be placed on writing naturally and in a way that is easy for any person to understand. By doing this, Google can better understand the meaning behind your words.

 

BERT Understands Long-Tail Keywords

 

Another important thing to note about BERT is that the model understands the intent behind long-tail keywords. Long queries have been relatively tricky to deal with in the past, especially since longer keywords require an understanding of the context.

 

Fortunately, BERT uses a feature called attention scores, which involves going through each word in a sentence and comparing it to one another. The attention score helps Google understand the influence that each word has in a sentence. It is particularly effective in dissecting ambiguous words, allowing the search engine to recognize what words have heavier weight in the user’s search intent.

 

One significant change would be the use of prepositions, which BERT can understand to identify intent more accurately. For example, if you are searching for “RV rentals to city,” then BERT will pay more attention to the use of “to.” Back then, your SERPs would likely have shown entries on RV rentals, but they would not have been focused on those that are catered to a particular city. However, BERT understands the purpose of including the preposition in the query and will thus show you rentals that can go to the city.

 

Overall, BERT can be particularly beneficial for longer search queries since the update can better understand the context in searches. Thus, it may be a good opportunity to polish your long-tail strategy. In refining your content, make sure your headings answer your title and keywords directly. Since BERT is designed to understand natural language, it is also effective for voice search optimization, which tends to use more long-tail keywords.

 

BERT Checks for Inaccuracies

 

With the BERT update, Google is set to provide more reliable and accurate content to users. Back in 2016, the search engine released a fact-checking mechanism by comparing an article to other similar articles and content pieces. However, BERT was designed to enhance this feature by using the model’s understanding of language and context to create more accurate matches and expose inaccuracies more effectively.

 

Essentially, BERT performs fact-checking the same way it processes search queries to understand the intent behind them. Thus, it is best to go over your content once more and use fact-checking tools like Google’s Fact Check Tools to ensure your article is not rendered inaccurate.

BERT Improves One in 10 Searches

 

The new Google algorithm is said to affect one in 10 searches in the US in English to improve search results quality and match results to intent more accurately. According to Google, the BERT algorithm is so complex that it can only be used for a limited number of searches. However, even with this limitation, the changes will still be evident and visible, especially with the billions of searches made by users every day.

 

BERT aims to make the search process more user-friendly and helpful. Thus, for content creators, the main task will be to understand what their target audience is searching for. Only then will they be able to provide reliable and relevant answers to their questions.

 

BERT May Impact Featured Snippets

 

BERT may affect featured snippets, though in a more indirect way. Technically, BERT is merely focused on natural language processing and trying to understand what users are looking for in their queries. However, similar to how the model will affect what appears in SERPs, it will also likely affect what appears in featured snippets. The bidirectional reading mechanism, attention scores, and understanding of prepositions can all change the snippets returned by Google.

 

With that said, the update should not be a cause for alarm or concern since it essentially tries to cater more to how humans naturally speak.

 

What Does the Update Mean for Marketers and Content Creators?

 

After Google rolled out BERT, many marketers, web makers, and content creators became wary about how the update will affect their existing website and strategy. However, the primary objective of BERT is to provide more accurate results to users’ search queries by understanding their intent. Thus, if your content has already been written to cater to your users, you need not do anything differently. The main takeaway is that you must write content for readers and not for search engines.

 

If anything, the most important change to remember with BERT is that you can now write more naturally, similar to how the human language works. If you are unsure about this aspect, you can perform a content audit to look back at your existing articles and see whether you can make some improvements.

 

Understanding how BERT works and how it affects your website is crucial to ranking high and appearing on the right SERPs. Whether you are new to SEO practices or more familiar and experienced with the strategies, it is essential to examine your content and see if it will be effective in the age of BERT.

Top BERT-Friendly Practices for Vehicle Dealers

 

Technology has indeed transformed the business world and workplace in more ways than one. Industries that were once focused on face-to-face selling are now starting to diversify into the online space. This is particularly true for vehicle dealerships as the majority of customers begin their research online and prefer to do most of the buying online as well.

 

The big question now is: How can dealerships create effective websites and content, especially with the BERT update? Take note of these important practices to help you optimize your content successfully.

 

Understand Your Audience

Knowing your target audience is perhaps one of the most significant steps to take now that BERT is underway. Since this new update aims to deliver more accurate and relevant results to users, the first thing you must do is identify who your audience is. Know who they are, what answers they want, and how they make search queries. This way, you can create content that answers their questions directly.

