In the Driver’s Seat: 2023 Reflections & 2024 Predictions

As the dust settles on the changing automotive landscape in 2023, it has become clear that last year was a crucible of transformation and invaluable insights. From shifts in consumer behavior to redefined dealership practices, it’s safe to say the industry will never be the same. The impact this year will have on the next is substantial, and dealers should continue adapting to the ever-evolving industry in order to stay ahead of the curve.

It’s time to discuss the top trends from 2023, and start to think about what the industry holds for us in 2024.

A Look Back: A Changed Landscape in 2023

  1. Taking the Online Experience, Offline: The once nice-to-have personalized online experience quickly became a cornerstone for dealer success – but what about in-store? 2023 saw the re-prioritization of creating custom experiences for anyone and everyone who walked through their dealership doors. This shift underscores the vital role of an integrated approach to customer engagement, creating a seamless transition between online and offline interactions.
  2. CRM Revolution: The traditional customer relationship management (CRM) communications reached their end in 2023. Automated responses filled with typos and generic content lost credibility and were swiftly abandoned by dealers, leaving a detrimental communication gap. Dealerships started to recognize the need for more savvy communication tools that emphasize personalization and resonate with the modern consumer.
  3. Manufacturer Mandates: Automotive saw a power shift as manufacturers enforced guidelines that if not strictly followed, carried a risk for dealers to lose substantial funding. These evolving dealer-manufacturer dynamics put a heavy emphasis on uniformity and compliance across brands and certified vendor programs.
  4. Revival of Retail: Prioritizing the analysis of ad spend for more effective lead generation and conversion practices has been reborn. A new focus on merchandising inventory through strategically connected marketing has given dealers critical insight into quality leads, and has proven the importance of merchandising initiatives for dealers.
  5. Max Controversy: With new AI, comes new controversy. Originally launched in 2021, Google’s Performance Max (PMax) digital advertising buying platform was met with mixed reactions. Since then, the concerns surrounding privacy and data security have only continued to grow. Critics argue that the platform’s extensive data usage raises privacy issues, causing unease over the potential for a sensitive information leak. Is the convenience worth the risk?

A Look Ahead: What’s in Store for 2024?

  1. Amazon Enters Auto: In 2024, the automotive industry prepares for Amazon’s expansion into car sales, potentially setting a new benchmark within the vehicle purchasing landscape. The influence of Amazon could redefine consumer expectations, as it did with other ecommerce categories, with a more desperate need for dealers to offer convenience, personalization, and efficiency in order to gain and retain a satisfied customer base.
  2. Electrifying Automotive: With the continued rise of electric vehicles (EVs), dealers should think to revamp their service coupons and offers. While traditional campaigns feature offers for services along the lines of oil changes, there is a new opportunity for dealers to adapt their strategy to incorporate incentives catered specifically to the unique needs of EV owners.
  3. Prioritizing Platforms: Automotive has historically been an industry of applications, until now. We are seeing a pronounced shift away from individual applications and multiple vendors, and a large priority being put on comprehensive all-in-one solutions that offer end-to-end capabilities. Holistic platforms simplify the experience on both the dealer and customer side, making them an invaluable tool in offering seamless marketing, purchasing, and maintenance journeys.
  4. Spam Tech Surge: Spam filtering technology is emerging as a top obstacle for dealers. With impacts on email deliverability and reporting, dealers need to diversify their communication methods and explore alternative channels to reach their customer base. A comprehensive marketing mix will ensure dealer messaging continues to reach the right eyes at the right time.
  5. Integrating AI: Artificial intelligence (AI) is continuing to grow and become a vital tool for dealerships. Dealers are beginning to integrate AI technology, including ChatGPT and AI communication tools, with their existing infrastructure to enhance customer interactions, streamline processes, and continue to push innovation in automotive. As AI continues to evolve, it is becoming an indispensable tool for dealers trying to get ahead in the modern auto landscape.

So, as we reflect on this past year and move into the next, it’s imperative to keep a pulse on where the auto industry is headed. The rapid integration and expansion of emerging technology underscores the desperate need for adaptability in dealership practices. Automotive is continuously proving to be an extremely dynamic industry full of opportunity: to innovate, to thrive, to forge your own path. Will you be ready to seize it?

David Boice
Team Velocity Co-Founder & CEO

Mission Improbable: 2021

Mission Improbable: 2021

Imagine this…A customer walks into a dealership and is treated exactly like they are routinely treated online. They would meet a bunch of people, and it would go something like this:

Website: Hi, my name is Website. Thanks for stopping by. How can I help you today?

Customer: Hey, we are looking to check out the new 2022 Telluride, see what our trade might be worth, and get a feel for of our monthly payments to see if it works in our budget. If so, we are interested in purchasing over the next few days.

Website: Perfect, let me show you around. BTW, how did you hear about us?

Customer: Your friends, Google and Facebook, suggested you. They said your offers on the 2022 Telluride were awesome!

Website: Ok, but first just a word of caution. Whatever you and Google and Facebook discussed privately may not be the same information you get here. But not a big deal, right?

Anyway, let me introduce you to my helpful widget friends. Just to name a few…This is Chat, that’s Trade, and over there is Video. My friend Finance is awesome, VDP is my main man, and you might even get to meet Retail, but most people don’t get that far.

Let’s get started with Chat. Just so you know, she will jump around frantically to get your attention and bug you all day long, unless you just say “hi” and tell her who you are. If I were you, I would just do it, because if you don’t, she is never going away. No matter what. Seriously dude, I am not joking around. I see it all day long. It’s actually crazy.

Chat: Hey, how may I help you today?

Customer: Hi, can you start with giving me some info on the new Telluride?

Chat: Slow your roll stranger. How about you start by giving me all of your information in case you decide to leave quickly, and a member of my team needs to reach you…like maybe tomorrow, probably… or at some point soon?

Customer: Ok, I am already here though. Why can’t they just speak with me right now, before I leave? But, fine, here is all my contact info. Now can you please let me know about that new ’22 Telluride?

