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david metter

THE EXECUTIVE EDITION: Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars

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| by David Metter, President of AutoHook powered by Urban Science

In Part I of Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars, we overturned one of the most blindly accepted industry-wide standards about the current state of consumer car buying behavior. For far too long, the assumption has been vehicle shoppers have everything they need to make a purchase decision online, and they already know what they’re buying before ever stepping foot in a showroom. The common misconception has been that the average consumer in the digital age only visits one dealership before purchasing a vehicle.

What we found after surveying 2,748 U.S. consumers that have purchased a car in the last year is that the above statement couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, not only does the average customer visit at least 2.4 dealerships before making a buying decision, but almost half – 46% – said they visited three or more dealers before purchasing. Over a quarter of our sample size, 26%, said they visited four or more dealerships before buying. All of this data was collected by AutoHook and Urban Science in May of 2018 from people who purchased or leased a vehicle within the last year – not from a published study conducted five years ago.

As a former general manager of a dealership, CMO of a privately-held dealer group and as a marketer in general, I found the fact that roughly 1 in 4 people (26%) in the year 2018 visit four or more dealerships before buying a car to be personally absurd. Though surprising, this statistic solidified a new truth about the state of our industry. Contrary to what dealers have been told, the in-store experience is arguably more important in the digital age than ever before in the history of the car business – and for several reasons.

The most prominent reason being if a customer has a bad experience with one of your salespeople when they come in for a test drive, they will leave and buy from someone else. If they go to two dealerships and have a bad experience at both, they will go to a third and even a fourth dealer to buy from the one that provides them with the experience they expect and deserve.

Just like everything else that has surfaced from the digital age, car shoppers have a LOT of choices when it comes to what they’re going to buy and who they’re going to buy from. Purchase decisions are still made at physical dealerships, most likely following a test drive – NOT exclusively online. Shoppers in-market for a new vehicle don’t have their minds made up about what they’re going to buy by the time they visit their first dealership. Outsell says 6 out of 10 car shoppers enter the market unsure of what they want to buy. Our own research and survey data consistently shows 78% of people are still considering multiple brands by the time they visit their first dealership.

So we as an industry, we HAVE to get this right. Instead of operating based on pure, often biased assumption, dealers need to seriously reconsider their order of priorities in terms of how they run their business and where they spend their money. The digital age has armed us with so much intellectual power, yet at the same time, it’s made us a little lazy. It’s cast a shadow over what’s really important – defining value and personal worth by likes, clicks and follows rather than interpersonal relationship skills.

Part II of Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars verified the auto industry has become too quick to rely on technology as a crutch to do the work for us, rather than picking up the phone and having a conversation - or dare I suggest having the inventory knowledge and social skills to not only sell a car, but to foster ongoing relationships that lead to repeat, loyal customers. It is officially time for a new dialogue to emerge. The question we as an industry need to be asking is not how can we leverage new technologies to help us sell cars, but how can we leverage new technologies to help our salespeople sell cars?

Rather than answering the above question based on my expertise and years of experience in this business, I’ll share the real-life success stories of how two actual dealerships in the digital age are using great data processed through great technology to help their people sell more cars and lose fewer opportunities.

DEALERSHIP #1

One of our dealer clients needed an accurate way to measure the true effectiveness of their follow-up process by knowing what was and wasn’t working within their current lead mix as well as how many opportunities their salespeople sold compared to how many they lost to competitors. Using their individual salesperson data, we analyzed each person’s sales and defections and identified who had the most potential to improve. We then pinpointed the time frame during their follow-up process when their people struggled the most, which for this particular store was during days 0-4 after a lead hit their CRM. Lastly, we exposed their highest defecting lead source.

Armed with a roadmap highlighting their greatest areas of opportunity, the owner of this dealership shared this data with his sales staff and reviewed each person’s sales and defection trends with them one-on-one every month. He created an environment of transparency and friendly competition by making this defection analysis technology available to all his salespeople, thus holding them personally accountable for every sale they lost in addition to what they closed.

The dealer then helped his staff implement a more aggressive follow-up strategy for working leads 0-4 days old. He provided additional training on how to better work leads that came from their highest defecting source (especially during this time frame). He took the time to listen to feedback from all his salespeople and found opportunities for peer coaching to help further reduce their collective number of defections. He also implemented a system to reward the people who showed improvement each month.

