Predictions for 2015—and Beyond

2015: The Year of the Empowered Dealer

We’re at the start of a New Year, which is a great time to think about what’s ahead in 2015. So I thought I would share my top five predictions for 2015.

First, I think 2015 will be a very good year for moving metal. If all of the economists and fortune-tellers are correct, we’ll see vehicles sales volumes in the range of 17 million, and I’m a big optimist. I think it’ll happen.

Perhaps just as exciting, Prediction #2 is that I believe we’re in early innings of a new era for automotive, what I call “Automotive Internet 2.0” which began with the rise of the Empowered Consumer. Automotive Internet 1.0 took the better part of ten years, and a lot changed—much of it good, some of it not so good. For sure, we’re all benefiting from more connectivity and more information at our fingertips. But although the internet was supposed to make selling cars more efficient and effective, it made some things more complex and opaque for dealers, especially connecting with consumers.

Today, consumers spend most of their time looking for cars online, not in showrooms. And they’ve gotten really skilled at remaining anonymous while they do their research. Today, the average online car shopper looks at 18 different websites before setting foot in a dealership. Five years ago, a shopper might visit four different dealerships in the car-buying process; today, it’s usually just one perhaps two dealers.

Shoppers decide to buy cars long before making their first (and maybe only) visit to the dealership. Their purchase decision—what we call the FINMOT or “Final Moment Of Truth”—occurs mainly online (no longer at the dealership) and usually when they’re staring at a Vehicle Details Page (VDP) from their computer. That’s empowered.

The rise of the Empowered Consumer has put dealers in a bind, because their advertising and marketing media haven’t kept up with this shift. Third-party leads and paid search and websites: all that stuff hasn’t helped dealers find and connect with shoppers in that moment of truth. It’s very frustrating for dealers.

You might assume that “Automotive Internet 2.0” has put consumers at odds with dealers, but that’s actually not the case. In fact my Prediction #3 is that Automotive Internet 2.0 will drive the rise of Empowered Consumer and Empowered Dealer. Keep in mind while consumers expect to do research and shop online anonymously, their ultimate objective remains the same as always: find the right car at the right dealership.

The real challenge for dealer empowerment is a change in the dealer’s mindset. To thrive, dealers must be willing to “give to get.” That is, they must be willing to engage in anonymous online “digital conversations” with consumers, in order to get their business. But if dealers are willing to do this, then they can become very, very empowered. Think about it; if dealers meet consumers out on the internet, on their own terms, then they’ll regain control of the entire merchandizing experience. That’s pretty exciting, but it does require a massive shift in perspective…a realignment.

Realignment is an important concept, and here’s why: Automotive Internet 2.0 will prioritize greater transparency in the “dealer-shopper relationship.” (And yes, that’s my Prediction #4). If both parties are more empowered, that will naturally lead to more transparency. Unfortunately, for much of the last ten years, there were entire internet business models built to maintain opacity in the dealer-shopper relationship. But in Automotive Internet 2.0, those models will either have to adapt, or they’ll die. The challenge for us, as an ecosystem of internet providers, is to create technologies that match buyers to sellers as efficiently and effectively as possible. That challenge is LotLinx’s sole mission; our innovation focus is on connecting car shoppers directly to dealers.

Dealers should seek out partners and vendors who are aligned to the same incentives. A simple idea whose time will come, but rare in our industry today.

Look, we’re all in the business of making money, but the challenge for dealers is to find partners who are aligned to their incentives. For example, not all online advertising uses the same pricing models. Many are still based on price per impression, or pay per click. But dealers want shoppers, and they’re willing to pay for shoppers, not impressions or clicks. The sooner we, as partners and vendors, can adopt a shopper-oriented pricing model, the more aligned we’ll be with our dealer customers.

As for my fifth and final prediction, I really think we’re already in the midst of some very big changes. The more aligned dealers can be with shoppers, and vendors with dealers, the more we’ll all enjoy success. Automotive Internet 2.0 may take a while, but as I said in the beginning: I’m very optimistic. I’m hopeful that dealers and OEMs will have a terrific 2015.

Dean Evans is CEO of LotLinx

Dean Evans

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