Chat: Hmmm, that is such an incredible question. Hang on for a minute while I check. Darn it, Customer. I am afraid a member of my team cannot answer your question, but we will try our best to call you back tomorrow, hopefully. Is there anything else I can possibly do for you today?

Customer: You have not done one single thing for me today. Literally.

Website: Hey Customer, welcome back. Just so you know I cannot see or hear anything that any of my widget friends say or do. It’s like they live in their own world. But let’s get you straight over to Trade and see what happens.

Trade: Hi there. Tell me all about your trade, and then I will obviously need all of your contact information, and then I can send you a value report.

Customer: Ok, here is all my trade information, but I literally just gave Chat all my contact info, can’t you get it from her? Don’t you all work here? It’s the exact same information she just asked for 30 seconds ago.

Trade: Listen Customer, I can see you are already frustrated because you have not gotten a single bit of useful information since you arrived and have repeatedly been asked to identify yourself. I am sorry to say that this is only the beginning. Every other widget friend will need the same information. It’s what we are born to do. We cannot share your information because technically, none of us work here. We are employed and powered by other companies. See my real logo. It’s better to think of us all as “certified” and completely independent contractors. We can only keep our job if we prove to the boss that each of us have separately obtained your contact information. It’s like our fun game. Anyway, then we send your info over to CRM. He is getting old; he still counts the leads with his 20-year-old ADF calculator. Does that make sense Customer, in some small way?

Customer: No, not even in the slightest. I came here to get information to buy a Telluride. So far, all you want is for me to give you information to send to CRM. I thought you wanted to sell me a new Telluride. Google had me so convinced I could get a great deal, and it would be easy.

Website: Hey buddy, welcome back. I get it, just keep your chin up. I am going to get you straight over to my main man, the one and only VDP. We try and make sure everyone here meets him.

VDP: Hey Customer, I promise I am going to get you exactly what you need. Sounds like someone needs a great price and a payment on this 2022 Telluride. Am I right?

Customer: Yes, thank you VDP. You seem friendly with Website, so can you please tell me how much our monthly payment would be on this Telluride, including our trade information that I just gave your colleague, Trade.

VDP: Didn’t Website already explain all that? Whatever info you gave Trade stays with Trade. Sorry, I basically need all your exact same information. Relax, take a breath, because you may or may not like this… but the “awesome offers” you first saw from Google, or anywhere else, before we met are not actually our very best price. Isn’t that surprisingly fantastic news? We have something special called an E-Price. BTW, nobody knows what the “E” stands for. I am pretty sure it’s supposed to be like our “Extra” Special very best price. But it is not here now, it’s in a secret hiding place. All I need is your information and a spot to send this extra special E-Price because you understand I cannot exactly give it you now, right? I hope you get it. Fingers crossed.

Customer: Whaaaat? We are standing in the middle of your showroom right now, and we are ready to buy a Telluride. I don’t get it? I already gave your widget friends all my information and I just want to know an idea of my extra special payments NOW. That’s why we came here in the first place. Is that too much to ask, VDP? I mean, isn’t this a super common question?

VDP: Chill Customer. Please don’t bounce on me. We do have one final last-ditch option, and that’s to introduce you to the biggest, baddest widget friend in the dealership, Retail. But I am warning you, once you two meet, we may never see you again. She is a lone wolf with her own unique style and has her own entirely separate way of doing things. But perhaps she just might be able to help you. Really, at this point what do you have to lose? Are you ready?

Customer: Sure, let me meet her. But first, please tell me that all your other widget friends, or you, Website, already gave her all my contact information, all my trade information, and all my shopping history. I can’t take explaining this 2022 Telluride again and again. I don’t want to answer the same questions again. PLEASE!

Retail: Hey Customer, you look beat. By the way, what’s your real name? If I am going to help you, we need to start over fresh, and I do not want to hear about your time with Google, Facebook, or Website either. That’s all in the past.

Customer: Seriously, Retail? You also need my contact information, trade information and the details of what I want, too? And why are your prices and payments different than your associates, Google, Facebook, and Website? Are you joking?

Retail: Nope. Look, whatever your name is, only 3% or so of people even get this far. You should feel great about your effort. You have worked so hard and met so many widgets. Let’s finish this thing. Now, again, what’s your name, how can I reach you later, what are you trading, and how are you paying for it?

Customer: OMG! Do you even know Website, VDP, Chat, or any of the other people I have dealt with along the way? And shouldn’t Website have been able to just give me all this basic information himself, quickly? I still do not have an ounce of information I originally asked for. It’s so maddening.

Retail: Look, I admit I do not know them well. Except we go to conferences together and party like rockstars 😊. But, just between us, I am always the last person you’re gonna meet. It’s just how it works at our dealership. Now, like I said, let’s relax and start from scratch. It’s much easier if we both pretend everything that happened before we met is erased from your memory like it never happened. Even though it did.

Customer: You have got to be kidding me.

Can you imagine if this is what the in-store experience was like?

If you know the automotive landscape, I hope you enjoyed a laugh or two, like I did while writing this. While fun to smile, we are seriously devoted to creating solutions that empower retailers to dramatically improve their customers’ experience, both online and offline.

The bottom line is this…a dealer’s sales process (inside their stores) would never mimic the online sales experience. I would argue the customer experience is currently far better, more informative, and logical inside the dealership. Online, it’s typically disjointed from the first click of an email or a digital ad all the way through to a website filled with widgets. It’s even worse on mobile devices. The current online shopping journey takes consumers from one siloed experience to another, littered with distractions along the way. This ecosystem has slowly developed over 20 years and was not designed to easily facilitate the most important result: a transaction. Dealerships cannot efficiently manage 8-10 companies, all with individual goals and technology, and expect to create a meaningful customer experience that generates a great outcome for their business.

Integration is a change already established in most other industries, but not automotive retail… yet.