With a refined follow-up strategy fueled by better prepared, more empowered salespeople, they saw the following results in just 90 days:

  • Their overall defections decreased by 89%, with a 44% decrease in defections specifically during days 0-4 post-lead.

  • They increased their number of closed sales tied to their highest defecting lead source by an astounding 242%.

  • Most importantly, when it came to the salesperson identified as having the highest defection rate, that individual successfully increased their closed sales by 78% and went from being the worst performer on the team to one of their top performers.

DEALERSHIP #2

This store needed a way to identify any potential problems with their lead mix to see which sources were underperforming and why. Using the same defection analysis technology as Dealer #1, they were able to determine the issues they were having with their highest defecting lead source were due to external factors outside of their control – rather than a lack of effective internal follow-up. They then confidently decided to cancel this lead provider and put those marketing dollars back towards their bottom line.

Ninety days later, they saw a 61% average increase in salesperson performance after removing that lead source – not to mention they were able to free up a total of 40 man-hours per week that were previously devoted to working those high-defecting leads. The best result of all? Four of their salespeople went from being average or below average performers to their TOP FOUR salespeople.

And they didn’t stop there. This dealer applied the same technology to define which model(s) in their inventory represented the most defections specific to their salespeople so they could go after leads tied to underperforming models more aggressively. Model A represented the most opportunity for improvement, and again within 90 days, they increased closed sales specific to Model A by 51% and reduced defections by 30%.

What we can conclude from the examples listed above, is that technology can help your people in a multitude of ways. Technology can help your salespeople close more deals and reduce their defection rates. Technology can help your people free up wasted time chasing leads from a faulty source. Technology can identify which models your people struggle with the most in order to boost specific model performance. Technology can even tell you if your customers are leaving your store to buy the same model somewhere else, or if they’re defecting to another brand entirely.

But the most important thing to take away is that technology in the digital age still doesn’t sell cars. It can do a lot to light up the right track for your people to do just that, but at the end of the day your salespeople need to know your inventory like the back of their hand – what makes it better than competing brands or models, and what makes doing business with you a better option than anywhere else.  

The truth in a current landscape littered with lies is that there’s no way for any one dealer to know everything they need to know about their overall market, which models represent the most opportunity for their store, and if their salespeople are doing their jobs and following up with leads appropriately. That’s where the technology and data come into play. With a complete view of who is struggling and exactly what they’re struggling with during the initial contact and follow-up process, dealers can take immediate action to help their salespeople reduce defections and improve their performance across all facets of their sales operations – so they can be one of the 2.4 dealerships (at least) with a shot of winning the sale.

 

Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars [Chapter 3]: Power to the [Sales] People

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| by David Metter, President of AutoHook powered by Urban Science

I’d like to begin with a subtle reminder of the harsh reality of how car shoppers in today’s technology-first world really feel about the car buying process. Below are a few highlights to help paint the picture…

  • 52% of car shoppers feel anxious or uncomfortable at dealerships and millennials are leading the pack in their dislike, with 56% saying they’d rather clean their homes than negotiate with a car dealer. (The Harris Poll Insights & Analytics)

  • “Stressed,” “overwhelmed,” “taken advantage” and “panic” were among the top 10 words used by female car shoppers when reviewing their in-dealership experience. (CDK Global)

  • Studies suggest that some Americans would rather get a root canal than take their car to a dealership. (Automotive News)

I could go on for days with stats like this, but we have more important things to discuss - such as how to change the current perception. The upside to all the negativity around car buying is that we have A LOT of room for improvement. And dealers aren’t necessarily to blame either. The problem is, what we’re told about consumer behavior in the digital age compared to what car buyers themselves actually do in the digital age are often two very different things.

We live in a constantly connected, convenience-based universe inundated with unsanctioned opinion and as a result, we’ve become conditioned to rely on technology to solve problems. We know the in-store experience is important, but we’re too fast to look to the latest technology to solve the problem rather than focusing on what we can actually control. Not just something dealers have the power to influence, but also something that may ultimately yield the highest ROI out of any available technology in the market…which is your salespeople. How did I come to that conclusion? Funny you should ask.

