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The Road to Success: Adapting to the Digital Age with Technology

When I started in this industry four decades ago, technology was a term never used or raised. The closest thing to a computer in a dealership was a calculator with a tape roll in the accounting office. Cell phones hadn't been invented, and dealer trades were done by searching four-week-old microfiche. Databases were filing cabinets, and everything was done by hand with a Bic pen.

Over the years, things changed as technology entered the world, and the biggest effect was speed. It pushed the world not only to want but to mandate instant gratification. The internet gave access to everything in a nanosecond, cell phones provided on-demand communication, and computers gave us the ability to correlate information like never before, all at our fingertips.

But where did it put dealerships? We found ourselves scrambling as mindsets within the industry moved at the speed of the average glacier flow.

With the advent of the internet came websites. OEMs set standards, giving dealers very little leeway, with the focus driving in the opposite direction. Every version of websites was believed to be better than the last, with greater information and improved call-to-actions. Chatbots and lead generation modules were added in the race to capture data.

Our quest for connection has grown stronger than ever, and as dealers, we need to recognize how our customers want to connect. We must look at other industries, brands, and solutions to understand the interaction process and what we need to be competitive within our space.

Let's start with search engines. They are the first point of contact for the dealership. Have you ever conducted a search throughout the realm of engines and sites out there? Most are unaware of what can be found or what is out there, nor how reputations are managed and displayed. Michael Larkin of LPJM Solutions displayed this to me.

Once we are found, our customers are going to move in one of three directions: the website, social media, or vendor media.

Focusing on the needs and wants of the customer will drive impressions, and they must be capitalized on. Modern retailing demands modern platforms. Most dealership websites are designed for desktops first and then purposed down to mobile. However, "mobile-friendly" is not modern. As the majority of people access the web through their devices first, this needs to be our priority when designing our platforms. We also need to take recognition of how people operate these devices, specifically their thumb movements.

Understanding social media is a whole other matter. Beyond a "spray and pray" belief with no direct plan on how to capitalize on one of the greatest free markets on earth is unacceptable. Social branding needs to be addressed company-wide, especially with team networking. We can build communities faster and bigger than ever, and this is where data capture is going to be paramount.

Pushing this information internally is only part of the solution, and we tend to lean on DMS/CRMs too much, believing them to be the resolve. Concerns can be raised in many areas of this as we are focused on the human connection here. It all relies on what we engage and do with this information. Most times it's wasted.

Ask the question, when was the last time every single customer was contacted personally? Moreover, what defines a customer? Someone who has been in the dealership, but when? This is where a properly engaged CDP is necessary to pull that information out of the systems. Tim Hayden of Brain+Trust is an expert in this and how to structure opportunities.

So where next... Vendors. At NADA last year, over 65% of the vendors were digitally weighed. We have lead generators, trade appraisers, instant credit offers, vehicle locators, MPI automation, and so much more, including AI. What is actually necessary is the biggest question and what will be the ROI, not in dollar value but in customer experience, efficiency, and data capture. Data will be the currency of the future. We will rely on it to serve and retain customers, yet we still need to follow the designed processes. Integrations will be paramount to the success of the Tech Stack in the dealership. We will need all of them to work together, preferably from a single source, similar to what A2Z Sync offers.

Bringing all of these technological advancements together and molding them to your dealership's processes is the next step on the Road to Success. The world has changed drastically in the last four decades, and dealerships that embrace and adapt to these changes will thrive in the digital age. It's not just about staying current; it's about staying ahead of the curve and providing your customers with the modern experience they expect and deserve.

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