 

There are various ways to better understand your audience. One of these would be to create personas to identify the types of audience that your site attracts. You can check your site analytics to know more about your visitors and learn about their behavior or how they engage with your content.

 

Focus on Context in Keywords

Keywords have long been an important part of SEO as they help Google determine what entries to include in a user’s SERP. However, BERT is more focused on search intent, so it processes queries by examining the nuances in the language to understand the context. Due to this update, you must now shift your emphasis from the traditional way of viewing keywords as exact match terms that will show up in SERPs.

 

Now, it is important to look at the context surrounding your keywords and positioning them in your sentences appropriately. For example, if you want to use a keyword like “RV dealers,” it would help to include points related to RVs, such as camping, traveling, and the like. Using related keywords will also be useful as it helps BERT recognize your content as inclusive.

 

Sound More Conversational

BERT emphasizes the idea of writing with your readers in mind, so your content must sound more conversational and organic. One of the biggest reasons explaining this would be the growing popularity of voice searches. Since these sound more natural than textual searches, Google is working to deliver more accurate results to users. Focus on being straightforward and concise, and avoid using too many filler words.

 

Use Long-Tail Keywords

With search intent now a top priority for Google, you can better capitalize on your long-tail keyword strategy. Voice searches tend to be longer in nature since people word their queries differently when speaking, so you can tap into the potential of using long-tail keywords while still sounding natural.

 

It is important to take note that the BERT update does not mean you must optimize purely for long-tail keywords. Your main focus must still be on keyword quality and tying this into the context of your content, rather than keyword length. However, the purpose of bringing up long-tail keywords is to mention how BERT can better recognize the intent behind longer queries, giving you more room to work with them.

 

It is worth noting that there is nothing to optimize specifically for BERT. However, it is useful to know how this update affects your content to know what practices you can better work on and refine. That said, if you have already been creating content that answers your audience’s queries and using natural language, you need not worry about your site getting affected by BERT.

 

 

BERT is revolutionizing the search process to better account for natural language and the different contexts and nuances in words. The changes brought about by this Google update have led to deeper transfer learning in natural language processing, making it one of the top machine learning contributions in 2019.

2020 has been challenging—and the biggest reason for this is the unexpected occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a global phenomenon, the entire world has been affected by the virus in one way or another. As such, people worldwide have had to transition to various changes in their daily lives. From taking classes online to working from home, the pandemic has led to the need for the so-called new normal.

 

Businesses are also not exempt from this, as the pandemic has forced companies to stop conducting business as usual early on in the year. Some industries, like tourism and entertainment, have been badly affected by mobility restrictions. However, as a whole, the economic recessions and downturns in different countries have caused businesses to plummet, with many still recovering from the impact.

 

Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic saw an increase in the number of people engaging in recreational boating. Boat sales have risen starting the summer of 2020, prompting questions about how the industry will fare as the economy recovers. Take a look at the 2020 recap of the boating industry to learn about the trends, statistics, and outlook on it.

 

Boat Sales Hit By Rocky Start, But Recovered in the Summer

 

Like many other businesses, the boating industry was hit hard by the pandemic. It became vulnerable and at risk due to the travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders, and quarantines that have kept people at home. According to the Marine CEO Sentiment Report, 81% of boat manufacturers saw an overall decline in sales in the first quarter, while 15% of manufacturers permanently shut down operations.

 

Surprisingly, however, the second quarter saw a significant turn of events, with boating sales increasing during the summer. Total boat sales increased by 59% in May compared to April, and some businesses have reported over 40% year-on-year growth for the months of May and June. People have learned to navigate the situation by looking for alternative hobbies to spend their time. Boating has turned into one of the most popular recreational activities during this time as it allows people to practice social distancing while having fun.

 

Vacationers, in particular, have turned to recreational boating due to air travel restrictions, which have put a halt on many people’s travel plans. Due to the pandemic, many have opted to leave the city and find solace in islands and lakes to get some calm out of their busy lives. Sales for new and used boats have surged significantly, with the former growing by 30% and the latter growing by 74%. Cumulative data also shows that sales for personal watercrafts, fishing boats, and jet boats have all increased this year compared to last year.