I call it “Mission Improbable” because the current ecosystem was developed like separate pieces of a puzzle that were never designed to fit. Given the exceptional online experiences customers have in other areas of their lives, it’s improbable they will play hopscotch through the maze of inconsistencies in both offers and user experiences. This siloed ecosystem is unique to automotive, and it’s heavily supported by a financial model that rewards silos, OEM certifications, etc. It’s become the norm.

But what are the alternatives? I see two logical pathways to improvement. The first would be a format to share customers’ contact information and shopping data across different platforms. Real integration between various technologies. But, the chances of wide enough adoption are unlikely because the level of cooperation would require tech companies that fiercely compete to also agree. On top of that, growing consumer privacy regulations and security environments would prove challenging.

The more likely alternative is the birth of all-inclusive platforms that were designed, acquired, or both, to facilitate the entire customer journey from the creation and first click of an ad to the final click of scheduling a sales delivery or service, without any unnecessary interruptions, all originally engineered to work together seamlessly. But, platforms like this will take time to adopt because investors, dealers, and OEMs are accustomed to the current mindset. Integration is a change already established in most other industries, but not automotive retail… yet.

We are passionately committed to a better alternative that is facilitated by one, fully-integrated technology platform, designed from the ground up for all “widgets” to work together for customers and dealerships. It is how the rest of the world is already retailing, and we believe we can too.

David Boice
Team Velocity Co-Founder & CEO

“I want to be just like (insert Dealer name).”

I wanna be just like...

Are you sure?

Each week, a growing number of new or prospective clients ask us to provide, “whatever (insert dealer name) is doing that is working so well.” The belief being, if they work with the same company and use the same technology, the results will also be the same. Maybe, maybe not.


We are fortunate to serve many OEM’s and over 1500 progressive dealers in the automotive, RV, Powersports, marine, and motorcycle industries. A common belief amongst them is that by substantially improving and personalizing their customer’s experience, they will, in turn, complete more transactions. In this regard, they are customer experience mavericks. Their belief system (and ours) has formed the entire basis for our Apollo technology platform.

Before you try to emulate a dealer, you perceive as successful, I would encourage you also to evaluate changing the way you think about retail. We know that change, whether good or bad, is resisted with equal intensity. While that is true for humans, it is even more true for organizations.

To be as successful as a progressive retailer, it requires more than just switching companies. It requires re-thinking as well. One change, without the other, is a formula for continuously switching vendors or strategies and then wondering why you are not getting similar results.

Here are five out of a list of many real-world examples of how progressive dealers think versus a typical retailer. So, before you change companies, ask yourself, are you ready to be like dealers who think this way?

1.) Let us start with an easy one–scheduling service online. Progressive dealers want fewer inbound phone calls and chats to schedule service. Is that a typo? No. They think scheduling services online should be easier and faster and ideally completed with just a few simple clicks or voice commands. The common thinking and old KPI’s reward conversion metrics for more calls and chats. The more conversions, the better, right? Wrong. Progressive dealers consider those KPIs outdated, less attractive, and not in the best interest of their customers. Ideally, they want most service appointments to be scheduled online without ever requiring a customer to speak with a human or chat with a bot. More online service appointments and fewer inbound calls/chats equal fewer failure points with decreased operating expenses.

2.) Progressive dealers believe in providing customers with all the information they need online to complete a sales or service transaction quickly and efficiently. Providing their contact information is only a voluntary step along the way. Traditional thinking requires the customer to provide all their contact information as a necessary first step. Most dealership advertising and websites are littered with interruptions during the process of requesting contact information. Innovative dealers need traditional leads but focus more on developing a seamless information-based customer experience without interruption.

3.) Progressive dealers believe the primary purpose of their website is to facilitate sales and service transactions. Commonly, automotive websites are overwhelmed with slow 3rd party widgets solely designed to extract contact information from consumers in exchange for the promise of a better deal, accurate price or payment, higher trade value, etc. Conversions, not transactions, are King. Progressive dealers believe these constant distractions undermine the very purpose of their website, which is to help them sell and service more cars.

4.) Progressive dealers believe in the value of humans answering inbound texts during business hours. As a percentage, there is no higher type of engagement that converts to a sales or service transaction better than a well-written text exchange between humans. Text is, by far, the most preferred method of communication among adults in the US. Unfortunately, typical thinking is to outsource 100% of these opportunities to bots that cleverly gather customer contact information and routinely end with “Sorry I can’t help you with that. A member of our team will contact you”. A phone call is an opposite outcome the consumer prefers, but ideal for typical retailers who believe their websites should primarily extract information from consumers so they can follow up later. So, rather than having a live exchange upfront, they delay a potential transaction with the hope of reaching a customer later. Progressive dealers think that is illogical.

5.) Progressive dealers prefer fewer technology applications with deeper integration for the companies they choose. Conversely, traditional thinking is, “We cannot put all of our eggs in fewer baskets.” Dealers who think like this often work with 15 or more companies to string together a disjointed customer experience. Progressive dealers gain their inspiration from companies like Tesla, Carvana, Amazon, and others with innovative, fully integrated platforms like Apollo, which provide information and facilitate transactions openly.

Progressive thinking is hard to adjust to because, for 20 years, marketing efforts and websites have delivered a high volume of lead forms and phone calls, not transactions–two distinctly different outcomes. Tesla, Carvana, Vroom, and others have designed their entire platform from scratch (without widgets or independent retailing tools) to facilitate transactions. Their main call to action is to create a secure online account that allows consumers to facilitate a transaction from start to finish. Everything else is a distraction in achieving that goal. We agree.

The bottom line:

The company and technology you choose should reflect how you feel about retailing. Before you make the switch, ensure you are equally committed to thinking differently. Your belief system will dictate your success. Take some time to think about it upfront, so when something does not go as planned, you can stay the course. Along with our progressive clients, we believe the 20-year-old KPIs are outdated and increasingly less useful. Completing sales and service transactions with simplicity and ease should be considered the new standard for success.

