Ilana Shabtay

VP of Marketing | AutoLeadStar

Ilana is an expert in sales, digital marketing, and business development. She is constantly thinking about how to perfect conversion funnels to build brand awareness. As VP of Marketing, Ilana works to engage audiences and expand market share. She contributes thought leadership for tech companies in and out of the automotive industry including Dealer Refresh, Dealer Marketing, and for the DrivingSales community blog.

ASOTUCON: These are a few of my favorite things

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Pioneering a new type of conference in automotive takes a lot of guts, and Paul J Daly and Kyle Mountsier just pulled it off in a big way. From the venue to the guest list to the panel-style workshops, this conference lived up to its infamous tagline, “the rebirth of the automotive conference.” Here’s a recap of a few of my favorite things about this conference and why I can’t wait for next year’s event.  ASOTUCON2022 No expo hall  I’m a big believer in networking and learning from content, which is why exhibition halls can be distracting to that mission. ASOTUCON was all about the jam-packed schedule of podcast interviews, keynotes, and well-thought-out panels throughout each day; there was no one running to the expo hall to see what free swag they could snag. Everyone was focused on the same communal mission of learning together and from each other.  Vibrant venue  When I think of breakout sessions at conferences, all I can picture is carpeted hallways with lined-up classrooms one after another. I think of the closed rooms with quiet energy. ASOTUCON disrupted that image, rocking the Xfinity Live’s entertainment center with every breakout session held in a repurposed sports bar featuring a ton of screens with session information as you listened to the panels. It was vibrant and engaging rather than bland and quiet. It was fun.  Limited spots The curated and intimate guest list meant I didn’t waste any time looking for people at this conference. The ASOTU guest list focused on quality over quantity, controlling the registration so the event didn’t get too big or overwhelming. This meant that every conversation I had was meaningful, focused, and productive.  Progressive topics  As the industry continues to improve on data connectivity & orchestration, everyone present was on board with critical changes that need to be made in automotive. There were several sessions around owning and controlling your data, implementing a data strategy, and how to focus on first-party data and brand content to drive quality traffic and leads to dealership websites.  People>cars  At the end of the day, there was an underlying theme to every presentation, panel, and conversation at ASOTUCON: people are everything. It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, what tech stack you have, or which top 150 group you may work for; if you don’t put your people first, nothing will function properly.  Ilana Shabtay in the Podcast Booth at ASOTUCON2022 Conclusion ASOTUCON was a new and exciting experience that reshaped my view of what an automotive conference could be: content sessions that are practical, relevant, and bring multiple minds together without any fluff. It was amazing to be empowered by so many other professionals in the space who want to make an impact in the industry. Congrats to the entire ASOTU team - you killed it. 
The importance of data orchestration & connectivity in 2022