In the article, “What’s the REAL Cost of a Bad Salesperson?” I dissected the monetary difference between what good salespeople can contribute to your dealership over time versus what just one bad salesperson could cost you. A salesperson selling 15 cars a month yields about $270,000 a year in gross profit. Then when you factor in the lifecycle of the vehicle and any potential service revenue associated, you’re looking at a minimum value of $325,000 a year in pure gross profit for any one good salesperson. Read the blog if you don’t believe the numbers.

Now consider the reverse. One salesperson that loses 15 sales a month to one of your competitors is costing your dealership $325,000 a year in gross profit. Multiply that by just four people and you’re looking at $1.3 million in lost gross profit a year. But here’s the kicker. Without the right data processed through the right technology, you would have no way of knowing how many customers your salespeople interacted with that left and bought a car from someone else. Perhaps due to a negative experience?

A recent study from Cox Automotive suggests that initial experience may be more important today than ever before. The rate of car buyers returning to dealerships where they have previously purchased or leased from is increasing. 40% of new vehicle buyers in 2018 are repeat dealer customers compared to 31% in 2016. This is great news, but it puts even more pressure on getting it right for that first-time buying experience and, in most cases, your sales team is directly responsible for it. Customer loyalty and the chance of them coming back to buy a second or third car depends on the experience your dealership provides them with upon arrival. So your people better be armed and ready.

Jeremy Beaver, COO of Del Grande Dealer Group, told Automotive News, “Retention is the Holy Grail, and the experience is what drives retention. You have to shift away from a ‘visit’ mentality and think about a ‘lifetime value’ mentality.” I could not possibly have said it better myself. This is an example of a dealer that just GETS IT – both on the sales side and on the service side. Their Fixed Operations Director, Trully Williams said, “The technology enhances the experience, but you start with the fundamentals of people and process. You get those right and then add the technology.”

There is a seriously infinite amount of opportunity for improving your dealership’s operational process, and it starts with your people. Dealers don’t have time to guess who their good and bad salespeople are – that’s where the technology comes in. You can’t retain good salespeople if you don’t have the technology to know who they are. The right technology can tell you who is letting the most opportunities walk out the door. It can tell you which leads your people are struggling with and the exact time frame during the month they struggle with the most. There’s a lot technology can do to help your people and to enhance the car buying experience, but it can’t drive the car buying experience entirely. At least not before flying cars become a thing.

So before your brain explodes from all the numbers and reporting being thrown at you during any given moment, or from all the external pressure you’re getting to improve 50 different KPIs at the same time, remember that your people are what gives meaning to the metrics. Retention, should be your absolute number one focus and priority in the digital age – and that applies to both your salespeople AND your customers. Running a successful dealership ultimately translates to retaining good salespeople, but you need the help of good technology to be able to do that. Ironic, I know.

 

Stay tuned for the upcoming fourth and final chapter of Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars: The Executive Edition. Dealer Managers will learn real-life examples of how to apply new technologies to directly support the success of your salespeople instead of relying on technology to do the selling for them. The more you can do to help your employees be successful at your dealership, the more likely you are to retain them, which ultimately leads to everyone’s mutual benefit – not to mention the benefit of your bottom line.

Lies The Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars [Chapter 1]

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| by David Metter, President of AutoHook powered by Urban Science

As part of Urban Science, it’s in our blood to question everything. Not only do we look outside the box to solve complex problems, but we then question each element that makes up the box, down to each individual line, 90-degree angle and the composition of positive and negative space that define the constraints of the box. Better yet, approaching a problem from a true scientific perspective means questioning why the box even exists in the first place. While the process can be painstaking, making observations through the unbiased lens of science can also lead to accidental discoveries.

Granted, for someone who started in the business as a car salesman and later managed dealerships, using scientific methods to make decisions in the showroom isn’t the first and most natural inclination for many of us. And when I say science, I mean actual science – not the junk out there that claims to be science (remember when everyone threw around the term “big data”), but the kind of science that has no skeptics, that sees trends within a data set that not only others don’t, but that no one’s even thought to look for before.

When we hear a number or statistic over and over again, especially one published by a known source, we believe it to be true because…why wouldn’t we? We all know not everything we read on the internet is true, but this example is perhaps the ideal case in point of one widely accepted “truth” the automotive industry has come to accept without any empirical evidence whatsoever.