The Shift from Retailing Tools to a Transactional Platform

This Thursday, April 16th, I am hosting a webinar with Automotive News to discuss the future of digital retailing and its necessary evolution in the current customer experience landscape. At NADA, we launched our website platform, Apollo Sites. Since then, I have answered the questions below hundreds of times and thought it might be helpful to publish in advance of the Automotive News webinar.


Q: Why is Team Velocity adding primary websites to its Apollo platform?

A: Here are the top 5 reasons in no specific order:

  1. Most of our leadership team came from the automotive website space and carried lengthy non-competes. All our non-competes in the automotive website sector expired allowing us to re-enter the website space.
  2. Many clients asked us to integrate a primary website with a digital retailing application into Apollo using the same technology that generates and deploys all their other advertising. It’s a logical extension of Apollo and a space we know well having previously owned two of the largest privately held website companies.
  3. Our clients are focused on retention just as much as gaining new customers. They asked for a better-performing website that would provide relevant and personalized experiences for their current customers rather than treating existing customers the same as the public. They said, “integrate my DMS and make my website work like Amazon.” So that’s exactly what we did.
  4. A dealership’s website is the hub of their advertising efforts. Our clients need their ads on all other mediums – like Google, Bing, Facebook, YouTube, Email, Direct Mail, etc. – to identically match the sales and service offers on their website, 100% of the time. Dealers lose credibility and opportunities when their primary website is not a perfectly aligned extension of all their other advertising. So, we built a website platform that matches every offer, to the penny, on every single vehicle in stock, across every customer touchpoint, 24/7/365.
  5. Our clients are increasingly frustrated with the current mentality of most existing website providers. Significant traffic is driven to a dealer’s website, with the hope that the website will generate not just “leads” but an actual service or sales transaction. Unfortunately, many websites are solely focused on generating “forced” sales leads by requiring consumers to fill out a lead form just to get basic information. They also require expensive widgets and plug-ins, have poor performance ratings for speed and mobile friendliness, and can’t distinguish a current customer from a prospect. The “get e-price and unlock savings” is 20-year-old thinking and offers little in terms of useful information. We built a website that fulfills our vision: deliver a friction-less consumer experience, from the initial engagement to a final transaction. Using Apollo’s technology, we dynamically generate a personalized, customer-friendly, widget-free website that is highly rated, independently, for its performance. Our website platform is called, Apollo Sites.


Q: Do Apollo Sites have a digital retailing solution? If so, what’s different?

A: Yes. Apollo Sites has a digital retailing application called Transact. It’s unique from other digital retailing tools because it’s built natively into the entire website platform, making it easy for consumers to navigate. Our vision wasn’t to have just another digital retailing tool, but an entire transactional website platform. Transact is fast on mobile devices and uses the same UX as the website. Consumers never leave the dealership’s site and all the reporting is included in the analytics. Also, when current customers sign in, (using something as simple as their phone number or email), all their information is pre-populated, so they never waste time filling out forms, figuring out their trade value, equity, payoff, etc. Existing customers have a very fast and easy ability to complete another sales transaction with ‘one-touch’. This feature is critical for dealerships who have databases they need to retain. The existing digital retailing solutions are plug-ins to a dealer’s primary website with entirely different UX, reporting, etc. And, they treat every customer like the public. We think this is not only illogical but archaic by today’s standards.


Q: How about Service Scheduling? Does Apollo Site have that capability?

A: Yes. Apollo Sites was built with a complete service scheduling application that allows a customer to schedule service in about 45 seconds. Thus far, it’s generating 2-3x the number of online appointments as the leading providers in every implementation. An added benefit is that it automatically runs all service appointments through Apollo’s equity tools to alert the dealership when service customers are in a good position to upgrade, what specific upgrade options are available, and calculates to-the-penny payments for that particular customer. Everything is integrated, so there isn’t a need for any additional expensive equity mining software.


Q: Given the current challenges related to Covid-19, is there any technology to facilitate service and sales transactions outside the dealership?

A: Yes. Even prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, we were building virtual dealership applications to help our large metro dealers go to the customer versus the customer coming to them. What was once a nice benefit has now become a necessity. Every aspect of Apollo Sites allows customers to select options to have their vehicle picked up for service, sign up for test drives completed remotely, and, for vehicles purchased online, to have their new vehicle delivered offsite (if the dealership is capable). All of this is easily managed in Apollo’s appointment system or can be delivered to a dealership’s CRM.


Q: How are the OEMs reacting to the Apollo Sites?

A: Some of our best meetings have been with OEMs because this new technology solves many of the challenges they face. First, because the OEMs are hyper-focused on loyalty rates, the ability to offer existing owners a personalized, custom experience is ideal. Just a 1% gain or loss in retention is substantial for any OEM. Second, Apollo Sites creates a personal website for every customer, pre-establishing a “one to one” relationship. Dealers can immediately offer existing customers their best pricing without forcing a customer to “get e-price or unlock savings” on their website. OEMs love that feature, and some are starting to think about further personalizing incentives with this platform down to the customer level. Third, current website providers basically outsource Fixed Operations to 3rd parties. Service is an afterthought at best, but the OEMs all recognize the relationship between sales, retention and service. We built all service components into the website platform natively, with zero widgets required. Customers love how easy it is to schedule service, check their service history, get their own custom coupons, have their vehicle appraised while their car is in for service and the ability to check their vehicle’s value anytime. The first major OEM who reviewed the Apollo Sites website platform quickly added us to their list of approved providers, which was a very encouraging sign for our dealerships.


Q: What inspired the innovation behind Apollo Sites?

A: It’s just all new thinking. And RE-THINKING what we thought we knew. We were most inspired by the concept of Amazon Prime. Nothing in our industry, except perhaps Tesla and Carvana, have fully adapted to meet the consumer’s expectations. The current offerings lack the kind of thinking and features our clients expect from a website. And we are just getting started with this new integrated website platform. We are re-investing another $6M in 2020 to further improve the Apollo Sites website platform and plan to introduce many features that will be entirely new to our industry. We aim to set a new and very high standard of excellence for both consumer experience and for what dealerships should expect from their websites. Our focus is squarely on facilitating sales and service transactions for both existing and new customers.


