Out of Last Decade’s Worst, Should Come the Best

I am convinced that when times are good, like in the early 2000s, creativity and innovation take a backseat as people get comfortable. For example, the creation of the following heinous atrocities in the last decade: dancing competitions on TV, Flavor Flav, domestic auto sales, and the resurgence of Brett Michaels. So, what happened post “Rock of Love”? Times got tough, really tough. In fact, millionaires were so strapped for cash that, for the first time, they started to review the details of their personal finance portfolios. After some digging, they added “Ponzi scheme” to their vocabulary, calling on Madoff and Schrenker.

What has changed in the auto industry in the last 10 years? From a marketing and online merchandising perspective, Kelley Blue Book launched a used-car classifieds portal, pricing analytics became critical to daily dealer reporting, and pixel tracking started to show actual advertising benefits. Otherwise, we seem comfortable with the old way we do business. Everyone has been at ease with waiting a week to market a car online, vehicle information is still being input into four different internal systems, and we still talk to a prospect like a fraternity brother during a pig roast when they call the dealership. Although, when times are tough, good old-fashioned hard work comes into play. It takes being scared for our family’s wellbeing before we finally take the car out of neutral. We indirectly push each other to be great.

So, let’s be great this year. There are a ton of opportunities to change our business so let’s focus on just one small win—internal dealer system communication, specifically, our asset management, online marketing solution, and DMS. There is no reason we need to settle for three systems working independently, which are storing the same information. Today, dealers walk outside to write down details on an appraisal, come inside, and input the info into our asset management system to determine a trade-in value. The same information is then typed into our DMS. Lastly, it is retyped into the dealership’s marketing system. This isn’t brain surgery. If the information in our asset management system communicated in real-time with our DMS and marketing vendors, we could decrease time to market by at least three to seven days, eliminate transposition errors, and actually focus on picking up the phone at the dealership when people call with cash in their hand. I put the responsibility less on the dealers and more on the marketing and asset management companies to work together and bring a solution to the industry. Let’s get it done. Frankly, this solution is not about being great, but at least we are off the couch.

Damon Johnson is the vice president of business development for Kelley Blue Book. He can be reached at djohnson@kbb.com.

Damon Johnson


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