NADA 2016 Workshop Rewind

Every year the NADA Convention seems to grow in scale, and NADA 2016 in Las Vegas was no exception. Although there is so much to see and do, one of the things I look forward to every year are the workshops, which typically draw some big names.

The first day featured a super session from a panel of both vendors and digital automotive managers, highlighted by a representative from Facebook. Although it was well-intentioned, I found the panel format a bit cumbersome because each participant answered every question, which slowed the tempo quite a bit. This format also tended to keep the answers more general.

That being said, several of the dealers on the panel shared the success of their Facebook campaigns and the granularity of tracking and selling specific cars. The Facebook rep also shared that the company will be intensifying its support and resources available to help local dealers get more from the platform.

Overall, the transformation of Facebook to a more search-based and advertising-supported platform, along with its enormous subscriber base, makes it something dealers really can’t afford to ignore.

Google shared its latest stats and updates regarding the habits and activities of auto shoppers. The company noted that now 56% of buyers drive one vehicle or fewer before purchasing, an increase that suggests that more of the decision process than ever has moved from showroom to online.

Google also noted a continued decrease in brand loyalty (65% of purchasers reported have switched from their previously owned brand), meaning more shoppers are “up for grabs” for smart marketers. The company also shared some updated mobile numbers: More than half (54%) of in-market auto search occurs on a mobile device, and a whopping 84% use a mobile device to search a dealership’s hours or location—that critical last mile.

The theme of mobile overtaking desktop recurred throughout many of the workshops. One very practical takeaway: Make sure to design for mobile first with your website and marketing materials. In other words, close your desktop and look first at your phone. Do those links work smoothly there? How about those banner ads and email blasts? Your videos?

Some other stats worthy of note from Google: Video is now the #1 ad format to drive discovery of new vehicles and the #1 ad format for influencing consumers on which vehicle to purchase. And six out of 10 of those automotive-related video views now occur on a mobile device.

There were a couple of workshops on social media that offered some good takeaways. You know all those cute Facebook, YouTube, and social media buttons on your website? Well, they’re costing you business because you’re actually inviting people to leave your site, and once they do, they’ll get distracted and maybe even served an ad from your competitors.

Instead, embed your YouTube videos, along with your other social media sites, into your dealership website. For a great example, check out my one of my dealer’s websites,

Another good takeaway had to do with instituting a social media policy that your employees must read and sign. Because it’s very easy for an employee’s personal posts to get linked to your dealership, your customers may be inadvertently exposed to content that is inappropriate, but nonetheless associated with your dealership.

On the fun side, there was also a great seminar from a motivational speaker talking about communication. Hands down, he had the best quote of the event. Referring to how we all need to be better at communicating our needs and expectations to those around, us he stated, “What happens in vagueness—stays in vagueness.”

The workshop schedule itself was well-organized, with workshops on the same track located together for ease of attending. I was very disappointed, however, to see so many workshops at capacity and closed with no standing room. A good reason to get there extra early next year.

Ed Steenman is the owner of Steenman Associates (, a Seattle-based advertising agency hyper-focused on Tier 3 automotive. He can be reached at

Ed Steenman


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