Q: The evolution of Apollo to include websites seems like the final piece of the puzzle. Will there be another generation of Apollo?

A: The addition of Apollo Sites has certainly enhanced the entire Apollo platform but there will certainly be another evolution.


Here’s a hint on what we are working on next…

What if a dealer’s website, not their CRM, dynamically generated beautiful, relevant, image-based, follow-up automatically?  What if it was based solely on ALL the behavior and data collected on each customer and cross-referenced with the DMS? Just like Amazon, VRBO, etc., when customers complete a sales or service transaction, they automatically get new and relevant messaging. Our goal is to create a smart website that focuses on generating service and sales transactions, not just leads. Dealers have been in a stranglehold with outdated, text-based follow-up emails that don’t work well because ADF-XML technology is literally 20 years old. Yet, everyone still uses it. We consider it digital road-blocking and it kills progress. Think about it and stay tuned.


Want to learn more?

If you want to get a deeper dive on the changes we see coming, please join us with Automotive News on Thursday, April 16th at 2pm. You can register here.


Mission Improbable: A Game of Technology Tag

Automotive Marketing Silos

Before I get to the heart of the article…you might rightfully point out that I missed a few large technology silos. You are correct. I ran out of room, so I included the most common and universal categories that apply to franchised dealerships’ most popular sales and service advertising strategies. And, you would also be correct that some excellent companies are missing all together. Agree, let me know who is missing. The companies included are all great at what they do, and I listed them alphabetically. However, adding more silos and logos only makes the reason I am writing this more relevant to the challenges faced by dealerships in the current 2020 ecosystem.

Now, if you are an entrepreneur, what an impressive list of companies that make up much of the technology ecosystem in the automotive industry for advertising. Some of them cover one silo perfectly while others dabble in 2-3 silos. A few of these companies are worth billions of dollars and many worth hundreds of millions. Not bad, right? But when I reviewed this graphic with my dealer friends, I discovered the average number of companies they work with to help sell and service cars was between 10 and 12 from these main ad categories alone — but way more vendors are required. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

I call this “Mission Improbable”, meaning it’s highly improbable this siloed model is going to succeed. Here are some comments from good, really good, retailers who passionately want to create a frictionless customer journey for their new and existing customers and do it in a way their internal teams can efficiently and profitably execute.

“A world-class customer journey isn’t possible with this many companies and competing technologies involved. It’s too hard, so we settle for mediocrity.”

“It’s like a game of Technology Tag and I am always it. Nothing quite works together like we are all promised.”

“We have 8 offer management platforms just to price out cars and create compliant offers. None of them are consistent. It’s no wonder customers lack trust in our process.”

“I have 4 franchises; my OEMs all use different certified vendors in their Co-Op programs. It compounds our challenge by 4x. It’s getting worse every year.”

“It’s too expensive and the real costs are all the people we need to hire, train and re-train in order to use these technologies that were never designed to work together.”

“All these companies are all chasing the exact same people. I only have two types of people to sell or service…my existing customers and prospective new customers in my market. Is it really that hard?”

“We have all been so focused on the customer journey, we all forgot about the dealer journey through all of these independent platforms.”

So, the problem for dealers is logical and well-said by the growing frustration of dealerships who are spending more for technology and getting less of a return, if any.

What’s the solution?

With every big challenge comes a great opportunity to solve it. As we enter the new decade in 2020, I would propose some or all the below suggestions to help combat Mission Improbable.

Here are my Big 5.

  1. OEMs. I would encourage you to do this ‘silo’ exercise with your current and future programs. Some technologies are setup to share data and integrate with other companies through secure API’s. Some are not structured to integrate and never will. The current universal method of sharing data is through ADF-XML which is 20 years old. This was originally designed for getting lead forms with very basic data into a CRM. The entire world has changed, and data integration has exploded. You have the power and position to force real integration across silos to dramatically improve the customer journey while reducing the burden on your retailers.
  2. In 2020, you will see companies (like ours) continue to develop and rollout technology that already integrates and connects the silos. We won’t be alone, but the customer journey now touches everything from targeted communications like email and mail, to all the major digital media companies to websites. Integrating all those offers and experiences is the best way to ensure a positive customer journey. Just look at the most successful digital retailers like Tesla, Carvana, Amazon Prime, etc. Less technology silos, less friction, less expense, and more of what you want…transactions.
  3. We must rethink 20-year-old technology as the primary manner to share basic data amongst companies and platforms. I am hopeful, but doubtful, that the current landscape is ripe for this type of cooperation.
  4.  Consolidation and/or real integration. Some of the companies should get together and start creating “Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups” with their ingredients. Dealers want less solutions that do more and are easier to use. I can see some solid partnerships forming in 2020 that offer dealers and/or OEMs fully integrated solutions that were intentionally designed to work together.
  5.  Go Direct. Digital advertising is perhaps the most siloed, crowded and fragmented of them all. Starting with the public groups and the large privates…dealerships are going to start to bypass traditional digital vendors and OEM programs all together. By either creating a solution themselves, or by endorsing a few existing tech platforms, the big media companies have everything to gain (and so do their advertisers) enabling dealers to advertise their inventory and services directly without the need for an agency. Think about it, what value does a travel agent offer its passengers these days? Very little. Google, Microsoft, YouTube and Facebook will have to look at this in 2020. There is too much at stake not too. And while standalone franchises might be able to muscle through the myriad of companies in these silos, large groups have to scale and be more efficient. Dealers will develop direct relationships with the major digital media companies that the vast majority of their money is already flowing into. It only makes sense for them.

I am going to be at NADA this year with Team Velocity at Booth #4288C in the main hall. If you want to talk more about this, or set up a time to see how we are solving the game of Technology Tag, please send me a private message.

Digital Retailing or Digital Roadblocking?