 

While boat sales may have peaked in the summer, reports show that the momentum has started to slow in September. The month registered slower shipments, which led to lower supply, but this is expected to pick up in the following months.

 

Surge in First-time Buyers

 

The rise in boating sales can be attributed to many buyers, but first-time buyers are one of the largest contributors. Boat buyers vary in characteristics, with some being first-time buyers looking for a chance to get out of the house and others being former boat owners who want to rekindle the hobby. The effect of the pandemic has come as a surprise to many as the industry boomed during this time. With boating recognized as a COVID-safe outdoor activity, many have turned to this new outlet.

 

The trend in sales from first-time buyers began in the summer and continued to grow through fall. So far, 2020 has seen about 25,000 more boat purchases than 2019, and 24,000 of these can be attributed to first-time buyers.

 

While the surge is certainly beneficial and profitable for dealers, it will also be important to help first-time buyers get acquainted with boating in general. They will need guidance in the types of boats and where they can be used, proper maintenance procedures, and other important protocols to help them get started. Educating them on safety guidelines will also be crucial to ensure they have smooth sailing experiences.

 

Boat Dealers Face Shortage in Supply

 

With the unprecedented increase in boat sales starting the second quarter of 2020, several boat dealers faced shortages. Some companies and manufacturers have expressed how unexpected the turn of events were, with many experiencing such a high demand for the first time in their many years of working in the industry. One salesman in Marina del Ray Yacht Sales noted that he used to sell 11 boats per month, as opposed to two or three before the pandemic.

 

Due to the all-time high demand, many dealerships have sold out of their products, giving rise to the problem of shortages. While the pandemic may have led to an increase in sales, it has made procurement of boats more difficult since several manufacturers were able to sustain their operations. For manufacturers that managed to continue amidst the pandemic, several disruptions have slowed down their production, leading to lower inventory levels.

 

Aside from manufacturing restrictions, lack of personnel has also proven to be a problem for dealers. Since the rise in demand was unexpected and unpredictable, several boat dealers are struggling to find enough manpower to meet the demand and provide appropriate customer service.

 

Coordinating Boat Sales During the Pandemic

 

2020 has certainly disrupted many industries, with the boating industry being no exception. While sales may have skyrocketed, dealers and sellers were still required to adjust to the changes, especially due to physical distancing restrictions. This year has particularly highlighted the growing importance of online sales and marketing. Customers prefer digital and contactless buying methods now, more than ever, due to the emphasis placed on health.

 

As a result, automated payments, online management and scheduling tools, and virtual communication platforms have all been important in managing sales amid the pandemic. As much as possible, customers want to limit contact with the purchasing process. Due to stay-at-home measures, many also begin their research on the internet.

 

As boat dealers and buyers venture into this new and uncertain situation, proper communication will be key. Whether it be matters regarding new boat sales, service repairs, or getting parts to complete repairs, dealers will have to communicate realistic expectations to customers.

 

First-time buyers, in particular, tend to have unrealistic expectations about how the process goes. Failure to set expectations can cause them to have negative perceptions on dealerships, making communication an integral part of the seller-buyer relationship.

 

Challenges Brought About by COVID-19

 

Several boating dealers have cited what they consider to be a buying frenzy earlier this year, particularly in the month of April and onwards. During this time, restrictions had started to ease slightly, and people saw boating as the perfect opportunity to recreate while social distancing. As a result, sales surged and the number of people with new boats and on the water increased significantly.

 

Evidently, the pandemic has led to an unprecedented positive outcome for the boating industry as it prompted many to learn about the activity. However, the shift in demand has also presented some challenges for boat dealerships.

 

In the short-term, the challenge will be forecasting sales to determine appropriate inventory levels, as well as staffing requirements to accommodate the demand. While the current situation has led to a rise in boat demand, the industry’s trajectory in the coming years is still not concrete. Changes are also expected to ensue in the coming months and year, now that air travel restrictions are slowly easing and people are starting to travel once again.

 

In the long-term, the challenge will mainly revolve around how the boating experience and business can be improved. This will include refining manufacturing processes to make them more efficient, developing new and innovative products, improving the customer experience, and many others. Overall, the prospects for the future have to do with how sellers and dealers can continue to promote the boating culture and convince people of the hobby.

