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When it comes to our data and how it affects our business, to how we can and must make money with it, we in retail automotive need to wake up!  We need an "Internet Moment"--but, first, what the heck is that?  Understand that the "Internet Moment" was birthed this way at a very famous company:  The mid 90’s were a crazy time at Microsoft. The Internet was taking off, and it had actually left without Microsoft—and that was Bill Gate’s mistake, as he had written quite a bit internally at Microsoft about how the Internet was not going to be big.  I worked there back then, and he had led the whole company in that "anti-Internet" direction.  To put it in our perspective for automotive, that would be like Henry Ford and his descendants deciding way back that larger engines and eventually automatic transmissions were not important.  But worse.

And what would have happened in Ford’s case when he realized not having those was going to lose his market?  Thankfully, for Microsoft, Bill Gates had that realization, that “Internet Moment”, because he finally listened to the people who worked for him—and the rest of the world—that the Internet was going to be huge.  Bill Gates turned Microsoft around overnight to match the market, and the strategy extended Microsoft’s dominance another ten years—not forever, but to be part of that certainly changed me forever.

In retail automotive, I feel that we are at our own “Internet Moment”, but it's not about the Internet alone any longer:  It's about our data.  I have recently seen, with my own eyes, just a small business wave on what is an enormous ocean of data.  The immense size of it is hard to grasp, and so some have suggested we can stop the data sharing and lock it back up.  We cannot.  Absolutely, we cannot.  First, the size of what is already happening with the data is thousands of points of data on every shopper in the USA, regardless of what they are shopping for.  Billions of data points.  The size of that d ike in just automotive alone is far past the number of our fingers, and far past the amount of time it would take to even try:  By the instant we achieved even a fraction of "stopping the leak", we would already be drowned by the other data sources.  We cannot stop it.

We have to decide, in our retail ships that ride this giant sea of data, whether we will sink in it or do business on it.  And it's not because of TrueCar.  It's not because of Google Cars.  It's not because of Yahoo.  It's not because of anybody else, in fact:  As Pogo once famously said, "We have met the enemy, and he is US!" (Google it if you don't get the reference, as ironic at is is to suggest you do that while writing THIS article!).

This is the mantra I look for and measure companies and partners by:  I support companies that protect and use this data to help dealers close deals and make more profit.  Nobody is perfect, but are you a partner to build business or a parasite taking profits?

We are having our "Internet Moment", and it is about our data.  It won't matter what we want to happen, it will only matter what the consumer wants to happen.  If someone like Bill Gates can't control the consumer, do we think we can?

Of course not.  We cannot fight it, because for sales we must follow where consumers go.  And the data (including OUR data) is how we will get there fastest and strongest.

The 2010's will be remembered as the "Data Decade", but you don't need to end up a memory, yourself.  You can do great business with your data for profit, with all the data, and you should.

In fact, it's no longer an option whether to do that:  In our "Internet Moment" for Data, you must.

P.S. "“Big Data is the new definitive source of competitive advantage across all industries,”… “For those organizations that understand and embrace the new reality of Big Data, the possibilities for new innovation, improved agility, and increased profitability are nearly endless.” - Forbes, 2/18/2012"

by Keith Shetterly, Copyright 2012
All Rights Reserved

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Comment by Keith Shetterly on August 17, 2012 at 8:00am

Thanks Brian, Tom, and Ralph!  Like I said . . . Dealers Wake UP!  :)

Comment by Tom 1TeamSynergy Wiegand on August 17, 2012 at 7:50am

This just in:

Warren Buffett Is Buying This for the First Time in 40 Years
By Frank Curzio, editor, Small Stock Specialist
Friday, August 17, 2012

The world's greatest investor, Warren Buffett, gets a lot of press for avoiding technology stocks…

You see, Warren is famous for buying the "basics," companies that make everyday products like soda or razors. He's always steered clear of early-stage investments in tech companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook. It's difficult to successfully pick technology stocks. One day, a company is on top… the next day, it's toast because a competitor has invented a better technology.

But there's a trend taking place in technology that is so big, even Warren can't ignore it. In fact, he just invested $10 billion into it. It's an unusual move, given that the legendary investor has avoided the sector for the past four decades.

The trend is called Big Data.

Three disturbing facts about America…

Why will 50% of the U.S. population be on food stamps at some point in their life? Why are the percentage workers who collect "disability checks" up 400%? Why do we have 25% of the ENTIRE WORLD'S prison population? The answer is simple, but something no one wants to admit.

And it has nothing to do with politics, immigration, or religion. Get the facts and the answers here…

Over the past 12 months, tech giants IBM, Microsoft, Intel, EMC, and Oracle have been on an acquisition spree… They've spent billions of dollars acquiring companies with Big Data technology.

"Big Data" refers to the volume of digital data being collected around the world. Companies right now are analyzing this data using algorithms to predict future behavior patterns. For industries like health care and retail, it could save companies hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

You see, over the past two years, we've seen an explosion in data with the massive growth in social networking, smartphone, and tablet use. Billions of people every day are posting new information to their Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter accounts.