Automotive leaders in search, analytics, digital advertising and consumer behavior have all published findings stating the number of dealerships customers visit before purchasing a vehicle is somewhere between 1.3 and 1.6 dealerships. This number has been kicked around at conferences for years. So naturally, we decided to challenge the claim that customers visit less than two dealerships before buying a car.

In May of 2018, AutoHook and Urban Science decided to conduct our own survey. We asked real consumers we know bought a car within the last year how many dealerships they visited prior to their purchase. Out of 2,748 responses, what we found is people are visiting more dealerships than we thought. According to the survey results, people on average visit at least 2.4 dealerships before buying a car.

Furthermore, 70% of customers surveyed visited two or more dealerships before purchasing. Almost half, 46% to be exact, said they visited three or more dealerships before purchasing, and 26% said they visited four or more dealerships. The unfortunate reality is that we’ve all been thoroughly brainwashed with the misconception that people only go to about one dealership before buying a car which we now know is not the case.

Regardless of whether customers visit two dealerships or five dealerships, the takeaway here is that everything we’ve been told about consumer buying behavior in the digital age is skewed. The truth is that today’s car shoppers go to at least 2 dealers before purchasing. What’s so significant about this finding is that it proves people have a choice and decisions are being made both on AND offline. The blindly accepted notion that the majority of car shoppers have already made up their mind on what to buy and where to buy before ever stepping foot in a dealership is completely false. In fact, in another study completed by AutoHook and Urban Science, 78% of over 66,000 respondents said they were still shopping multiple brands before visiting their first dealership.

The underlying message we’ve all come to believe is that customers are making buying decisions based largely if not solely on what they read online…which by the way conveniently plays to the ultimate gain of the big publishers, search and media companies. Maybe they are doing this so dealers and OEMs will continue to spend more and more money with said companies on their digital advertising, but we don’t have the science to back that up just yet.

Anyways, down here in the real world, cars are still bought and sold in physical showrooms and the process is still dependent upon a positive exchange between two living, breathing people. The only difference between today and 50 years ago is that customers walk in armed with information and salespeople need to provide a less painful buying experience. Other OEM-specific customer surveys AutoHook conducts on an ongoing basis show that when asked why they didn’t buy a car from a particular brand, the overwhelming majority of respondents selected “bad dealership experience” as their #1 reason for not purchasing.

So, if you think people are going to fewer dealers than they were ten years ago, it may be because the experience they expect to have when they’re at a dealership is a negative one. Not always – I know plenty of dealers who recognize the importance of their people and the in-store experience they provide, and I also know these dealers sell much more effectively as a result. This alone makes the argument that dealers need to focus more attention on hiring and retaining better salespeople who understand the value of relationships if they’re interested in repeat, loyal customers.

Another common misconception is that millennials are taking over the market and they buy everything online; therefore dealers need to move towards models where ~99% of their selling happens online, and their salespeople just need to walk the customer through the paperwork upon arrival. The first part of that statement is true in that Millennials are quickly overtaking the market as they now account for almost 30% of all new vehicles sold. By 2020, JD Power and Automotive News project they will account for 40% of all new vehicle sales.

What’s NOT true is the assumption that Millennials want to buy their cars online. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The test drive experience is more important to the Millennial generation than ever before, so much so that they want to extend the test drive experience to get a solid feel for how a vehicle will fit into their everyday lifestyle. Millennials also spend more time on the buying process and are less brand-loyal than previous generations. As a result, we see more and more extended test drive programs popping up like Toyota’s Try Before You Buy program which allows customers to take home a vehicle of interest from anywhere between 24 hours to a full week.

Again, whether the total number of dealerships visited before a purchase is 2.4 or 3.4, the more important point is that people have choices and if they go to a dealer ready to buy and have a negative in-store experience I can confidently say based on data (and common sense) that they’re going to leave and buy from someone else.

I’m not saying everything we know about digital is dead, and I’m in no way trying to tell dealers to kill or even cut their digital ad spending. But what I am saying is we as an industry need to seriously reevaluate the amount of time, energy, and most importantly, money we spend on what we know is vital to selling cars and the ongoing growth and success of a dealership…good salespeople.

