Well another NADA has come and gone and this one, while positive with a lot of great dealer feedback, wasn’t exciting as past ones, at least for us. Now, there were any substantive meetings and product reviews, introductions and updates. Here’s some of the standouts for us:

  • Digital Retailing: While still in its “coming out” stage for a nearly 12-year-old technology, the stand-alone products such as DriveItNow are getting pressure from the website developers such as Dealer Inspire. Most of the implementations are still clunky and don’t necessarily demonstrate consumer feedback/engagement, by and large the implementations and integrations are getting better. While the data suggests that consumers are far from completely buying online (not a surprise if you’ve listened to the usage data for years rather that being distracted by shiny new toys).
  • Industry-wide Commerce Development Platform: Fortellis by CDK Global. Wow. Since its inception was only announced March 22, this is a little presumptive. However, nothing has the ability to move automotive commerce, digital and tools forward faster that collaboration from more players in the field (OEMs, developers, dealers) in order to bring a better, more integrated experience for the public. Yes, they’ve even been able to bring the likes of Reynolds & Reynolds into the fray. This has huge upside and we’re looking forward to updates in the coming months on what’s being developed and brought to market.
  • In-market Customer and Prospect Marketing: Lots of talkers, very few doers. While dealers continue to, for the most part, do mediocre to poor jobs at post-sale and post-service communication and engagement, third parties will continue to be sought after. Most of the conquest products in the market fail to impress us and after many, many, many examples of dealers being ripped off, our line of sight continues to narrow. In addition to having your existing CRM vendor do it, with some basic level of effectiveness, we have been impressed with the updated offerings from both AutoAlert and Stream Companies. The prior recently acquired a company out of the East Coast that seems to know what they’re doing on the service conquest side and also has a history of direct mail, the latter adding the option via building in-house.
  • Web Platform Technology: The coolest thing we saw was Dealer Inspire‘s voice search and we continue to be impressed with their Conversations tools, which are now available ad-hoc, platform agnostic (thanks to the push post-Cars.com acquisition). Meetings at other website companies revealed their willingness to install their off-site consumer-catching tech.

Also-mentions: these are companies and/or updates that aren’t earth-shattering, however important:

  • 360Booth: Best option for properly shooting your cars no matter how you think it should be done. Period. Jay’s stuff is the industry standard even though it’s not standard.
  • DealerRater: Will be allowing reviews to be “started” at the dealership on the person’s device in the very near-term, updates to come from them. This is exciting news from the only platform that still doesn’t allow for dealership-vicinity reviews.
  • Dominion: Still doing a quality job on their reputation management tools and dealer follow up (and focusing on it). And they listen. In our opinion, it’s better than a 3rd party completely managing your reputation for you (anything that is not a culture-driven mindset in-store with accountability isn’t successful long-term).
  • DealerOn: Still doing some of the coolest work and improving their platform. We are still seeing some of the highest organic conversions from their sites around the country, even with non-clients. And Greg Gifford is still the wisest of SEO Jedi anywhere…kind of scary (we didn’t pull down one of the books, oh well. Someone will eBay one from $1 and we’re all over it). And Greg, we do like site search, no matter how much you don’t. We do agree on Egg Slut for breakfast!
  • CarGurus: Watching them (nearly) since inception and they continue to make the space more consumer-friendly (while still needing to work on their mobile experience, please, please) and positive/fair for dealers. And they listen, as well as adjust, to market-specific issues and we have hands-on experience with that for their “deal” scoring. Went back-and-forth with one of the heads on their SEM team, attempting to get more details on what advantages they offer (besides platform-based advertising and retargeting), so the jury is still out however we’re open to watching the results and making recommendations.
  • Dealer Inspire: Aside from their new tech above, their team continues to innovate, lead best practices and have fun. We’ve heard from quite a few other companies about manipulation around mobile speed, especially home pages, to fit into the new mobile-first focus and speed testing by Google (and we happen to know a few other providers who’ve done the same exact thing) and their team has assured us, along with many others, they are servicing everyone and they aim at maintaining the fastest sites. In addition, their platform scanner has been installed on all sites so they receive real data from Google on scripts to adjust or revise/defer, improving performance. To top that off, they have built a Google Pagespeed spoof scanner that you can use to test if your website vendor is giving you the right speed test results or not.
  • DrivingSales: Best human asset training/management software anywhere. Repeat after us… They’ve invested greatly in the area, aside from service marketing, that is most ignored in the industry. Yes, we’re had dealers on since the beta and yes, it works!!


As the industry moves forward, in-store experience and online reputation management are paramount. If you can’t do those things properly, without relying on vendors to manage or run things, you’re doomed. With the shift to subscription models (which we completely believe will be the way consumers move) taking over in the next 3-5 years, if not sooner, traditional retailing will give way and the holes in dealership marketing and retention will be clearly evident.

We also attended the pre-NADA Google Digital Innovators Summit hosted by Dealer Teamwork. Any day is a good day to hear from the 800-pound gorilla in search and WAY more dealers should have been in attendance. Plus, you go to listen to the leading vehicle marketing platform in automotive. While much of the focus was on best practices and the Google Dealer Playbook, we still learned and benefitted from up-to-date data as well as soon-to-launch assets in non-public discussions. Thank you to the team for the invite!

Even though we weren’t blown away by the “what’s next” (if any) at NADA, we enjoyed and appreciated the sit-downs with many vendors, reviewing product updates, seeing new ones and spending quality time with our colleagues looking to make dealers better. Shout outs to the folks who provided some of our after-hours entertainment including AutoAlert, CDK Global, DealerBuilt and the Automotive Executives Association as well as the folks who made it to our reception on Friday including very fine folks Scott Monty, Christopher Barger and Stephanie Carls from Brain + Trust Partners!


Best Practices: Professional Insights, Powerful Results