 

Indeed, the pandemic has led to the need for a new normal, making it infeasible for businesses to run their operations as usual. Given the uncertainty on how things will unfold, there remains to be several questions. One of the most important, which remains to be unanswered, is whether the sales surge caused by the pandemic will be sustained in the coming years.

 

Innovation to Drive Boating Industry

 

The sales frenzy experienced by boat dealers this year has prompted many new market opportunities to emerge. For one, the industry is witnessing several new advancements and innovations in technological features to promote the boating experience. Nowadays, customers are becoming more reliant on automated controls to avoid having to spend too much time on learning how to operate a boat.

 

Some innovative features include lightweight engines and power systems, automatic controls, and digital throttle. With the rate at which boating sales, it is expected that these technological advances will be driving the industry in the coming years.

Boating Industry Trends to Anticipate for 2021

 

The global pandemic has caused much of the dynamics in the economy to shift. Though oating sales increased sometime in the second quarter, dealers and sellers must still be cautious about the market’s volatility. As the year 2020 nears its end, several trends are expected to drive the boating market for 2021.

 

  1. Fishing

Boats have exploded in popularity for many reasons, but fishing is undoubtedly one of the top uses for these vehicles. Thus, fishing boat sales are expected to regain momentum in 2021 after they dropped in 2019. Related fishing accessories will also accompany the boats and are projected to have favorable growth for the coming year.

 

  1. Rentals

Aside from boat sales, boat rentals have also risen in popularity during the pandemic. Many people have found solace in spending a day or two in the water after months of staying at home, thus leading to increased boat rentals. Organizations like the Center of Disease and Control (CDC) have provided safety guidelines to practice social distancing and protect one’s health.

 

With that said, the positive growth in the boat rental industry is expected to continue through 2026. Medium-sized boats ranging from 28 to 45 feet in length tend to be the most popular and in-demand category for sales, boats larger than this have observably lower demand for rentals.

 

  1. Affordability

The pandemic has caused consumer perception and priorities to shift significantly, so customers are now more discerning about their expenses. Fortunately, boats have started to become more affordable due to more advanced technologies that can boost efficiency in production and manufacturing. However, with that said, affordability may be relative to the consumer, so it still depends on the company’s target market and product offers.

 

  1. Family Activities

Boating demand increased rapidly for various reasons, and family activities serve as one of the top growth drivers for revenues and sales. As a result, family-friendly and family-oriented boats are expected to remain popular. This projection will also prove to be valuable for manufacturers as boats like the pontoon can be customized and innovated in various ways.

 

 

The boating industry is one of the industries that saw an unexpected rise in sales due to the pandemic. Such a change was coupled with challenges like the lack of workers due to lay-offs, shortages due to manufacturers closing operations, and many others. However, on the flipside, it has also led to many opportunities to get more buyers to incorporate boating into their lifestyle.

How Did the Car Industry Fare Amid the Pandemic? Check Out the 2020 Year-End Review

The COVID-19 pandemic has truly shaken the world, impacting people’s daily lives and disrupting the business landscape in more ways than one. Some industries, like travel and hospitality, have been hit particularly bad due to the need for limited face-to-face contact and interactions. As for most businesses, remote work has become the new normal, with many relying on online communication and collaboration tools.

 

Given that all business industries have been affected by the pandemic, it is no surprise that the car industry also saw changes in sales, consumer behavior, and general trends. The question, however, is how much the pandemic impacted car buying. As the year comes to a close, experts are now looking into how the industry performed compared to forecasts and projections made earlier. Get to know more about how the car industry fared in 2020 with this year-end review.

 

Car Sales Were Hit Hard, But Slowly Rebounding

 

Unsurprisingly, car sales dropped in 2020, especially since people have become more cautious about their spending, with most focusing on essential goods. The large unemployment rate and economic downturn have also lessened the number of people that could afford to get a car. Furthermore, given the quarantines, lockdowns, and mobility restrictions imposed worldwide, the thought of traveling or moving around by plane or public transportation has not been on top of people’s minds.

 

Without a doubt, the automotive industry took a hard hit from the pandemic, with many car dealerships closing down. Sales went down by 71% in China in February and 47% in the US in April. The first two quarters of the year proved to have the most substantial drops in sales, while the third quarter showed some improvement. Though sales were still lower than those from last year, the plunge was not as significant.