Kia Motors Approves AutoHook’s TrafficView™ For Dealer Advertising Support Funds

AutoHook powered by Urban Science, the automotive industry's frontrunner in driving proven, incremental showroom traffic to dealerships, announced the official expansion of their dealer co-op program with Kia Motors America to include the Urban Science solution, TrafficView™.

TrafficView will be added to AutoHook’s existing suite of test drive incentive solutions already approved by Kia for Dealer Advertising Support (DAS) funds, including Web2Show and Lead2Show. TrafficView works by ingesting a dealer’s CRM data and matching it up against the daily industry sales statistics available through the Urban Science® DataHub™ to provide first-ever visibility into a dealership’s greatest opportunities and losses. The solution uncovers otherwise undetected problem areas across all facets of a dealer’s sales operations by layering in defection data to show lost sales tied to a specific lead source, model, geography, competing dealer or brand and even down to a dealer’s individual salespeople.

“TrafficView gives dealers the power to accurately measure the success and failure of both their marketing initiatives and internal sales processes so they can take action to reduce defections and improve their overall sales effectiveness,” said David Metter, President and Co-Founder of AutoHook powered by Urban Science. “We’re honored to have the opportunity to help Kia dealers execute upon the insights revealed within TrafficView and convert lost sales into showroom visits using AutoHook’s custom incentive campaigns.” 

AutoHook has already received outstanding remarks and industry recognition from dealers who have piloted TrafficView at their stores.

"We entered into our initial meeting with AutoHook searching for answers. After seeing our data in TrafficView for the first time, we left with a detailed game plan and immediately got to work implementing new strategies in areas where TrafficView identified specific weaknesses. We’ve already seen a dramatic decrease in defections and we’re extremely confident these changes will undoubtedly continue to grow sales,” says Joshua Clinton, General Manager of Gunther Kia of Ft. Lauderdale. “We look forward to reviewing TrafficView on a monthly basis in order to consistently stay ahead of the competition."

Kia Motors was the very first automaker to fund AutoHook’s private incentive offers through a co-op program back in 2014. Kia dealers can now choose from among four AutoHook product packages, all DAS eligible.

About AutoHook powered by Urban Science
Based in Detroit and a subsidiary of Urban Science, AutoHook uses scientifically proven sales and defection insights to drive incremental dealer showroom traffic and attribute sales in near real-time. With a complete view of traffic opportunity, AutoHook's private incentive offers convert leads at a low cost-per-sale for dealers and automotive manufacturers. For more information, visit DriveAutoHook.com or call (855) 532-3274.

CONTACT:  Lindsay Waller: lawaller@urbanscience.com

Has the Promise of Big Data Finally Been Fulfilled?

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by David Metter

Big data has been a big topic in automotive for a long time now. At this point, I think we’ve all realized there is a limitless digital warehouse of actionable data that exists. However, the struggle remains in deciphering how all the pieces fit together and translate into more sales. At the absolute core of the car business, when all the digital minutiae and politics are set aside, being able to prove sales is the only way to know if something is working. Owning the ability to prove sales in near real time is unquestionably big data’s most powerful accomplishment as far as the car business is concerned.

Perhaps the focus has simply been in the wrong place, or maybe it’s the fact that the focus has been in too many places. Dealers have been forced to adapt, master new technologies, implement new ways to operate and sell more cars all while being pushed in a million directions, attempting to distinguish between gratuitous opinions and actual science. It’s easy for dealers to lose sight of the end game when they’re stuck trying to figure out how the pieces fit together and how to create the story needed to turn data into action. This is why a lot of people view big data as nothing but a big problem.

I’m going to make this whole big data problem very small. The only data you need to start with, the only data that allows you to take immediate action is sales and service data, nothing else - and this is the reason:

We know that when customers physically walk into a showroom, closing rates jump to roughly 60-65%. Therefore, leads are important, but there’s no argument that showroom visits are more important than leads, and sales are more important than showroom visits. That’s the trajectory. If you’re using big data for anything other than proving sales or service revenue, you’re wasting your time. Sales have always been, and will always be the single most important dealership metric.

You also have to look at the history and trends of your past sales and the sales of your fiercest competitors. Too often, some of the most influential players in this industry forget that no two dealers are the same and no two markets are the same. Therefore, the data you need to own more of your market share may be much different from other stores, including each rooftop within a large or small dealer group.