To put this in perspective, more than 750 million photos were uploaded to Facebook on New Year's Eve alone. About 300 million people post on Twitter each day. In the past 60 seconds, over 700,000 people just searched for something on Google.

The "offline" world is also full of useful data. Cameras on traffic lights, highway tollbooths, and security systems capture pictures and video constantly. Most delivery companies (including transportation giants UPS and FedEx) have GPS systems on their trucks that transmit data back to the company's tech department.

Because of this trend, data is piling up at an unbelievable rate. According to tech giant IBM, 90% of all data is less than two years old. Put another way, 10 times as much data is in storage today as existed two years ago. That's a 900% surge!

Even more shocking, IBM expects data to grow by another 800% over the next five years.

This data is constantly being analyzed, which could lead to more sales for retailers who will be able to predict future spending patterns. It could also mean huge cost savings for utility companies tracking energy usage during peak hours.

Tens of thousands of companies all over the world are making Big Data their top priority for 2012 and beyond. Venture capitalists are also pouring huge money into tech start-ups trying to get an edge on this megatrend.

IBM is on the forefront. That's probably one of the reasons Warren Buffett made the company one of his three largest stock positions nine months ago.

Other large players in the Big Data trend – like Teradata and Oracle – are trading near 52-week highs.

Despite strong performances this year, I see these three stocks trading much higher over the long term as this trend grows stronger. I suggest buying these stocks on any pullbacks.

Good investing,

Frank Curzio

P.S. I just recommended two small-cap names in the Big Data sector in my Phase 1 Investor newsletter. These companies have huge stakes in this long-term trend… And I believe they could double in the next 12 to 24 months. To learn more about a subscription – and gain access to these picks immediately – click here.

Comment by Tom Gorham on August 17, 2012 at 5:48am

Great article Keith and great comments.  As I said in my post "The Next Big Thing", it's not about gadgets (such as mobile devices).  Although I spoke about being permanently connected, it's Big Data that assists and is the natural outcome of that total connection.  Big Data flows naturally beyond industry boundaries and can be harnessed and utilized in ways that are non-industry specific.  At this time, Google and Facebook may have the largest pool of data available on the planet.  How they choose to utilize and share that information will probably dictate the manner in which smaller companies can utilize it.

Comment by Brian Pasch on August 17, 2012 at 3:53am


Great timely article.  Dealers who are making changes to their dealership technology platform need to think about the companies they chose as partners in light of their ability to leverage Big Data.  This is especially true for single rooftop dealers that want to compete with larger automotive groups that have bigger budgets and can afford to hire data analysts to guide their marketing decisions. 

For example, there are over 50 automotive website companies and over 20 CRM companies on the market for dealers to choose.  When dealers are considering an upgrade/change to these two tools they must ask themselves which companies are best positioned to integrate consumer shopping behavior and third party data into these platforms to sell more cars.

It also means that dealers need to think of which small fish, regardless of how good their "single" product is, will be swallowed whole and pit out by the big data machine. 


The integration of "Big Data" will give dealers and BDC agents an advantage over systems that are stand-alone silos of one dimensional data. I wrote about this topic last September when Dataium hit the marketplace and when Autotrader purchased Kelly Blue Book and VinSolutions on DealerRefresh.  It's a good read about the potential of "Big Data" on dealer operations.

Cobalt has the most impressive "Big Data" warehouse of automotive consumer shopping behavior because of their unique position of seeing all interactions on Tier 1, 2, and 3 for GM franchises.  The potential uses of this data to significantly improve the consumer shopping experience on Cobalt websites as well as improving customer communications in their CRM system is breathtaking. 

Dealers need to look at their technology and marketing partners in light of the massive change that is coming.  Other industries have already been leveraging Big Data and soon it will be hear.  Dealers will start to see this reality next year in working products.

This move will force another vendor consolidation because small companies that don't have data integration partnerships to work into their product mix will start to be seen as "dated" technology and underperform the marketplace. 

Change is coming.  Time to sharpen those data and analytical skills.


Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Consulting

Comment by Keith Shetterly on August 16, 2012 at 10:23pm

Thanks Ralph!  :)

Comment by Ralph Paglia on August 16, 2012 at 8:00pm

Also, if you are not into the whole "Key Word" scene, here's an infographic that conveys several key data points about "Big Data" based on some data I had in my data drawer (the clean data one):

(Click on the image above to see the full size image file displayed in your browser window)

Comment by Ralph Paglia on August 16, 2012 at 7:53pm

As far as "who else is talking about it", outside of America's showroom floors and service drives... well, maybe in service drives too, anyways, the discussions amongst IT and Marketing professionals around "Big Data" are so prolific, that the term itself is one of the most competitive key word phrases from amongst millions within Google Adwords.  Check out this screen shot and please notice the sponsored link saturation.  This tells those in the know about such things that whatever "Big Data" is, there is a heck of a lot of money being made around it:

Comment by Keith Shetterly on August 16, 2012 at 5:42pm

Just tell Brian that *I* told you first.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on August 16, 2012 at 5:39pm

Well, you could email Brian Pasch about it.  HE would tell you about it.

Comment by David T. Gould on August 16, 2012 at 1:31pm

seriously... who else is talking about it. ; )

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