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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 Jason Manning on August 8, 2012 at 8:13pm
Keith, I believe Data is big. So big that existing businesses will need to evolve more into tracking their data, controlling their data, protecting their data, and finally, using their data to make the profits that exist therein. I believe there are upcoming business ventures that want to trump longstanding businesses with their "products" and marketing ideas which intercept business/customer data before it is received by the destined business. I believe dealer owners, principles and managers should understand this whole concept to survive and thrive. The FBI and CIA are used by the U.S. to monitor and protect sensitive data. There is a lesson to be learned there, as our data becomes more critical to our survival and success. I believe there is a whole other business emerging in the monitoring and permissions of dealer and business data.

Jason Manning
Comment by Keith Shetterly on August 8, 2012 at 11:31am

Jason, I've had a revelation seen with my own eyes:  The Data is Out There.  In ways and places that dealers cannot control, even if they wanted to.  Whatever sales and trades of data that happen are so obtuse and foggy that ultimately the source of data that is applied by, for, or against a dealer actually doesn't have to be sourced FROM the dealer.  Even if it was, it sounds individually easy but as a group very hard to tell--it's an untrackable jumble of water hoses from different sources, and once the water is in the pool there's no telling which hose it came from.

And there's no choke point, no Thermopolae Pass, to stop it.  It's not an army, it's a fleet of asteroids.  So, as you suggest, it needs to be used BY the dealer FOR the dealer.  Period.

It's a data world now.  I had an inkling, but until recently I really had no idea how big this is.

Comment by Jason Manning on August 8, 2012 at 8:49am
I am prepared to charge Google, and anyone else, a pretty penny for needing my data. That's what we need to do. However, let's ask our customers if we can resell their information. If they say no, maybe we should safeguard it all. I think they know about data/privacy problems, once the can is opened. I'm not against a dealer using data. I'm just against sharing it with Partners, Affiliates, Subsidiaries etc... Don't think for a minute that they didn't receive or make profits from your Dealer Leaks of Data.

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