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Big Data To Make Selling Cars a More Rewarding Job

By Dennis Galbraith on Jul 15, 2013

Big Data will change the way salespeople interact with shoppers in the store. Eric Miltsch does a great job every morning of providing this community with a top-ten list of internet news items. Today he served up a particularly good article from the New York Times about the way data is now being captured in brick and mortar stores, like Nordstrom. As this technology goes down in price and up in value, dealers will be able to utilize it in stores as well. 

We can learn a lot about our future from fight between big-box retailer and ecommerce sites. Most retailers have a split between online and in-store sales that is at least 80% to 20% one way or the other, and many of their shoppers are not combining the two prior to purchase. In our business, well over over 90% of the sales are made in the store and roughly 90% of all sales are to shoppers who use both the internet and the physical store before they buy.

We are never going to be the earlier adopters of retail methods for collecting data, in the store or online. However, we have an opportunity to tie the two together like no other retail industry. We still intercept out customers in the store with a human. So we can do more than hit them with an e-coupon at the right time, we can ask them the right question and match them to the right vehicle, financing, service contract, etc..

All this needs to be automated. And several vendors are working in that direction. The future for people inside the store is not so much about collecting data or analyzing it as utilizing the benefits of it in the conversations they already have with consumers. Knowing what questions will change the entire nature of the frontline salesperson in a way that is more successful and more enjoyable.


I friend of mine just responded to me with a link to an article on how Big Data is being used to stop suicide among veterans,

This is a great example of data that is changing human conversations. These models are not perfect. They are not going to lead to an email telling someone they are about to take their own life. They are going to lead to a question coming from a human, the right question or questions at the right time in enough cases to save lives. The same will be true for enhancing quality of life within the showroom.

Jul 15, 2013

Dennis - this activity is definitely coming, and it may even arrive sooner than we think in the form of intelligent sites that are able to read our behavioral data before we arrive to a website.

Imagine the website pulling in your desktop or mobile history, or even your social graph (Facebook) or knowledge graph (Google) to provide you with the content you're most interested in seeing without having to search for anything - it's already there.

Better experience, more accurate information and improved performance. That's what I see...

Jul 15, 2013

The biggest problem you have with all of this "big data" is exactly what is pointed out in the article about Nordstrom's. Consumers are opting out from being tracked and it's negatively impacting consumers perceptions of businesses that use and collect the data.

We as an industry are at a tipping point. We need to dial in what we have before adding more confusion to the mix!!

Jul 15, 2013

Thanks Dennis, I believe that it is important that we understand "big data" and more important, how we can use that information to shift our everyday interaction with consumers. I think Google and Nielsen did a good job in March of sharing some info on how the mobile consumer is interacting and the relevance between their online (mobile) engagement to their in-store purchases

Thanks again for sharing the post and I look forward to having you on our weekly Hangout on Air next week to discuss the vendor ratings system you have here at drivingsales. Be sure to share the link so others can watch our conversation live!

Jul 15, 2013

Apologies everyone, my fat fingers did a typo. The correct address for the weekly hangout is

Thank you very much to <a href="">Paul Rushing</a> for the heads up :)

Jul 15, 2013

Paul - that's the key factor: making it into something that people don't want to opt out of.

Take Google now for instance. It's delivering me info only I am interested in seeing. It may all be worthless or even considered spam to another user - but it's special to me.

That's where I see this going. Users have warmed up to retargeting over the users and they know it happening. It'll just get smarter and more personalized.

Jul 15, 2013

Eric I agree if the data is being used to improve the user experience the users will adopt it. For now no one is doing a great job with this not even the big G. Its why I have two browsers open on my desktop. One is logged to he G and the other is not and all tracking is disabled..

Jul 15, 2013

Paul, I deeply appreciate your article last week and your continued involvement in this issue. I saw your article as being more about the use of data to know what to purchase or continue to purchase. I'll add to that post regarding that issue. With respect to how data will impact showroom operations, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
1. Some shoppers are opting out, not all, not even most.
2. Some shoppers are taking a dim view of this practice, which is one of the benefits our industry has as a follower. If the cultural shift turns increasingly negative or accepting of the practice within big-box retailers, we will know before dealers invest.
3. We do need to use the data we have now, and that requires systems that make things simpler and easier. I think we all agree paralysis by analysis is a bad thing. Automated analytic tools that get you the information you need when you need it without even requesting is the future.

It's tempting to try to identify a handful of data points dealers should care about. No one has time to deal with the mountain of data dealers already have at their disposal. However, the dealer taking this approach will be at a competitive disadvantage to those who employ systems sifting through the data with little or no human involvement to produce better information when the salesperson or decision maker needs it.

Data is but a means to better information. Better information relative to selling vehicles with time left to focus on the practice of selling those vehicles is what we need. We cannot get the focus on selling if we try to analyze everything, and we cannot get the rich information we need by simply discarding most of the data. We need automated systems that will turn the increasing amount of incoming data into increasingly valuable information. There is almost certainly more agreement here than first meets the eye. I think progressive guys like you will be leading the effort to get dealers there.

Jul 15, 2013

A specific answer to the question about using big data to sell more cars is being provided by my partners at eShare, Sean Marra and Eric Miret. They have leveraged data aggregation into a GUARANTEED!!! way for dealers to sell more cars. The company has plays on big data in other sectors, but the automotive offering is the headliner. These guys are doing really BIG things with big data. (learn more here

Also, to the point about auto retail not being a place of early adoption for big data, you all are the data.

In order for big data to have massive effect on industry, their must be large multiples of transactions. Big data has no finer home for optimization and study about how to make it of best use than right here in automotive. Few industries are able to generate the type of data created by automotive retail. The sheer size of each transaction is a distinctive factor - and, the growth potential for 20 Million plus transactions by the end of the decade means every one from IBM to the White House (including Google) has their 'Glass' on us.

Jul 16, 2013

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