 

On the flip side, sales are slowly starting to rebound as the year comes to a close. Though it is still expected that the number of vehicles sold in 2020 will be 28% lower than in 2019, industry forecasts look slightly more optimistic. Sales in the third quarter were an encouraging improvement from the previous two, and a V-shaped recovery is expected as the year nears its end. In particular, trucks and SUVs were observed to increase in demand and take up a larger market share this year.

 

Shift in Consumer Perception and Behavior

 

The pandemic has led to major changes in consumer behavior and perception when it comes to buying cars. As of September, purchase intent was still down by 14% from pre-COVID levels, but this number is an improvement from the earlier months. Two of the most important findings include the increased emphasis on lower prices and digital sales.

 

Consumers worldwide are looking to spend less on their cars as they are now being more careful with their expenses. Quality, affordability, and longevity are some of the top characteristics sought today, with people looking at new and used cars. Due to the current economic situation, many have become more critical and discerning about making purchases, especially for investments like cars.

 

Moreover, the digital platform now serves as an important aspect of driving the purchase funnel. The majority of car buyers start their research with the Internet, emphasizing the importance of dealers having an online presence. ThinkWithGoogle noted that 92% of auto purchasers research online. To add to this, consumers now prefer contactless transactions over in-person transactions, with some willing to pay even more to limit face-to-face contact.

 

With restrictions becoming more flexible and easing, and people slowly starting to leave their houses, many urban dwellers are becoming first-time car owners to avoid riding public transportation. Given that many car dealers and sellers have adapted to the situation by making online car buying possible. These turn of events have proven to be beneficial for the car industry, with demand starting to pick up.

 

Overall, consumers are starting to find more comfort in vehicle ownership, especially with their increased focus on personal health and safety. Less are relying on public transportation, and more are using private cars. Thus, there is certainly potential for car dealers to get back on track and increase their sales with the boost in car demand.

 

Factors Influencing Car Buyers’ Purchase Intention

 

Due to the pandemic, consumers have become even more critical about car purchases. However, what is certain and similar for people in different parts of the world is that most of their focus has shifted to safety being the top priority. Safety and protection are now considered the primary motivators driving purchase interest and intention.

 

EY Global noted that 78% are more likely to use their car for travel, most likely due to the concern of potential congestion in public transit. Americans and Chinese consumers are optimistic about the post-pandemic world. One-third of Americans stating they are likely to purchase a vehicle after the outbreak, and over half of Chinese consumers have the same sentiments.

Another important factor influencing purchase intention is financial concerns. Due to the economic recession, loss of income, or increased expenses, consumers are less inclined to purchase cars during this time. However, automotive sellers can navigate this situation by offering 0% financing, deferred payments, and other protection benefits to give buyers more peace of mind.

 

Search volumes for car and truck deals have increased significantly this year, with most interested buyers being at home and relying on the Internet to get information. One notable finding is the increase in local searches made by consumers. People want to find dealerships near their location to avoid having to go to far places. However, thanks to the digital space evolution, there are now many alternatives to visiting dealerships. Digital showrooms, video conference meetings, and VR test drives are only some of the innovations introduced in the car industry to address this issue.

 

Critical Role of Online Space

 

Interestingly, most car dealers only started to open up to the online world due to the pandemic. Some consumers continue to be apprehensive about going fully online with car buying, especially since getting a car is a big investment. However, the universal consensus is that customers are embracing digitization in certain aspects of the car buying process. The online space has proven to play a critical role in car dealership sales and performance as consumers are adamant about limiting contact.

 

The transition to digital means has resulted in a more convenient buying process with less pressure. Customers can negotiate prices online, do solo test drives, course questions through email. Observably, the purchase journey happens more frequently online, but the actual purchase is still done offline.

 

A survey conducted by ThinkWithGoogle has generated interesting insights on how the digitization of car buying can impact sales for dealers. For instance, 64% of potential buyers who watch online videos stated that they are willing to purchase a car without a test drive with new video formats like 360 videos. The watching time for test drive videos on YouTube has also grown by 65% in the past two years, highlighting the trend with these videos to influence customer purchase behavior.

As a result, brands can benefit from investing in higher-quality and longer content, allowing customers to experience what it is like to ride the car being featured. The key is to make the video real to capture their interest and convince them to purchase a model. All in all, creating videos can get people talking about a particular brand and help them gain recognition. With the hit taken by the industry in the pandemic, this type of traction is precisely what companies need to rebound.

