Key Takeaways from DrivingSales Executive Summit 2019

October 21, 2019

Hats off to the folks at DrivingSales for another great Executive Summit! Our team had a great time, and brought back A LOT of ideas to share with the company. Here are just a few of our biggest takeaways from DSES 2019.

1. Omni-channel digital retailing is so hot right now

If there was any one major takeaway from DSES this year it was the importance of taking digital retailing seriously. Jared Hamilton kicked off DSES 2019 with an opening keynote on omni-channel digital retailing. That same day, John Rossman delivered his keynote on “Retailing like Amazon.” From online merchandising to digital sales and service, there were dozens of sessions focused on every aspect of digital retailing. 

– Key Takeaways from DrivingSales Executive Summit 2019

In his keynote, Hamilton shared the hard truth about the “crumbs” that dealerships are leaving behind for online retailers like Carvana and Tesla with anonymous online shoppers. He shared real feedback from consumers who increasingly expect more convenient and independent buying experiences, be it car buying or service related. As technology gets smarter and smarter, consumers are eager to take advantage of eCommerce shopping without the friction of lead forms.

According to DrivingSales’ recent study, 73% of respondents were worried about being bombarded with calls and emails from a dealership if they submitted lead information. Hamilton argued that they weren’t wrong in their thinking because they likely would be. All most people want is the ability to get accurate, detailed information online about deals and prices, with 83% interested in completing at least one purchase online.

As consumers, we all value our time above all else. So much so, that studies now showing that only 18% of people are looking for the lowest possible price. The other 82% of people will compromise on price for convenience and service. Another benefit to offering more buying power online for dealers is also being able to sell more accessories and F&I upgrades on each vehicle purchase.

Other Notable Takeaways | Source: John Rossman, Rossman Partners

Did I mention that digital retailing was a big theme this year? More than a few sessions were focused on engaging more meaningfully and relevantly with low funnel car buyers to win their business. As Rossman explained in his keynote, Amazon continues to set the bar through its mission to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Whether or not everyone agrees with everything Amazon is doing, the company continues to grow its base of loyal customers because of the hyper-personalized and convenient digital retail experience.

In today’s digital ecosystem, car buyers are looking for a seamless, friction-free online to offline buying experience, only visiting the dealership to sign on the dotted line and pick up their new car. And even then, if they can get it delivered to their house for a small fee, even better.

2. SEO is getting even weirder | Source: Britney Muller, Moz

Between the expanding real estate of Google My Business and the knowledge panel, SEO is more complicated than ever before. In her keynote, Moz Senior SEO Scientist, Britney Muller, shared some other major developments that should be on your radar.

  1. Google is now getting community feedback to help fill out business information in GMB and the knowledge panel. Users viewing dealership GMB listings are asked anything from “can you get an oil change at this location?” to “which photo is more helpful?”
  2. The key lesson Muller stressed was to expect Google to keep “getting up in their business [listings].”
  3. Google crawlers are now reading image files for emotional cues on content to help index that content for search results.


Other Notable Takeaways | Source: Britney Muller, Moz

One of Muller’s biggest tips for dealers is to take advantage of Q&A content in GMB listings. She encouraged everyone to keep an eye on questions being submitted on their listing and to answer them in a timely manner. Anyone has the ability to answer those questions so if it’s not your dealership providing the info a user needs then someone else from the community can, and will, do it for you. Clearly better to control that conversation rather than leave it up to strangers, right?

Also, if there are questions that you get in your store on a regular basis, submit those questions and answer them yourself to build up the content on your GMB and serve customer needs at the same time.

3. Culture and leadership are key for combating turnover

In a surprisingly drum-filled keynote, Clint Pulver shared insights from his book “I Love It Here.” Pulver interviewed 10,000 Millennial employees to understand the key ingredients that made them loyal to their organizations. During this “undercover millennial” program, he and his team discovered that over 60% of those interviewed were looking for new opportunities elsewhere. Out of 10,000 people, that’s significant. And with dealerships going up against a 45% turnover rate, there’s obviously room for improvement across the board.

To combat turnover, and ‘grass is greener’ daydreaming, Pulver stressed the importance of leaders giving their employees clear paths, and plenty of room to grow within the organization. The goal being to create a culture that breeds loyalty. If turnover is something that your dealership is struggling with, I highly recommend reading Pulver’s book “I Love It Here” to get some actionable advice. 

Other Notable Takeaways | Source: Arnie Malham, Worth Doing Wrong– Key Takeaways from DrivingSales Executive Summit 2019

Pulver’s keynote was just one of the sessions at DSES focused on culture and retention. Arnie Malham also shared his perspective on building strong dealership performance through culture. From his perspective, “culture reflects leadership” and the ways that leaders build high performing cultures is by having a mindset of trust, growth and action vs. intention.

He recommended using recognition programs and even simple things like thank you cards to show employees that they are valued every day. And in a more targeted session, Michelle Blakeley from FordDirect, focused on the positive impact of intentionally hiring and developing women in your dealership.

Each of these speakers came at the topic from a different angle, but all inevitably drew similar conclusions: strong cultures begin with strong leadership. As long as you and your team are striving to motivate, inspire and grow employees in every level of your organization then you are on the right path. 

4. Mobility is a money maker with a lot of untapped potential

One of the panels at DSES was “New Dealership Revenue Streams.” Executives from HyreCar, Clutch and the Rikess Group discussed the mobility economy and the new revenue opportunities that dealers have created for their business by getting involved in this growing market.

Companies like HyreCar and Clutch, have been working with dealers who have started serving as “mobility centers” for the rideshare economy. For instance, one dealership offers a “virtual fleet” of loaner vehicles. Even just by loaning out 5-10 vehicles at a time, they are making more money on those VINs than they would if they just sat on the lot. 

In general, the panel encouraged dealers to think differently about how they serve their local community. Paragon Honda is one example of a dealership that has increased average ROs by 50% simply by offering pick up and drop off. Because people weren’t at the dealership waiting, they also increased services rendered during the visit on top of the added convenience fee. They recently serviced 3,500 vehicles in a month by encouraging customers to take advantage of the service. 

For any dealership looking to start dabbling in these areas, the speakers offered these tips:

  1. Get started slowly. Experiment with service delivery with top customers/employees in small pilots. Then build out the investment as the model is proven. 
  2. Choose the technology platforms wisely. Even a spreadsheet can be a great tool when you are just starting up to a certain point.
  3. Run a small pilot for mobility fleet. Begin by loaning out 5-10 cars at a time to test using a loaner fleet as a mobility fleet.


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