Digital retailing continues to be one of the hottest topics in our industry, but almost everyone I talk to has a different explanation for what they consider digital retailing to be. So, on a recent cross-country flight, I Googled What is digital retailing? I thought the following definition was most logical:

Digital Retailing, at its most basic level, is a series of experiences that allow consumers to easily maneuver and engage with your website at different stages of their purchase journey.

Personally, I believe that every dealership attempts to have a great digital retailing solution. Who doesn’t want to execute the above definition for their current and prospective customers? But, in reality, are we? Consider your most important customer, the one your dealership already has…your existing customers. They make up a vast majority of your sales and service transactions. But how easy is it for them to maneuver and engage with your website at different stages of their purchase or service journey? Most likely it is not easy, regardless of the dealership’s brand, size, or location. Although I love Audi, my personal experience with my dealership is a good example of what consumers experience every day.


Here’s how it started:

I received a nice personal email from my dealership with a lease offer on an A6 Premium for $469/month for 36 months with $2,999 down, driving 7,500 miles annually. (The disclaimer listed some nice rebates, but it is doubtful a typical customer would read the fine print.) So far, so good. Interested, I clicked the link that directed me to their website/VDP.


Once there, I hit my first roadblock:

  • The dealership links me to a full MSRP VDP with a price of $57,895 and zero lease payments – not even close to the offer advertised in the email. Confused, I click again – this time on the CTA labeled Make Your Deal – in the hopes of being redirected to the advertised $469 lease payment.


 And, I am met with a second roadblock:

  • The dealership is asking me to give them my information. Considering they just emailed me a personalized offer that included my name, email, and phone number, don’t they already have my contact? This was supposed to be an easy process as an existing customer, and too much time later, I’m still jumping through hoops.


Invested in time and now just curious, I resubmit my information and click for a third time and – unsurprisingly – am not taken to my personalized offer. I spend more wasted time configuring a lease on their digital retailing widget, careful to make sure I replicate every term listed in their original email to me. And finally, my offer!


Just kidding, I hit roadblock #3:

  • The best offer I am given is $667 per month – which is approximately $200/month above the $469/month lease payment the email promised to me as well as the rest of their customers.

Surely, I’ve just made an error and can still get the offered lease payment? Just in case, I Google Audi A6 Premium lease payment, and…


Roadblock #4 appears:

  • My dealership is advertising payments as low as $399. Now I’ve been given three completely different payment terms for the same model. Consumers are more frustrated than ever. Why is this process so difficult and time-consuming? At this point, most dealerships would have lost any previously interested existing customers.

About an hour later, a nice young lady from Audi calls me, and I ask her about the personalized email offer I received earlier in the day, and politely explained I was unable to find it on their website or in any of their advertisements.


Roadblock #5 is presented in the form of her explanation:

  • “Unfortunately, it’s inconsistent, and it makes it hard for us depending on what you received or looked at online because none of it is usually realistic. But if you can come down, I am sure we can work out a great deal for you.” I thanked her, but thought why do we roadblock customers online?

This made me wonder, as I often do, if the dealership leaders spend any time walking through exactly what their customers experience? It sounds simple, but I am guilty of not doing this at my own company.  It’s like calling our main phone numbers versus dialing our employees’ mobile phones directly. The phone systems and processes are so bad, slow, and cumbersome that we just go around them now. The bottom line is that it’s a painful process even for your best repeat customers to get realistic and accurate information to purchase their next car or schedule their next service online, and it shouldn’t be.


Some people reading this will correctly state that the dealer is not allowed to share their best prices until a one-on-one relationship is established. However, how much more established can it get from a current customer who purchased an Audi and services it at that same dealership? Technology, as advanced as it is, should be able to distinguish between an existing customer and a prospective new customer. In fact, automotive dealers are in the rare group of businesses that don’t separate customers online experience from their prospects. If you think about the businesses you interact with almost daily – Amazon, your bank, insurance, credit cards, online entertainment, every major hotel and airline – they already know who you are and treat you as such. Customers are roadblocked because they are treated like a “lead” instead of as an existing customer.

You would also be correct to point out that the company who emailed the customer also has no control over the website company, which has no control of the retailing widget to configure payments, and the website company has no control of the company that does the Google Ads. This is true, and part of the issue that makes Digital Retailing feel way more like Digital Roadblocking for customers.

The solution is in the palm of your hand! Consider Apple: they created a platform that integrates and interacts seamlessly with consumers and their lives. Conversely, look at dealerships: consumers are forced to jump through hoops when it comes to dealership technology. They are forced to juggle a brick flip-phone, an original iPod, a digital camera, all of their credit cards, cash, and a clunky GPS system just to keep track of their journey and reach their destination  – when all they need to be given is a single smartphone (i.e., Apple). Consequently, the lack of consistency kills a dealership’s credibility.

Realistically, Digital Retailing is only going to happen in our industry with integrated technology platforms that provide a series of experiences that allow consumers to easily maneuver and engage with dealership websites at all stages of their purchase journey, not just the one that particular vendor executes.

Mission Improbable 2.0

As I have both previously said and written, it is improbable that most dealers can truly be successful with so many different companies and technology platforms being utilized to operate their businesses. Most dealerships are up to 10-15 different ad/technology companies even before you start counting all their 3rd-party widgets/plug-ins. How can any business create an excellent customer experience for sales or service with so many independent software applications that were never designed to integrate with each other? It’s the definition of Mission Improbable.

I generally spend more time with friends not in the business on these longer holiday weekends. And since they know what I do, I get to hear about their car-buying experiences, which I love. Below is a quick summary, from a friend’s POV, of a Labor Day Event email designed to upgrade his 2017 Audi Q7 to another Q7 or the new Q8 over the long Labor Day weekend.

