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2010 was an incredible year. Technology improvements, significant search adjustments and a deluge of progressive marketing concepts have helped remove the late adopter label for a large portion of the retail automotive community.
The tide is turning faster than ever. New strategies embraced within the retail segment are helping improve the car buying process and consumer experiences. Dealers are becoming more pro-active; they're listening and making a true difference. Dealers are positioned well for the anticipated retail recovery and consumers will continue to benefit.
After all the advances, it’s time to look ahead. 2011 is sure to deliver a fresh buffet of new strategies and technology solutions. Here's a few favorite items I'm banking on to help consumers and dealers. Plus, a couple of them are pretty cool as well.
Search. Still Supreme.
Search strategies will always be a top priority, however, this segment continues to zig and zag faster than a first-time Dodge Viper driver on wet pavement. Traders on Wall St. say the best time to sell your stock is when the taxi drivers tells you to buy it. More people than ever know how to use Google's search playbook. Google knows this and they're responding. Initial responses include the organic page layout changes, Google Places priority placement, Google instant and instant previews. Other early changes included items such as the possible death of Page Rank due to the lack of index updates in the second half of 2010. Look for greater emphasis on design and usability to help improve consumer experience and dealer conversion.
Google and Bing are already experimenting with real-time recommendation algorithms. The consumer voice will grow stronger as their own social influence (Klout score) rank drives the position of this content to users. More consolidation between search and review sites will happen, creating greater utility under one roof vs. the scattered fragments of sites which provide these service currently. Imagine a search result page functioning more like a cross between a Facebook fan page, Google Places Page, Foursquare and Shopkick.
The importance of Google Place Pages will move beyond just it’s placement among the organic results. Greater functionality within the pages, additional rich content and, of course, the integration/inclusion of location based services will push the real-time needle further. The nearly-instant validation of the location based social experience became evident with Foursquare’s image and comment update. Note the buzz surrounding other picture sharing applications; Instagram and Picplz made a quick rush to integrate with other location based application leaders. Look for possible consolidation within this segment later in Q3 or Q4.
Part of their solution is a server module (called mod_pagespeed) which checks various speed levels, optimizes client-server round trips and even optimizes caching. Bottom line, content will appear even faster for consumers.
When comparing feature phone usage vs. smart phone usage, users were twice as likely to engage with shopping/retail category applications. Additional consideration must be given to mobile’s cousin, the tablet revolution. More than a dozen tablets were reviewed at this year's Consumer Electronics Show and may even be available by the time you read this - all designed to connect more data, improve accessibility and change consumer experiences.
82% of U.S adults are active cell phone users and 43% have access to apps. This equates to an app access-rate of about 35% of the entire population, with a lower use-rate at two thirds this number, or about 25% overall. While it may seem funny that only two thirds of smart phone users actually use any applications at all, this is a significant number of people who are changing the way that they engage with mobile technology.