Lessons Learned from Digital Dealer

June 15, 2021

Digital Dealer is a biannual event that brings together automotive dealers, OEMs, thought leaders, and solution providers for a two-and-a-half-day experience of exploration development, and collaboration. The goal is to bridge critical gaps and curate growth plans. This hybrid show was a breath of fresh air for the automotive industry to return to a brick-and-mortar setting. In particular, Digital Dealer 2021 provided an advanced understanding of the automotive community through its educational platforms that foster professional growth, networking, and meaningful personal connections.

I was particularly excited about this show. And it didn’t let down. With the constant fluctuations that the industry has experienced over the past 18 months, it’s up to us to accelerate forward in order to meet the demands for innovation. I think that together we can plan accordingly and successfully pivot to avoid future obstacles. The theme of this June’s show was Smarter, Faster, Stronger. These words perfectly describe the perseverance that the automotive industry has shown since the events of 2020.

From the show floor to networking experiences, many of the conversations I heard carried this same theme throughout. While I did hear some mumblings about the mysteries surrounding the upcoming months, the overall focus was on how we can work smarter, become product experts faster, and build our lots back up stronger than ever before. I was able to engage in many conversations to learn directly from the community on how to achieve operational goals. The future is bright, my friends.

One of the main points I learned from Digital Dealer was that the customer is in control. It is the dealer’s job to guide the consumer on their journey. The idea of a product expert is more important than ever before. Build your workforce to match the existing knowledge base of the modern customer and assist them on their journey. A large portion of this includes the need to minimize and do away with friction. Creating a difficult sales environment only makes it harder for the customer, as well as the dealer. I was delighted to hear how dealers were reacting to this and acknowledging that both parties are in this together.

Technology was a big draw for many conversations I had. In particular, the topic of websites was brought up numerous times. In the past, your website was seen as a lead generator. I’m here to tell you, not anymore. Your web properties are powerful tools in the buying journey. Treat your website like a salesperson and watch as leads turn to deals. Digital retailing is only growing in popularity. The events of 2020 taught our industry about resilience, and it is powerful to watch how easily and quickly dealers were able to adapt.

As digital solutions become more commonplace, it is important that dealers embrace the idea of how touchpoints assist the sales process in the long run. Google My Business and the concept of zero-click searching are red hot. You can no longer ignore the finer aspects of SEO. Pay special attention to what Google can do for your dealership. Play ball with these touchpoints and increase your reputation and visibility to your lot. Customers will be engaging through search engines in a variety of ways. Build up your listings and stay current with trending information.

Lastly, I was excited to be a part of all the great speakers at this June’s show. Thanks to everyone who joined me in Tampa. It was a pleasure to dive into how digital retailing needs to be viewed beyond the buy button. So much goes into the customer experience that is important for us to realize that purchasing digital means more than simply having a button. It starts with the right people, the right processes, and the right inventory. Virtual, all-access is open until June 24, so you still have time to catch my presentation.

For me, there is one quote that sums up this June’s Digital Dealer best: “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” These words should spark creativity and encouragement for your dealership. We have seen a lot of cracks exposed because of outside forces. This turmoil has caused us to reevaluate our operations. But, we have come out the other side with a much sunnier disposition. If Digital Dealer taught our industry anything, it’s that we need to have a roadmap for where we are going. Embrace the new technologies that customers are using and leverage institutional knowledge to create a better tomorrow. The sun won’t always be shining. But if we work hard now, the patches in the roof will be fixed before the next storm.