We’ve Got the Data! Now What? (Top 3 Takeaways from the J.D. Power Data Expert Panel)

by David Metter

If anyone experienced the great misfortune of not being able to attend AutoHook’s J.D. Power AMR panel that had attendees lined up against the walls, I’ve got you covered. Below is a condensed collection of key insights from the session, We’ve Got the Data! Now What?

I know you’re probably all tired of hearing the term “big data.” You may even be a little nauseous from it – thus the critical need for this panel and the recap below.

First, let me formally introduce our superstar lineup. I do have to take a moment to say these leaders are not just auto experts with impressive titles. Each has proven a genuine desire to improve the way our industry operates and the way we share data for the benefit of all – and that’s huge.

It’s funny (and a little ridiculous) how often the solutions to the world’s biggest problems come from plain old common sense. We all have a tendency to overcomplicate even the most evident of concepts. Perhaps the secret to solving all this big data ambiguity is to take a step back and “under-complicate” the idea.

Three overarching themes dominated our big data discussion:

1. The largest obstruction to big data in the automotive industry is the automotive industry itself.

Pictured (left to right): Dean Evans, Kelly McNearney, Erik Lukas, Jenny Watson, & David Metter

Pictured (left to right): Dean Evans, Kelly McNearney, Erik Lukas, Jenny Watson, & David Metter

I’m not pointing any fingers, but it’s no secret that our three-tier system makes things more difficult. It creates large disconnects in communication from one layer to the next. Dean Evans points out, “We know at Hyundai you can’t do decent business today unless you are connecting those layers.”

We also know it’s rare for what happens at the dealer level to be properly recorded and communicated at the OEM level. That’s just how it is. Allow me to propose an idea. If knowledge is power, then sharing data is power. Imagine the influence we could claim if we all stopped being selfish with our data. A united industry is an unbreakable industry.

Kelly McNearney adds, “The challenge for tier three in this big data game is getting some team spirit going where dealers will actually share with the OE and the OE will share with the dealers, and then you’ve got really powerful stuff you can use. Then you can really start to understand who your consumer even is and what their actions are.”

We’ve completed step one, identifying the problem. Now it’s time to complete step two, taking action to solve the problem. So, who’s taking action? AutoHook already has by opening our API and the attribution data that comes with it to the entire industry free of charge. CDK and Dealer.com are doing it by creating centralized data dashboards so OEMs can have a better view of the consumer sales data collected at the dealership level. So who’s next?

2. More data is not necessarily better.

Pictured: Jenny Watson & David Metter

Pictured: Jenny Watson & David Metter

The secret is not obtaining more data. Sometimes it’s about doing more with what you have at your fingertips. It’s about taking smarter, more efficient actions. What’s the end goal? Jenny Watson says, “At the end of the day it’s really about units sold and the number of repair orders generated,” and she’s right! More is not better. It’s just more. An emphasis on obtaining more data may be the root cause of why the subject has become so complex.

It’s also important to note that each channel has its own specific set of measurable KPIs. Regardless of what they are, if you can’t validate that these channels resulted in a sale or a service order, then don’t waste your money advertising on them. It’s that simple.

3. Data Management Platforms (DMPs) are important to use and understand, but never at the cost of simple, actionable insights.

DMPs have been around in other industries for years. In a lot of ways, they’re starting to replace that “big data” term. Both dealers and OEMs should take advantage of these systems in order to better serve their network. Dean Evans says, “Feeding the dealer network is always paramount.” In addition, because of our three-tier system, the auto industry has the most complicated business model in existence. Therefore more than anyone, we need DMPs. They exist and are designed to help us – so use them.

Erik Lukas shined a lot of light on this subject. “There’s room for both,” he says. “There’s the big insights that come from DMPs that we need to unlock, but you still can’t ignore some of the things that are right in front of your face.” Erik gives the example of Subaru’s highly successful Dog Tested campaign and how it all began. “A key insight for us that we spawned a whole campaign off of was that 2/3 of Subaru owners own pets, and of those, 70% are dogs. Clearly, that’s not a big data or DMP derived result, but we built a whole disruption campaign around this one key insight and it’s really resonated with our customers.”

Kelly McNearney is a big advocate of DMPs especially for the automotive vertical. However, she speculates DMPs are perhaps given too much credit. “Some of the best data we have is actually something quite small, but that we can take action on,” said Kelly. She followed that up with a great example. “In the month of November for the past three years in a row, searches for tires have been at an all time high. That is a useful piece of data and that’s not from a machine, it’s not from a DMP, it’s just a simple Google Trend.”

To conclude, if you’re going to remember anything, remember these three things:

  • The only way for us to overcome barriers across tiers is to knock down the egotistical walls that separate us and work together.

  • Instead of more, more, more, when it comes to big data, remember that the end goal is to increase sales and revenue at the dealership level.

  • And lastly, do your research on DMPs and allow this tool to help you – but never ignore the immense potential of a single statistic such as 67% of Subaru owners are animal lovers.

Click here to watch the complete live recording of the J.D. Power AMR panel, We’ve Got the Data! Now What?