It is often said our industry is about five years behind the rest of the world in regards to technology.

Technology. Data. Transparency. Platform. ROI. Etc. How to make the information behind these words work for you.

So many technology buzzwords are being tossed around these days. For the most part, the intention behind the delivery is good, but what does the information really mean, and what do you do with it? Most of the time, it’s left up to the reader to interpret it on their own, and that’s where things get dangerous. That’s where people in our industry hear the buzzwords but don’t see the relevance.

It is often said that automotive is about five years behind the rest of the world in regards to technology. I tend to disagree with that view. With all the acquisitions that have occurred lately, it seems that outside investors are taking notice. There has been so much chatter about the disruption Silicon Valley and other tech hubs are making in our industry, the way they’re trying to enhance the car buying experience. We keep hearing names like:

  • Beepi “Hand-wrapped. And hand-delivered.”
  • Vroom “More power to you – 7-day money back guarantee.”
  • Carvana “Skip the dealership. Buy the car online.”
  • Shift “Trust and simplicity come standard.”
  • Roadster “Skip the dealership. Buy or lease your next car online, and we will deliver it to your doorstep.” (15 minute paperwork)

This is just a handful, and I could go to name some big players on our side of the road who are taking steps in this direction, but I would rather focus on “why” these startups exist. It’s not a matter of whether it will work or not, you and I both know selling cars isn’t selling widgets or phones or whatcha-ma-call-its. In the discussions I have taken part in, the conversation is around the “trade” or the “credit score” or the “equity.” Understand that I am with you here. Let’s get back to the “why” though—the why is because that’s what consumers want!

The car dealership is one of the most complicated businesses out there, but it’s not unique. The Apple store has the same consumers you do, and by association, the consumers have the same expectations of you as they do the Genius Bar. Is it fair? Of course not! But, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening. Did you know that Millennials (there’s that dreaded word!) represent a third of the U.S. population? By 2020, they will represent half of the workforce in America. Read the following from a fellow #MobMember. We have no choice but to adapt.

Often times in my conversations with dealers and other parties in our industry, I get two responses to that statement, “It will never work. Buying a car isn’t buying an iPhone,” or “Maybe it will work in a few (or 20) years.” Little do they know, it has been happening quietly for the past several years; they just haven’t been listening.

So instead of reading yet another rant, what can you do?

Five year focus

Let’s start simply by answering the cliché question: Where do you see yourself in five years? When was the last time you asked yourself that question? I would venture to guess that it was more than five years ago or maybe since someone asked it at your last job interview. It’s so easy in our industry to get focused on that month-over-month report or year-over-year report. It’s easy to focus on the stuff you have to do every single day, like PPC campaigns, manufacturer incentives for the franchise folks, but instead, let’s focus on four things you can start putting in motion right now.

  1. Stop focusing on the transaction. When a customer engages with your dealership, the focus should be solely on the customer and their needs. Assume the sale and move forward through your interactions with that customer, addressing their needs and concerns. As an industry, we spend so much time setting the appointment, getting a phone number or email, that we miss the point—the customer. In most cases (unless you’re hiding stuff on your site), they are reaching out to you because they want more information on your product. Give it to them. They’ve already chosen you.
  1. Set expectations up front. The disruptors that I mentioned earlier all have a couple things in common. Online transaction, simplicity, and 5/7 day returns, and of course, skip the dealership. However, we are all in agreement that a lot more goes into buying a vehicle. We are the professionals in this game and it’s still ours to win (or lose). Now is the time to capitalize on your expertise and footprint. Have you given thought to attempting to replicate some of these pieces?
  1. Be the Expert. Even when you don’t know that you are. Today’s shopper isn’t the type to email or call you. In fact, most of the time, they are just going to show up. Know your stuff. Have you checked your specials page? What about your “about us” page? Is your website so rife with Search Engine Optimization content that means nothing to your customer?
  1. How mobile are you? Your shoppers know and expect your inventory to be on your website when they find it on their mobile device, but most likely they are looking for other information too, like your service specials, address and directions, and contact information. Can they effectively “shop” on your site?

So much has changed in the past eight years. Just think about the fact that the iPhone came out in the summer of 2007, the same year things started looking grim for our industry. Don’t let the fact that things are seemingly going so well for us today allow you to get caught like that again. Take all that information out there and put it to the best use for your dealership and your customers.



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