Viva Las Vegas! We always enjoy connecting with dealers, agencies, and OEM partners at Digital Dealer, DrivingSales Executive Summit, and the JD Power Automotive Roundtable, and were especially excited to do so this year because of the unique “Connect @ the Cabanas” function we debuted.
This poolside meeting place, complete with private meeting spaces, DJ entertainment, and bar service allowed for both in-depth meetings and casual connections – the kind of experiences that go beyond the typical tradeshow booth conversations.
Here are a few of the most significant themes we took away from our cabana conversations, as well as conference breakout workshops, keynotes, and networking receptions:
Digital is no longer a “part of” a retail automotive marketing mix. It’s the center of the strategy.
This year’s conversations revealed a major shift in industry thinking: We’ve fully transitioned into digital-first thinking – a trend that Google described, in their J.D. Power afternoon keynote, as “The New Normal.” The shift is backed by a compelling piece of research: According to Google’s Jim Lecinski, 2013 marked the first time that Americans spent more time consuming digital media than traditional media.
The impact of this fundamental crossover cascaded throughout all the Vegas conventions, with numerous sessions dedicated to marketing in the “multi-screen” world and creating holistic, combined digital and traditional campaigns. “Marketing is about how we show up in our audience’s life,” noted Michael Accavitti of Honda. “It’s not up to us to control the shopping journey. It’s up to us to fit into it.”
“Big Data” remains a big buzzword, but innovation and insight are just as valuable.
The concept of “Big Data,” which gained traction in 2012, continued to reverberate around the hallways, workshops, and social feeds of DrivingSales and J.D. Power (some tweets even proposed creating a #BigData drinking game for every time the phrase came up). But the constant repetition evoked an interesting backlash: Many dealers expressed a desire for plainspoken insight as opposed to metrics-based reports, and many workshops and speakers acknowledged data’s importance in digital marketing while reminding their audiences that data shouldn’t prevent the type of risk-taking that creates true innovation. Certain digital channels, for example, don’t generate an immediate, tangible ROI today, but may evolve into the essential brand-building tools of tomorrow.
The combination – continued emphasis on data tempered by some #bigdata fatigue, suggested that success in 2014 and beyond will depend not on access to data and stats, but the ability to focus on the metrics that truly matter, and translate them into actionable insight.
The future is bright.
In workshop after workshop, conversation after conversation, dealers and automotive leaders shared compelling success stories and promising trends. In their “New Vehicle Demand in the U.S.” keynote, J.D. Power noted the auto industry is healthy and robust, with $8.4 billion in sales in 2013.
At DrivingSales, dealers shared example after example of successful marketing approaches that combined digital advertising with operational innovations at the dealership to create more customer loyalty and brand ambassadorship. We heard everything from the use of digital frames to highlight and encourage Yelp reviews to creative financing designed to entice more “millennial” shoppers.
In the Cabanas, conversations with both retail dealers and OEMs consistently revealed excitement over both digital marketing ROI and the promise it holds, particularly now that technologies like display advertising and social media advertising have become more sophisticated, more targeted, and more effective.
Digital is clearly driving automotive marketing into 2014. But, as the Big Data burnout example illustrates, we should continue to inspire innovation and interpretable insight to truly accomplish our goals.