I told him what the dealer does behind the scenes to execute even the most basic shotgun email marketing, much less something more complex like digital advertising, which could involve another 4-5 additional companies:

  1. Dealer hires Company A to design the Labor Day email blast, and they have offers for their lowest priced models. None of it really looks “Audi,” but whatever, it’s a one-time blast to everyone.
  2. Company A sends the designed email template to Company B, which selects the audience and provides some small customizations like “Joe, you’re eligible to upgrade your 2017 Q7 during our Labor Day Sales Event.”
  3. Company B deploys the email and sends the customers off to a landing page (no matter what they are driving) somewhere on Company C’s website.
  4. My friend pecks his way around Company C’s website and finds a few logical vehicles he wants to consider leasing. He claims to spend more time closing “popups” asking his name (ironic since the email included his name) than doing anything else.
  5. He hits the “Buy Now” link on Company C’s website, which opens up a different digital retail solution from Company D.
  6. Company D promptly requires Joe to provide his name and phone number in order to send him a special code to continue or get an “e-price,” a term he is unfamiliar with.
  7. Wait… what?
  8. Joe is the current customer driving a Q7 that Company B emailed, and Company C and D force him to submit a lead form to continue? Yes, this is real.

Before I tell you the ending, I asked him for his opinion on what he thought about the process:

“Awful. Absolutely nothing makes sense. How can they know my name and my current vehicle but send me a blast with an Audi A3 and A4 offer? I drive a Q7; do customers downgrade that often? Why didn’t they link me to the vehicles I would logically be most likely to buy? Finally, when I did find the vehicle and wanted to get more information, I clicked the link to ‘Buy Now’ and a new experience opened up, and they asked me for my name and phone number to continue. Why would the dealership send me an email then ask me to provide them with information they already know? How much more difficult can they make it? The button should have said ‘Don’t Buy Now.’ And the capper – even after I did all that, they called me and didn’t even know I was already a customer.”

I was shaking my head and thinking Companies A, C, and D don’t have any idea who you are, what your relationship is to the dealership, or the car you drive… so to them you are Joe Public. Company B knows more, but it doesn’t matter because they are sending you to Company C’s public website with a retailing widget from Company D. It’s just broken. Mission Improbable.

He continued, “They don’t treat their customers like the public – they treat us worse than the public because they make me provide them with data, like my name, car, trade value, that surely they have since I am already their customer. After all, they emailed me, right? And the more places I shopped online, the less consistent my experience became. It ended up being just as hard to buy somewhere else.”

I explained that dealerships get stuck with so many platforms that don’t integrate, that his “awful” online experience would have been pretty similar at 95% of dealerships. His online experience, however, was (to him) a direct negative reflection of how he perceived this dealership’s operation – four independent companies involved in a basic Labor Day email that ended with Company D asking a current customer to fill out a form before he could have the privilege of upgrading his vehicle.

And we are so numb to this poor experience that we celebrate the 1% of consumers who tolerate this “upgrade” experience as a victory. Company D didn’t generate a lead; they simply gave the dealer back very basic information of a current customer the dealership already had.

I firmly believe we can do so much better, but not without new integrated technology platforms or the adoption of new modern standards of integration, which seems quite unlikely given today’s climate.

My wholehearted belief is that one fully integrated platform should be used for the majority of a dealership’s marketing and advertising, as well as technology that clearly distinguishes between existing customers and new customers. I am hoping that OEMs will take a strong look in the future at how they endorse or include stand-alone “silo” solutions that will never integrate with each other versus broader platforms that are already integrated by design.

The goal should be to provide consumers with a consistent and relevant experience with single platforms that can easily be managed by Tier 1, 2, and 3 advertisers.

Just Text Me

Text is now the preferred method of communications for U.S. adults. It has a 99% open rate compared to email’s 20% (at best), making it a far more effective form of communication. However, most dealerships’ websites still have countless clever – and annoying – ways to attempt to get a consumer to fill out a lead form. I get it, but it’s time to think like customers living on mobile devices in 2019. Ask yourself: when was the last time you filled out a form or chatted with a company from your mobile device? Now — when was the last time you sent a text?

Some dealers have a basic widget on their site allowing customers to text their major departments. That’s a start, but it’s an overlay or pop-up that often interferes with the user experience and must be closed in order to navigate. Like most things in our industry, these widgets stand alone and don’t integrate with a dealership’s customer database. For text to really work, it must integrate with your most important database and be prolific in ALL your advertising.

Heeding these new stats, we recently developed a new texting platform for consumers and dealers within the Apollo platform, aptly named Apollo Text. This is a quick overview of how it works and why it is performing better for our dealerships than the 3rd party widgets they used before.

If you want to substantially increase engagement from your marketing as well, I suggest following these five winning principles of text:

1. Integration. Integrate a “text us” option throughout all your advertising mediums. Give your consumers the option to text your dealership(s) everywhere – search ads, video, email, direct mail, Google Business Listings, and all the major areas of your website. This way, your customers know it’s a legitimate and even preferred option for them to engage with your dealership. You will immediately receive more texts from in-market consumers that have not yet visited your website but have engaged with your marketing. See below for examples.



2. Customer Identification. This is key. Make sure you have a texting application that cross-references the inbound text number with your customer database. Most consumers only have one mobile device, so chances are, if they have ever done business with you, their mobile number is already in your database.  Today, about 50 percent of all inbound texts are from customers that can be easily identified by cross-referencing their phone number. By instantly identifying the customer your team can review all available and relevant data before formulating a response.  This is what makes text so much more powerful than any other engagement or method of communication.  From a simple inbound text, you can learn everything about the consumer before you respond. For example, vehicle history, trade value, equity position and more.



3. Customization. Customize your inbound text options with custom and/or pre-populated responses to match what’s most important to your customers – current offers and promotions. For example, if you are offering a $39.95 oil change or Free Pick Up and Delivery, make that an option for your service texts. Or, if you have a promotion for $500 in Bonus Cash, make those readily available options as well. Your platform should be flexible enough to be updated instantly.



4. Automation. Text is about quickly giving the customer the information they need. Make sure you have pre-populated all the typical and most common responses ahead of time so you can rapidly respond to their inquiry. See below for some examples.



