Right after twenty 5 years as a Common Manager and Auto Dealer Principal, followed by 10 years as the President of a national network of independent automotive advertising agencies, I am a self-described car guy. Even so, my definition of my selected career and professional identity has been irrevocably altered by technologies that have produced a paradigm shift inside the powers that govern the retail auto industry on a lot of levels. Thankfully, the changes have all been for the very best for those who embrace them to improve on what was, and using the vision of what could/ should be if the technology is permitted to integrate old college wisdom with new global opportunities.
I very first recognized the influence that technology was obtaining around the retail auto industry when I began applying computer system driven processes and specialized software program applications to enhance internal communications at my auto dealership. Efficiencies made doable by sophisticated DMS computer system hardware supported by applications that allowed actual time management of our P&L coupled with CRM applications, Inventory Management Systems, and specialized tools that integrated processes across all departments to maximize my R.O.I. on a lot of levels suggested the role that technology would have on future operations.
When I transitioned from the retail auto industry into automotive advertising I took my confidence in technology-driven processes with me. I developed an internal communication/distribution system to replicate the inter-department management and monitoring processes that I enjoyed at my auto dealership. I was surprised at the universal nature that it had when applied to the day to day operations of my automotive marketing agency. Then came the Internet which exponentially increased the power of the computer technology that I had learned to leverage.
I immediately shifted my internal server functions onto more efficient online resources with all the advantages of redundancy of data storage for added safety and of course the convenience of remote access from anywhere around the Globe Wide Web. The light bulb went off when I recognized the leverage of linking remote facilities with diverse products, services, and skillsets to improve my offerings to my auto dealer clients. Frankly, at that time I was still focused on employing computers and the related technology — even around the Internet — for my operations. I operated for seven years with all the confidence that I was ahead of the technology curve; until I realized that I wasn’t and that I never would or could be.
Technologies is a moving platform that must constantly evolve to take on new challenges as human nature drives people to seek the path of least resistance in life as well as the marketplace. As a result, the Internet has created explosive growth in linked and leveraged resources for auto dealers as well as consumers. The technology-driven change that impacted the retail auto industry the most has been consumer acceptance of the virtual auto dealerships on the Internet Super Highway vs. the less efficient brick and mortar facilities on car row.
Online shoppers now represent 93% of today’s car buyers who prefer to bypass the auto dealer and their automotive advertising agency’s self-serving marketing messages — true or imagined in both the genuine and the virtual world — to get the information that they need to choose a new or pre-owned vehicle as well as the auto dealer that they want to purchase it from. The impact on established selling systems and required skill sets and resources for auto dealers who wish to remain competitive has developed new possibilities for some and unforeseen challenges for several.
The Internet and technologies have leveled the playing field for small independent auto dealerships to compete with larger better-capitalized operations. The multimillion-dollar facility and six-figure monthly marketing budgets that allowed large dealer groups to dominate conventional media and community recognition have been equalized by the efficiencies and reduced costs offered by Internet showrooms and integrated selling processes anchored by much smaller actual globe facilities with less staff and inventory. Virtual showrooms can be built and managed for a few thousand dollars per month vs. a monthly debt service and operational expense to manage and maintain a brick and mortar facility that can easily run into six figures. The obvious savings in expense and exposure can be passed onto consumers who are demanding more for less in their vehicle purchase. The trickle-down effect is that auto dealers must demand more for less not only through expense reductions at their facilities but from their automotive marketing agency within the form of reduced fees and marketing budgets to preserve bottom line profits.
Luckily, forward-thinking Automotive Advertising Agencies can realize similar efficiencies in delivering their marketing messages through new media channels in a variety of new lanes around the Internet Super Highway. Conventional media such as radio, T.V., and newspaper have proven formulas to monitor results that rely on reach, frequency, cost per point, cost per impression, etc. to maximize R.O.I. Luckily, numerous of the same philosophies can be applied to Internet-based marketing, nevertheless, the rules of the road on the Internet Super Highway are very different than in the genuine planet, and in some cases, they draw inverse conclusions with varying results.