In a lot of ways, big data is like a hammer. We can all go to Home Depot and buy the same hammer, but what we use it for, and what we ultimately build with that hammer is contingent upon its user. Choose to use your hammer better and smarter than the competition. Know that in order to do so, you also have to know how your rivals are using their hammer – in other words, the sales and defection trends of competing dealers in your market. It’s impossible to cut your losses if you don’t know they exist. You need to view both your opportunities and losses from a 360-degree, closed-loop vantage point. Big data exists not only to show you what you sold, but just as importantly, what you didn’t sell.

To put things into perspective, know that the power of big data transcends far beyond the car business. On a global scale, true improvement and change can only occur if a problem or a need for change is identified. Over the last decade, big data has proven its ability to influence the world’s greatest issues, including social change, government policy, and industry laws and regulations simply by its ability to demonstrate a need. When a need is identified, it then opens up the door for change.

In the TEDx Talk, “Stories are Just Data with a Soul, Chris Coates paints a very clear picture that data exposes needs by telling stories. “These stories can help people leaving prison to find work and stay out of prison and build new lives. They can save someone’s eyesight or their leg. Data can give children in the most deprived parts of the country chances in life they wouldn’t otherwise get.” What Coates is saying is that data alone has the capacity to change a life. If big data can change lives, it can absolutely change the effectiveness of your sales operations.

 

Top 12 Auto Marketing Trends of 2016

A YEAR IN REVIEW: a look back at the top automotive marketing trends of 2016...and a sneak peek into 2017

Much like the state of the automotive industry over the last year, AutoHook, powered by Urban Science has withstood and conquered unprecedented change throughout 2016. As experts in digital adaptation, AutoHook is consistently on the forefront of the latest trends in digital marketing and data solutions. Below is our recap of the top 12 headlines from the last 12 months in the automotive space. You'll also get a snapshot of how to "disrupt before you get disrupted" as we kick off 2017.

Google's Senior Vice President, Amit Singhal, announces mobile searches have officially surpassed desktop over the summer of 2015.

1. THE MOBILE TIPPING POINT

We all knew it was coming, but the speed at which mobile usage has overtaken desktop has been exceptionally faster than any other digital shift in our history. As featured in AutoHook's February article conveniently titled, The Mobile Tipping Point, "There’s no denying it. Mobile has forever changed the way marketers interact and reach consumers. We’re all slaves to it. The swiping, the scrolling, the click-to-call-ing, the convenience. In so many ways the mobile experience dictates not only where our marketing should be, but also the entire advancement of communication as we know it."

Epic flooding at the Ford Dealership in Republic Missouri after 24 hours of heavy rain. Video footage courtesy of CarScoops.com

2.  NATURAL DISASTERS STRIKE DEALERSHIPS ACROSS THE U.S.

 

Mississippi River Flooding

The residents of Missouri and Illinois had a rough start to 2016 after the detrimental flooding of the Mississippi River and other waterways spanning the two states. In some areas, more than two feet of rain graced the Midwest with its presence, resulting in over 25 deaths and thousands forced from their homes in freezing temperatures. (As featured in How Dealerships Can Stay Afloat in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters).

Timbrook Kia and Timbrook Buick/GMC in Cumberland, Md., received 28 inches of snow, according to the dealer.  Photo credit: DINA WILSON. Originally featured in  Automotive News

Timbrook Kia and Timbrook Buick/GMC in Cumberland, Md., received 28 inches of snow, according to the dealer. Photo credit: DINA WILSON. Originally featured in Automotive News

Winter Storm Jonas Hits East Coast

Automotive News reported the “Jonas Effect” forced Toyota to temporarily close 200 of its dealerships. Herb Gordon Volvo, in Silver Spring, Maryland experienced a roof collapse due to the overly dense snow. Forbes noted auto sales were better than expected in January despite the harsh weather conditions. "Sales actually managed a small increase in January according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

“It’s not just hurricanes. Any natural disaster, such as an earthquake, can cripple a dealership. There need to be provisions for natural disasters in areas susceptible to them.”  - Mitch Phillips, Global Director of Data, Urban Science
Image courtesy of  ColumbusAgency.com

Image courtesy of ColumbusAgency.com

 

3. GOOGLE'S SERP CHANGE

Google has bulletproof adaptation skills. They seek out disturbances within the digital space and adjust accordingly. Due to the fact that mobile searches have now surpassed desktop, Google altered the layout of their search engine results pages (SERPs) to better align with mobile’s responsive design. In February 2016 they stopped displaying paid ads on the right side of SERPs. (Content originally featured in AutoHook's latest eBook, Adapt or Die: The Auto Dealer's Digital Adaptation Survival Guide).

