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The Digital Divide - Thoughts from NADA 2011

There I was having a great discussion at NADA with some high-powered folks in the digital realm, when I realized that they didn’t get something very important:  Many dealers are not “leading edge” for Internet sales and marketing.  Nor are they anywhere near the edge, for that matter, evidenced by some "what the &^%$! did he say??" Tweets to ADM during some of the pre-conference technical sessions.

“Digital Divide” is a broadly-used term to describe things like disparate educational systems where some school districts have lots of computers and others have none, and the crack between the "digital haves" and "have-nots" seems to be widening.  The source of “Digital Divide” in dealerships is not education of youngsters, however—it’s education of the elders:  Dealer Principals and GMs.

The GMs and Dealer Principals can, and do, understand all the gears of a car deal:  the phone call, the ten steps to the sale, finance, leasing, inventory, holdback, step money, etc.  Many to the “nth” degree.  However, ask them about their Internet, and you’ll see them scramble to throw their Internet Manager at you.  And/or some list of third-party vendors that “handle it” for them.

And that is not a successful strategy.  They need to understand what they are expecting or their subsequent inspection is not productive, and we need to help them with that.  If the dealer has 20+ websites, shouldn’t each sales manager know to look at the sites that cover their makes?  Shouldn’t the GM understand his/her PPC  cost,  SEO strategy, and online pricing and inventory?  Shouldn’t the Dealer Principal  hold these folks accountable for all this, and more?  Well, how can all this happen if he/she isn’t educated on what they need?  And how to measure and manage it?

In the Digital Divide discussion, I was reminded of a day on Galveston Beach long ago, when my friends and I were partying with a beer keg.  Lots of fun all day!  As the sun went down, however, we noticed a young woman alone on a blanket nearby who was getting hassled by three guys.  We talked about that being wrong, and so we started over to talk to the guys and help her.

Feeling strong and bullet-proof, of course, I led the way, and, as I approached yelling, the three guys looked my direction.  They sulked a brief moment, said a few words, then fled the scene.  And I turned to my friends to congratulate us all on how we took care of that problem for the young lady.

Except I was alone!  My friends had not come with me and were still drinking beer across a divide of at least fifty feet of beach.  My guess at the time was that the three fellows who had been hassling the young woman were so shocked when this shouting, lone individual came on so strong that they figured I was either crazy, a kung-fu master, or both.  The woman thanked me, and I went back to my friends and gave them a hard time for not paying attention.  Even though I hadn’t done so, either!

"Pay attention"--that’s the caution for vendors and consultants about the "Automotive Digital Divide".  Are you reaching your customers (GMs and Dealer Principals), or are you expecting them to reach you?   If you look back across the divide on the digital beach, do you see those left behind?

They may not know it, and they may well resist it, but they need you to come get them, too.

 

The Digital Divide – Thoughts from NADA 2011

By Keith Shetterly, keithshetterly@gmail.com
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved

Views: 47

Tags: automotive, behind, digital, divide, left

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Comment by Keith Shetterly on February 10, 2011 at 11:25am
Well put, Ed.  :)  Thanks for the comment!
Comment by Ed Brooks on February 10, 2011 at 9:16am

Keith - Amen Brother!

 

I'd submit to you that at the core of the issue is that some (many.. most...) dealers haven't come to grips with the fact that the car business has fundamentally changed. The balance of power between the seller and the buyer has shifted. When I started in the business we as dealers were playing with a distinct advantage when it came to knowledge; how much a car should cost, where to find identically equipped vehicles, etc. Today's customer has that information at their fingertips as well.

 

The just-release AutoTrader.com/Polk study "The Role of the Internet in the New and Used Vehicle Purchase Proc... shows the average customer spending 18 to 19 hours researching their purchase - most of that time spent online. Why is this important? While most every dealer has a solid understanding of "all the gears of a car deal", how many really understand how this fundamental shift in the balance of power has affected the sales process?

 

My contention is, that until dealers make this realization, they will have a very difficult time bridging the divide.

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