With in-person business arrangements now less common due to the coronavirus pandemic, online equipment sellers are seeing a growth in traffic as well as a need to adapt. Equipment Trader, a website built around connecting buyers and sellers of construction equipment, has been evolving quickly to meet the new demands of the pandemic era.

“We saw a 23% year-over-year increase in web traffic in August,” says Paige Bouma, Equipment Trader executive vice president, sales and operations. “We’re seeing our rental search impressions up 5.5 times per listing. Each listing is getting a lot more visibility than in the past.”

Equipment Trader serves as a go-between to connect equipment dealers with users seeking machines in their area. Currently it hosts listings from more than 1,400 dealers across the U.S., with 236 of them also offering equipment rentals. Dealers arrange pickup and delivery, and Equipment Trader has encouraged social distancing and disinfection of surfaces during equipment handoffs.

Equipment Trader is only one small part of the broader online equipment dealer marketplace, but Bouma sees their growth during this time as a sign of larger trends, including a visible shift toward rentals as future jobs grow uncertain. “The rule of thumb is a piece of equipment should be used 60% to 70% of the time to be worth the purchase price,” she says. “Renting can lower that overall investment risk at times like this.”

The uptick in traffic also spurred Equipment Trader to upgrade its online services for buyers who were less likely to visit a dealer in person to inspect equipment. The website added a dealer video chat feature, allowing potential buyers to set up video conferences where dealers could hold remote tours of machines. “I cannot say enough good stuff about using video chat to limit dealership interactions,” says Bouma. “They can show the unit, start up the unit to show how it runs—they can do that all through video chat now.”

Bouma says some dealers are more technically adept than others, but with fewer in-person inspections, many potential buyers are expecting full video tours and rundowns when they buy online. “This has been coming for a long time, but COVID-19 just put it into high gear.”