 

 

4. RISING PAID SEARCH COMPETITION

What does this mean for dealers? For starters, a huge potential for increased SEM costs and more competition for top ad ranking. Search Engine Land analyzed the results of Google’s most recent adaptability demonstration: “Looking at the median change from February 8 through March 16 (2016) for a sample of advertisers year over year, we find that first-page minimum bids continue to increase steadily since the removal of right rail text ads.”

 

5. THE CLICK-TO-CONVERSION SHIFT

"If you start with conversion first and foremost, the thousands of dollars you spend driving traffic to your site each month will actually be validated. eMarketer reported $61.5 billion will be spent on search and display alone in 2016. If the majority of your digital ad budget goes into SEM and banner ads that drive shoppers to your website, but you don’t first ensure your site has the ability to convert at a high rate, you are willingly throwing money in the garbage. It’s like throwing a pitch to home plate without a catcher. It just doesn’t make any sense." - David Metter, President, AutoHook Powered by Urban Science

6. OMNICHANNEL MARKETING BECOMES A MUST-HAVE APPROACH

Omnichannel shoppers are the most valuable to your business. When both your dealership's in-store and digital efforts communicate and work together, it creates an ideal shopping environment resulting in customer loyalty. IBM’s recent whitepaper states, “The most sophisticated retailers are enabling customers to convert on any channel. After all, shoppers who buy in-store and online have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel.”

Google's Kelly McNearney talks video at #DD21.  Click to watch.

Google's Kelly McNearney talks video at #DD21. Click to watch.

7. VIDEO, VIDEO, VIDEO...& MORE VIDEO

Scott Empringham, CEO of Flash Point Communications joined AutoHook's panel "The Naked Truth" at Digital Dealer 21 this past August. His advice? Video is the #1 driver of consideration for new vehicles. Scott recommends dealers create 90-second videos just using their iPhone to post on social channels. “If you’re looking for a vehicle, you probably want a good look at the vehicle. Include shots of the vehicle’s exterior, interior, features and benefits.” 90-second videos have been enormously successful for Flash Point and their clients.

Fellow panelist, Kelly McNearney, Google's Senior Automotive Strategist could not agree more! Kelly says, “All I care about is online video. It’s great because you don’t need to customize your content for each individual channel, you can run the same video across platforms.” 

 

8. ONLINE BUYING: ARE WE THERE YET?

The article, 5 Reasons Online Buying is NOT Everyone's Reality highlights the results of DealerSocket's 2016 Dealership Action Report. “While there is a segment of car shoppers who want to buy vehicles online in an Amazon-like experience, a new report indicates dealers may be overestimating how strong consumer demand for this capability really is.”

 

 

Lindsay Kwaselow  ,   April Rain ,  Kevin Frye  and  Julie Frye at #DD21 Exhibit Hall

Lindsay KwaselowApril Rain, Kevin Frye and Julie Frye at #DD21 Exhibit Hall

9. DEALERS AGREE, PAID SOCIAL ADS DO IN FACT SELL CARS

In 2016, the industry determined that social ads really do sell cars, and we heard it straight from dealers themselves! In Part I of our Naked Truth Exposed series, Alex Jefferson, eCommerce Director of Proctor Dealerships said, "Social media DOES in fact sell cars. Social outlets give us the power to build quality relationships, which then translate into quality website traffic. As long as your website converts, BOOM you can sell cars through social!"

Kevin Frye, eCommerce Director of the Jeff Wyler Automotive Family also presented at #DD21 with his session, Have You Lost Your Mind? The Demise of Common Sense in Automotive. Frye asked the question, “Can you track ROI with social media?” In his DealerRefresh recap he confirmed, "The answer is yes! I excited many dealers a few conferences back when I showed how they could build attribution models and see for themselves how they could track a return for their social media efforts."