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As we progress more and more in the “information age,” and move into what looks like a strong 2022 for automotive, different things become key to our strategy when it comes to creating customer experiences. And we always have these technological “eras” that revolutionized how we think about our marketing and customer communications. It used to be mobile responsiveness, then it was how to apply smart machine learning. Now because of all the information flying around, we’re moving into the next phase of data orchestration and connectivity . This is the missing piece in the accelerated dealer-tech adoption we’ve seen over the past year and a half that will be key to a successful digital infrastructure. Modern retail and machine learning decision-making are mostly just givens at this point. Connecting the data in a meaningful way and minimizing data silos is our next priority as an industry.  What is data orchestration? Data orchestration is the process of taking siloed, disjointed data and connecting it together into one organized, cohesive system. Historically, this has been quite difficult in automotive because the data sources are not built in a way to share information easily. Today, there are new technologies focused on solving this for dealerships to continue the focus on seamless customer shopping experiences.  Let’s discuss why this is so important for automotive.  I cannot tell you how many times I went to a dealership’s website, looked at a specific VDP, filled out a form, and then got an email about a totally different vehicle. Or, other times when I went to a dealership’s website, looked at 2-3 vehicles, and then got retargeted by an inventory specific ad based on my search (sounds promising right?); However, when I click on the ad, it takes me to an oops page (404 page) because the car was already sold and/or taken down from the website even though the ad is still driving traffic to that VDP. I even see back to school Facebook ads running mid-November, which is clearly no longer relevant.  Challenges like these are a function of the information overload we’re facing. There is data and information everywhere and because it’s not connected, it’s creating really poor user experiences. Your dealership needs to invest time and resources into understanding what data orchestration is and how you can implement this at your dealership.  Here are three things you can do to get started: Map all data silos Map out all your customer touchpoints and data sources into one spreadsheet or document. This makes it crystal clear to understand where and how you’re communicating to your customers and how that data is then fed back to your dealership. Once you have this mapped out, you can understand what is extremely siloed and what needs to be connected.   Find a data hub There are a couple softwares that do this well-- find them. Invest in technology that connects your systems and customer touch points so you can create seamless experiences. This part of the process will also probably involve consolidating vendors.  Ever have a lead from a chat that also converted on a trade in? Were you able to see one solid customer journey, or two journeys for the same lead? T hat’s what we’re talking about here: consolidate.  Execution engine  Data orchestration is only half the equation. Once you have connected data, it’s critical you can execute and take action based on insights. For example, are your ads reflecting information from your CRM? Are your email follow-ups based on website activity? Making sure your marketing machine is leveraging the orchestrated data will be key to success in 2022.  While this may have seemed impossible five years ago, technologies outside of automotive have proven the possible and shown us the importance of data orchestration and connectivity. This trend to connectivity and orchestration is playing out all over society in different systems. In the tech ecosystem we've seen the emergence of micro-services and data coordination systems like Kubernetes and Docker. In IoT (internet of things) we've seen IoT opps to connect data from numerous sensors and orchestrate the information. There are endless examples that prove its path to automotive digital is coming soon to perfect the customer journey.   Let’s get started.
The Biggest Disruption of All: The Quiet

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When we think about disruption, we think loud, rowdy, and bumpy. But in reality, it’s the dealerships that can mitigate the noise who are making the biggest disruption of all.   Setting up sales and marketing infrastructures at dealerships often comes with manual legwork, long processes, and disjointed data sources from numerous vendors and technologies. But, it's when dealerships need to work through all that noise that it actually gets rowdy. Today’s modern dealership has shifted to reduce noise and increase transparency with the help of top-notch technology. And while there’s a handful of solutions that support noise reduction, the majority of these technologies pale in comparison to the Customer Data Platforms, or CDP for short. What is a CDP & CDXP? A Customer Data Platform provides you with a comprehensive window into customer behavior and insights by way of centralizing your data. CDPs fundamentally break data silos and bring data together in one coherent platform so you can see all your customers' information and behavior in one 360 view. When your dealership has a handle on its customer data through a CDP, it can then seamlessly layer in an experience platform which leverages the rich customer data and turns it into action. This is commonly referred to as a CDXP , customer data and experience platform.  Dealerships that invest in CDXPs can trust that their marketing infrastructure is running smoothly and focused on:  Providing a foundation for a 360-degree customer view Increasing customer loyalty  Storing precise targeting and higher-quality interactions with customers Allowing for meaningful analysis of marketing initiatives across different channels A CDXP will bring everything together for a dealership to consolidate and automate the heart of the dealership’s sales and marketing. So while other dealerships are actually making the noise trying to make sense of their data silos, the CDXP dealerships will be quieter and more confident in their approach.  Making history doesn’t always mean making noise. And just like the smoothest car engines run silent, so too should your marketing engines.  If your dealership needs more information on what CDXP means for automotive, feel free to also download the whitepaper CDXP for automotive here . 
Google Ad Extensions 101 For Dealers

