Mission Improbable: A Game of Technology Tag
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.