Every year I enjoy putting my neck on the line by trying to look into the future of our wonderful industry and play Carstrodamus to see what lies ahead for us. Some ideas have been spot on: The importance of local search and social content sharing and location based marketing services. Others were a little early: HTML5 and NFC. A couple were either just wrong or haven't happened yet: Path being acquired by Facebook.
The retail car segment has long been plagued with a stagnent culture of progressiveness. We've changed this perception over the past couple of years, brought ourselves up to speed and are no longer afraid of technology and the opportunities it provides our businesses.
So, rather than focus on specific events occurring this year, I'm focusing on concepts I believe will become more important with regards to how we think, connect with customers and employees to improve our business.
Seven Concepts That Will Define The Retail Automotive Business In 2013.
Changing Website Design Standards
The time has come for a new standard in website content design. The familiar template design we've all grown tired of needs to change. Website design standards are changing and we need to adapt to this as well. Where is it written that says car dealership websites must live within a static grid system of non-effective content boxes filled with random content? Look at what's happening with the user interfaces within the sites the average Internet user spends their time. Top visited sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Netflix are moving away from directing the user via standard navigation and letting the user control more of their experience.
Imagine your dealership website as a palette of interactive vehicle images and videos with interactive research and shopping tools augmented with social elements such as ratings and reviews. That's all the consumer wants - plus it would adapt to their mobile devices so much easier. This also opens the door for the next wave of mobile navigation controls as we move from clicks to gestures. This concept rests solely on the industry's website providers to push the envelope of creativity.
Separation of Internet Directors and Marketing Ninjas
This concept of an Internet Director who manages sales staff, sales activities and Internet Marketing needs to stop now. You don't ask your sales people to sell the car and also change the oil every 3000 miles, do you? We'll start to see a massive shift in the delegation of activities and the types of people hired into these roles as dealers become educated and understand their responsibilities.
In my dealership, I focused on one thing: managing our online presence. That's it. Someone else managed the sales activities. We worked together to create solid processes and manage the flow of activity generated from our online presence. The concept works well because it lets talented people work within their interests and passions.
Managing is out. Leadership is in.
Look for an intense focus on leadership in 2013 as deeper concepts of ownership take hold at the dealer principal, executive and corporate levels. Teams will move beyond simply managing activity, they will become experts in mastering concepts within their respective areas of expertise to create a waterfall of knowledge and learning experiences for their entire organization. These experiences will influence the behaviors and actions of the entire staff rather than just one person driving the activity. Process, structure and marketing understanding have paved the way for a new layer of leadership as industry thought leaders become more savvy. Mastering the art of telling your brand's story, retaining customers and employees for life via inspirational experiences, education and embracing the power of your data will transform today's managers into tomorrow's leaders.
Mobile Payments (& Behaviors) Will Shorten Buying Cycles
I'm not concerned so much with the actual solution, rather the actual concept of how our behavior will change as result of this solution. NFC, Square, Paypal apps, Passbook and others will continue to provide more options for consumers to learn a new behavior. And with this behavior will become a shorter buying cycle, pushing us closer to providing better solutions for your customers to connect and purchase - anything from parts, general services and even make down payments. I've said this before: customers don't need new ways of finding things to buy, but they do need more efficient ways of paying for things. This action alone changes the perception of the shopping experience.
We'll also see more contextual actions which integrate functionality from other social networks that help us complete actions based on our activity and those of our friends. Not only will we be alerted of a friend's upcoming birthday or newborn child, we'll also be able to find either products or retailers nearby based on our recent activity and interests. We'll also find relevant feedback and have the ability to purchase and ship within a few simple gestures as this all happens within our various mobile devices.
More specifically, and within my favorite segment, location based services will not only hit a new level of awareness and understanding, but they will also achieve a new height of effectiveness with the introduction of better algorithms which learn and predict our habits, usage and interests - based on our permissions. Hype free, no spam and exactly what we want to see. Central hubs of our activity will exist, making it easier for us to stay connected to the key informational elements of our life - Grokr
is a wonderful example of this new effective hub.
Niche Industry Events
The industry has spoken about macro events that happening just for the sake of having an event. Buying products based on sales pitches is out. Broad based integrated solutions based on awareness and education is in. It's time for dealership leaders to understand how the clock works rather than just being able to tell the time. The best example of this is next year's DrivingSales President's Club
event headlined by Seth Godin. This will be a key niche event focusing on areas such as leadership, global economic impact, dealership M&A activity, industry regulations, and other retail industry insights which make up your key foundation assets.
Increased Mobile Video Presence and Effectiveness
Mobile video will become more helpful based on a couple of simple factors: Improved network infrastructure creating better connections on 4G and LTE networks and faster, more powerful chipsets within the devices constantly at an arms length away from us. Pictures will become old school, video will become the standard and keep an eye out for more practical uses of augmented reality as well.
Look for major improvements in mobile workflow solutions for all dealership departments, even better customer facing solutions, and especially new expanded solutions within your social media efforts with regards to real-time story telling. This all ties into shortening buying cycles, improving digital footprints and creating more effective social signals to help drive your local mobile search results.
Strong Focus on Professional Experiences and Personal Brands
As company leaders, Internet directors and marketing ninjas continue to be defined by their areas of expertise, so will the awareness of how important their individual brand is to the dealership's customers, staff and the industry. This is how the next wave of excellence and talent will be discovered within our industry.
Tools like the DrivingSales dScore
will help drive awareness around individual activity and relevant experience. Branding platforms such as About.me
will continue to define your personal brands and provide greater context for our abilities and affiliations within the industry.
I've seen it happen with dealership all-stars, whether they expand their roles within their dealerships or move on to the vendor side, people such as Tracy Myers, Dan Boismier, Andrew DiFeo, Rob Fontano, Andy Warner, Marc McGurren and most recently with Eric Giroux and Chris Costner.
On the vendor side, industry pros like Shaun Raines (Dealership education), Dennis Galbraith (Data), George Nenni (Pinterest), Hunter Swift (CRM), Paul Potratz (Retargeting) Brian Pasch (SEO) and JD Rucker (Social strategy) have all claimed their stake as experts within the industry, while also becoming recognizable personal brands that deliver endless value to their respective companies. What will your area of expertise be in 2013?
Here's to a wonderful and prosperous New Year in 2013. Keep on connecting, leading and learning and make the most of every single day!