5. Attribution. Attribution is the very best part of text. Retrieving a mobile number during any engagement (sales or service) makes it easy to attribute your marketing to a transaction and determine an ROI. A reliable mobile number is one datapoint a dealership almost always receives during the sales or R.O. (repair order) process. Your platform should automatically provide you with a match report that enables you to see which marketing initiative your customers are responding to (Google, Microsoft, VDP, Email, Mail, POS, TV, etc.).



So, not only do many customers prefer to begin and end their engagements with text, it’s also the best datapoint your dealership can gather. The ability to cross-reference consumers unique mobile numbers against your sales and service transactions make text the most reliable way to attribute an ROI to all your marketing and advertising efforts.

No matter who you work with, if you follow these five principles for text, I guarantee you will see an increase in qualified leads, response-rate, and ROI attribution.

David Boice
Founder and CEO


Remember the good old days. “Hey Mr. GM, the incentives just came out and I was hoping you could email us the very best offers on your top core models? From there, I can forward them to our (human team) and have them create your ads as quickly as they can. Next, we can rush these ads to your OEM compliance group and after 48 hours of back and forth, our team will send the compliant ads back to you for final, final, final approval. By then you can make sure the offers are still correct. Now it’s somewhere between the 10th and 15th of the month and we can start marketing for about 15-20 days. As soon as the new incentives are released next month, we can start this circus all over again.” Sound familiar?

Ask yourself, are those really the good old days? Not really. If you are still doing this with multiple vendors every month, it’s a colossal waste of your time, highly inefficient and has your dealership on the advertising sidelines for far too long. If your vendor suggests you utilize a “tool” so that you can figure all this out yourself, it’s even worse. Don’t forget, your job is to sell and service cars and ensure your customers are taken care of 24-7. It’s their job to handle all your marketing and advertising initiatives.

Typically, this is the trend I tend to see. You’re still getting some of those “offer” calls or emails, but not from your digital partners. See… they just went way, way, way back to the ’80s. To the point where your ads probably look like the version below.

generic ad examples

They are so generic they don’t even need to call you; they are near useless to the consumer and easily compliant because they have no relevant information that an OEM compliance department would even bother to check.

Your ads should be based on your inventory and the vehicles you have in stock to sell and deliver. You should spend time pricing your cars competitively and consistently on every digital medium you can. By the way… so should your pre-roll videos, display ads, TV commercials, emails, direct mail, etc. For example, your ads should look like the ones below and the rest will take care of itself.

consistency across all mediums

You should be in “play” 24 x 7 x 365. Why? Because technology has changed so much that Google, Bing, YouTube, and Facebook all have technology platforms that allow your inventory to be uploaded and updated daily. Remember, your sales ads should always reflect your current inventory. Why advertise something you don’t have?

That being said, technology has changed but your consumers have not. They still want to know two things, “do you have it and how much is it?” What has changed is their ability to find out relevant information instantly… anytime and anywhere.

So, what does this mean? Stop generically advertising your models, none the less your “core models.” It does not work with today’s consumer. Eliminate the phrases so often associated with our business that instantly create distrust such as but not limited to:

  • Payments as lows as…
  • Savings up to…
  • Huge selection…
  • Great deals…
  • Limited time…
  • Quotes online…

Together, we can end generic advertising.

David Boice
Founder and CEO

The Ultimate Conversion

I love when technology is developed that improves our fundamental ability to better serve our clients. Mostly, we must create that advantage for ourselves. But, our thanks go out to Google because they have carefully been releasing new technology that tracks when customers who have previously engaged with their advertisers also visit their place of business. I would call a person who shows up at our dealerships “the ultimate conversion”. While there is a growing capability for dealers to both deliver and pick up vehicles…99% of all sales and service transactions still occur at the dealership. Ask yourself, how many times have you shopped online, then showed up at a business and purchased their products or services? It’s a weekly occurrence for me. Isn’t that the ultimate conversion? A dealership visit is better than a click, a form, or even a call, which is commonly a point of failure for businesses.

We are fortunate to have a significant number of clients who already meet Google’s requirements to utilize this technology. The best part is we can now report on the correlation of people who show up to our clients’ stores with the exact campaign(s) they engaged with. Tracking logged-in devices is the primary method of collecting data today, but the new technology wave includes tracking beacons and other Geo-Based technology placed within showrooms, service departments, and pre-owned departments to further improve the tracking at a granular level. These enhancements allow us to create and properly bid on campaigns that we know with certainty will drive showroom traffic that our clients are most likely to convert into profitable transactions.

Here are the top 10 things we have learned so far:

  1. Inbound phone calls from PPC campaigns and store visits have a strong correlation.
  2. To my dealer friends, your inbound calls are golden. Please monitor them closely.
  3. Obviously, Brand and Geo Brand campaigns drive significant store visits. No surprise there.
  4. The good news, the store visits for Brand campaigns are inexpensive and average less than $10/visit. For those that say don’t do it, the math says it would be foolish not to.
  5. It’s critical to have campaigns and ads for every single new model you sell, not just your 3-4 most popular models. You should also be running ads on your pre-owned inventory but we will get to that in a minute.
  6. Campaigns that promote specific inventory, pricing, payments and updated incentives produce significantly more in store visits and have the lowest cost per visit.
  7. Get in the game with service marketing on Google. Don’t bid on your name, but rather the services you provide with a competitive offer. Next to brand campaigns, these will be the campaigns that drive the most store visits at the lowest cost per visit. The ROI is at least 5:1.
  8. Run ads on every used vehicle you have and update them nightly. The store visits are significant after online shoppers have viewed a pre-owned vehicle you have in stock.
  9. Both Re-targeting and Behavioral Pre-Roll video are incredibly effective. I was skeptical of Google’s statistics that 46% of people who view videos from a business will then show up…until I saw the data.
  10. Don’t think twice about re-deploying some of your traditional budget into Pre-Roll. Its targeted TV and it works to drive showroom traffic.