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Ad extensions are dynamic add-ons to Google ads that expand the information you can show in any given ad.  They are usually more eye-catching than the ad text itself, leading to more click activity. While the strategy behind your ad campaigns is complex, the basics of ad extensions are just as important to understand and implement into your dealership’s marketing. Here’s the breakdown of the ad extensions your dealership should be adding to search ads to maintain a good presence online.  Price Extensions  Price extensions allow you to add vehicle pricing underneath the ad so serious shoppers can consider their options right there in their search window.  When setting up price extensions, it’s critical to set up a real-time integration so that your ads reflect the current pricing on your website.  If you set up something more manual, the ads will not reflect price and inventory changes and this  can lead to a lot of confused and frustrated customers.  Callout Extensions  Callout extensions allow for dealerships to add special promotions or unique offers that stick out below the ad information.  It’s a great chance for your dealership to differentiate themselves from the competition and try to lure in new customers.  For example, dealerships can point out things like price matching, trade-ins, and warranties.  Location Extensions  Location extensions make it super easy for shoppers to see where your store is on the map and how far it is from their current location.  The location extension is also clickable, leading the shopper directly to Google Maps.  As we already know, shoppers have little patience so any shortcut to finding you is a win for your dealership.  Call Extensions Call extensions are super instrumental in driving more leads to your dealership because it’s a click-to-call feature that makes it easy for shoppers to find your phone number without even going to the website. There is a lot of flexibility in the call extensions to support your business model, like turning on the call extension only during your opening hours or turning this on or off for mobile/desktop depending on your goals.  Google also helps you set up tracking for call leads when you implement call extensions, so you can make sure you’re tracking inbound leads/calls directly from ads differently than other clicks.  Sitelink Extensions As mentioned before, the more shortcuts for your shoppers, the better the shopping experience.  Sitelink extensions allow you to link directly to certain pages within your website to get your shoppers familiar with your brand and your inventory. It also means eager shoppers that know exactly what they want to see can get to the page quicker.  Dealerships should consider setting up sitelinks to their top inventory and incentives pages, trade-in options, and profit centers (like service) to drive the most relevant traffic directly to the pages linked.  Image Extensions Image extensions allow you to complement your ad text with rich visuals. This can really enrich a dynamic search ad by bringing a shopper’s attention to the images you upload along with the description and headlines. While your dealership does have to comply with Google’s  size and dimension  best practices, it’s a pretty easy addition to search ads that can bring more attention to your ads.  Consider this your go-to list for all things Google ad extensions. Whether you manage this in-house or through an agency, it’s important your dealership understands the implications of ad extension strategies and implements best practices to drive the most qualified leads to your website.  Happy advertising! 
The Not-So-Hidden Gold Mine That Could Increase Dealership Revenue Instantly