Scott Empringham, also reminds dealers to hold their social media companies accountable. In his October blog, Empringham states, "While traditional media offer varying levels of accountability, social media (especially Facebook) is off the charts regarding accountability and transparency. In fact, it’s more accountable than the previous champion, direct mail, with only 20% of the cost."

 

10. DATA SHARING ACROSS ALL AUTOMOTIVE TIERS

* Content featured in the October 2016 edition of  AutoSuccess Magazine  

* Content featured in the October 2016 edition of AutoSuccess Magazine 

AutoHook is doing our part to build one, solidified automotive railroad system by opening our API, and the sales validation data that comes with it, to all vendors – free of charge. In an industry where everyone charges to be connected, we want to be the player not to charge so that we can make stronger connections.

By adopting Apple’s open app approach, we can then simplify and unravel a very complicated subject. A subject that is perhaps the one absolute in an industry inundated with ambiguous topics like “big data” and “attribution.” Backed by near-real-time sales data from Urban Science, AutoHook has actually built an attribution engine that validates without a doubt that our solutions led directly to a sale. Sharing this type of knowledge is the one thing that could change this industry for the better. Having access to both accurate and up-to-date sales attribution data will make every decision this industry makes smarter, every solution more efficient, and every dollar we spend go further. Now THAT is something to get excited about!

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11. DMPS TAKE CENTER STAGE

During the Fall of 2016, DMPs gained escalating attention among the automotive marketing elite. In the November blog, What You Need to Know About DMPs, we learned the biggest uses for these data management platforms, including more accurate sales attribution metrics, more opportunities for personalization and one-to-one marketing, and that DMPs are an ideal tool in terms of audience targeting and segmentation. 

12. ATTRIBUTION CLAIMS ITS THRONE

In the August 2016 blog titled, AT LAST: Attribution Claims its Throne, David Metter, President of AutoHook powered by Urban Science writes...

"Mark my words - 2017 is going to be THE YEAR OF ATTRIBUTION. eMarketer admitted companies have been slow to adopt proper attribution methods due to a number of obstacles, however they estimate over 50% of American businesses will make multichannel attribution a priority for their marketing efforts in the year ahead."

FUTURE FOCUS: 2017 Trends

CROSS-CHANNEL ATTRIBUTION

What is the point of marketing if you can't prove it resulted in a sale? There’s no argument that with everything our industry is capable of measuring, it all comes down to physical transactions between customers and dealers, specifically units sold and closed service ROs. That’s what you measure before anything else. That’s the reason the concept of attribution exists in the first place – to help you generate more sales and service revenue. Learn more in David Metter's December blog, VDP Views are the Top KPI...and Other Data Myths.

According to The Marketer's Guide to Cross-Channel Attribution, "Marketers need to be measuring every campaign, regardless of channel, against the same goals they set out to achieve at the start of the year. These tend to sound a lot more like increasing lifetime value and average order value, and driving repeat purchases and customer loyalty, rather than increasing open rates or click rates, reach or visits. But this is only possible through cross-channel and cross-device attribution."

EQUITY MINING

If you're not doing it already, equity mining software should be the first thing dealers put into play in 2017. If you're not familiar with the term, Automotive News explains it as, "Equity-mining software, sometimes called data-mining software, enables dealerships to spot current customers who are in a good position to get out of the vehicle they have and into a new one for about the same monthly payment." AutoAlert has one of the industry's best data mining tools that uses advanced algorithms and analytics to reveal online trends and consumer behavior in order to provide actionable, in-market consumer intelligence. Equity mining could be the difference between being a part of the noise or being the first one to speak up when the time is right. 

ONE-TO-ONE MARKETING

Personalized marketing campaigns based on a consumer's previous actions and their digital footprint are increasingly becoming the most effective, if not the only way to impact buyers at the right time. Custom-built, targeted messages with a personalized touch elicit fiercer engagement rates. People don't just want personalized messages, they now expect them and are most likely to respond to an ad or message exclusively crafted for them.

How else can you break through layers upon layers of digital ads screaming, "Look at me! Look at me!" People want personal. If your marketing initiatives don't take this into consideration, you will fall flat on consumers ears and invisible to their very short (and shrinking) attention spans.