 

Spike in Prices in Used Car Market

 

One of the interesting and surprising turns in the automotive industry during the pandemic would be the increase in the used car market prices. Analysts call it a seller’s market today, as car shoppers are gravitating towards user cars for lower prices and favorable interest rates. With the demand increasing significantly, buyers have less negotiating power, and dealers are less flexible with price adjustments.

 

Though consumers can now find a larger inventory of used cars online, the spike in demand has led to prices turning into a premium. Used car sales started to show promising growth in April and May but ultimately boomed in August and September, when sellers registered the highest inventory turnover rates. The change was so big and unexpected that used car sales today are even higher than they were in the pre-COVID era. Sports cars and trucks, in particular, were found to have some of the highest sales.

 

With this major shift in buyer’s preferences, car dealers can benefit from selling used vehicles at higher prices. As for consumers, doing research will be more critical than ever. Since it is now harder to get lower prices, it is important to ensure certainty before purchasing.

 

Electric and Hybrid Cars in the Pandemic

 

While the demand for new cars has overall decreased due to the pandemic, the electric vehicle segment noticeably did not plummet as much as other car segments. Naturally, sales growth still slowed down, but the projection for the next decade is looking optimistic. Though consumers are more interested in affordability than sustainability, there is still much interest in renewable energy sources.

 

Over time, electric and hybrid cars have grown considerably in design and features, with many new models resembling most drivers’ ideal needs. Electric car manufacturers have also made it clear that more commercial models will be released in the market in the coming decade. That said, the recovery for sales in this segment is expected to be slower in the US as consumers are currently taking advantage of lower oil prices.

 

Ride Sharing in the Post-Pandemic World

 

The ride-sharing service industry is closely related to the automotive industry, and like the latter, this industry has also been severely affected by the pandemic. The public reception on ride-sharing can be viewed in two ways. On the one hand, some people may prefer private rides over public transportation, resulting in an increase in rides. However, on the other hand, some people may generally avoid commute trips for safety reasons, resulting in a decrease in rides.

 

According to Deloitte, 57% of Canadians plan to limit their use of these services, while 62% plan to reduce public transportation use. Other statistics show that 40% of people in the US have started to use less ride-sharing services since the COVID-19 outbreak, while 28% of them noted their distrust in the cleanliness of other people’s cars.

 

Evidently, ride-hailing companies’ main challenge is gaining the consumers’ trust and showing them their adherence to safety standards. Now that quarantines and lockdowns are being lifted in some parts of the world, people are also slowly returning to work or doing other essential activities. As a result, the demand for rides may start to pick up, but the growth may be slow as consumers are now extra cautious of their health and safety.

 

The future of ride-sharing is still not set in stone as there are still many uncertainties. The need for social distancing raises the question of whether the “sharing” concept may still be feasible. Likewise, companies may also turn to additional revenue streams to make up for the expected drop in booked rides. These alternatives may include food delivery services, express delivery of items, and many other similar concepts.

 

Outlook for the Car Industry

 

While car sales are gradually rising and the overall industry performance is getting better, the car buying industry has yet to bounce back to its pre-COVID state. Naturally, the world is trying to transition into the new normal, so it is not only the car industry that is recovering from the effects of the pandemic. However, if there is one thing that is more certain during this time, it is the fact that car sales are transitioning into an online future.

 

Though many customers will still want to see a car in person before finalizing the purchase, several surveys and studies have shown that many aspects of the purchasing journey will likely be digitized in the future. This change is brought about by the heightened awareness for social distancing and limited contact, as well as the convenience of doing car deals online.

 

 

 

COVID-19 has disrupted all industries, and the car industry is no exception. Buyer behaviors have evidently shifted into new priorities, with consumers becoming hyper-aware of their health and safety. While sales plummeted early in the year, they are slowly rising back up as restrictions are starting to ease and mobility is once again increasing. As such, the car industry is expected to make a recovery as the fourth quarter of this year comes to a close.

 

2020 has been a year of massive transitions. For car dealers and sellers, venturing into the digital space is one of the biggest changes, and one that is expected to stay. Even in the pre-pandemic era, consumers have already turned to online means to research about cars and help them make purchase decisions. Now that people are more cautious about face-to-face contact, it is no doubt that the car industry will be seeing digitization in its future.