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A customer for life goes a long way in automotive. It’s not just the vehicle purchase, it’s everything that comes with it: maintenance, service, add-ons, renewals, and, of course, referrals.   But it’s hard to scale personalized campaigns to past customers and to leads that ghosted. The messaging is different, the approach is sensitive, and the timing has to be perfect. There are also several factors that come into play like the last website visit, VDP views, and lease/finance renewal.  While no human can physically scale this kind of personalization, this is just another application of machine learning that could turn your CRM into a money-making machine. Think about it: if your CRM has 10,000 non-active leads, and you can reawaken even as little as 10%, you're looking at 1,000 new customers for life. It’s really pure gold waiting to be discovered.  It’s all about the audiences  The first step in making sure you’re investing in the right technology to turn more of your CRM into revenue opportunities is the audience game. You want to make sure your dealership isn’t bucketing opportunities into irrelevant audiences, like lease renewal for someone who has more than a year remaining, or service for someone who just came in. The demanded-- and expected-- hyper-personalization starts with the right segmentation, so you need to be optimizing audiences like people who recently visited VDPs, cash renewals, and cold “non-buyers” (leads that converted over 8 months ago and did not buy a car from you).  Make it dynamic  Once you have the right machines in place to identify and segment appropriate audiences, you need to make sure your email templates and SMS marketing have dynamic templates and merge tags. No one wants to receive an email without their first name or pre-filled forms. If you’re sending the email, you should know who they are!  But it goes even further than this- as you send traffic from an email blast to a specific landing page, your dealership can have dynamic videos and forms already embedded on the landing page to maintain that 1:1 conversation with your prospect. Once someone clicks on a hyperlink from your email, you will know how to identify them and greet them when they land on your website, keeping the transition and user experience extremely smooth. You can also personalize things like vehicles of interest or relevant services with dynamic templates.  Don’t forget connectivity  Even if your dealership invests in the best technology for mining your CRM, real-time machine learning can’t possibly function at its best without connected data. Make sure your dealership’s website data and ad activity is connected and communicating with the CRM so you have a full picture of the prospect’s digital footprint. While CRM information is critical, it has to be coupled with shopper activity in order to make the most of every opportunity and turn more (dead) leads into sales. When data is connected it also provides you with the most updated version of your customer’s story, bringing you one step closer to conversion.   There are a lot of pieces to pull together when thinking about personalized lead nurture at a scale that can convert more of your database into business. And while no human can possibly do this, your dealership should consider AI-powered technologies that can learn your audiences, segment, and target shoppers with just the right message on and off the site. Your data and your customer base could be the gold mine you’ve been looking for, so don’t miss out. 
RIP Facebook Marketplace for Dealers?

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Facebook Marketplace underwent some changes in September and no longer lists vehicles from partner catalog feeds. This includes the entire marketplace experience: homepage, search function, etc.  There is a lot of debate on how this will affect the industry. But before we get into the juice, let’s clarify how dealers can still reach buyers on Facebook, even with this change. Create vehicle listings from the “inventory” tab on your dealership/business page Dealers still have the option to upload their inventory from their personal business pages (instead of having this also aggregated in Marketplace). While this is still a free option, the click rate on the inventory tab on business pages is quite low, so it’s critical to monitor this. It will be interesting to see if click rate and engagement rate will increase as Marketplace becomes more lean with inventory after this change.  Create AIA ( Automotive Inventory Ads )  AIA gives dealers the ability to upload an entire catalog of vehicles to Facebook so that the Facebook pixel can then target the best shoppers with the right inventory at the right time. The upload process is similar to the one disconnected with Marketplace, where you can send a feed automatically to Facebook. While this is not a free option, it’s an efficient way to get your vehicle listings seen by in-market shoppers (including placements on Marketplace among other placements on Facebook).  Manually create listings in Marketplace  This option does allow for dealerships to continue to showcase inventory (certified pre-owned only) on Marketplace, but since it’s manual the dealership would have to upload every/all relevant listings with all associated information. This is extremely time consuming, and for some, probably not worth the hassle.  So, what’s the field predicting with this change?   Some think it really won’t matter since AIA is the same idea, just paid, and will include ads on Facebook Marketplace when relevant. This is probably true for larger dealerships and/or Franchise dealers who have the means to do this through AIA.  Others think this will be a beneficial change for small and independent dealers since they usually entered manually anyway. Now, these smaller dealerships will also increase visibility since the larger franchises won’t have the capacity to upload manually. Cutting the competition and the noise can skyrocket results for these dealerships.  Lastly, some predict it will be similar to Craiglist’s change a few years back where they also eliminated the overwhelming amount of organic posts and in turn, helped shoppers find what they are looking for faster with a cleaner user interface.  What happens next? Like any big change in automotive, it’s going to be critical to watch trends for the next few months-- understand if this change was good or bad for your business. Do you have fewer leads? Do you have more qualified leads? Is your marketing team being more productive on other channels? Did your predictions for the change match reality? These are all important questions to tackle as we go into October and November and learn as an industry.  *This article was inspired by a forum thread in Dealer Refresh .