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How car dealers can keep pace with digital technology

Technology is an essential part of an automotive retailer’s operations and while they believe it can give them a competitive advantage, the majority are finding it difficult to keep pace with change.

Scott Sinclair, an industry manager at Google specialising in digital within the automotive industry, told delegates at the AM & Auto Trader Digital Marketing Conference 2014 that they must think about how buying cars will change in the long term if they are to keep pace with the speed at which technology is developing.

Scott Sinclair, Google industry manager  


♦  Dealers need to think about how cars will be sold in the future, not just today  
Businesses must think about six screens – desktop, mobile, tablet, TV, wearable tech and car displays  

He said: “Are you thinking about the experience of buying a car in the future or just what it’s like today?”

Dealers were live-polled at the event on three areas:

♦  Is technology an integral part of your strategy for 2014?

YES 97.5%

♦  Do you think technology can give you a competitive advantage? YES 98.6%

♦  Is your business equipped to deal with the accelerating pace of technology change? NO 61.8%

The pace of technological change continues to accelerate. Devices have driven growth and it has brought easy access to the internet to a lot of people, with 39% of the world’s population now able to access the web.

Google’s searches on mobile devices will overtake desktop searches by May 4, 2014, 12 billion online videos are uploaded to YouTube every month and 75% of shoppers now expect a personal experience online.

“Fast, unpredictable change is a certainty,” said Sinclair.

While dealers may be aware of consumers ‘double screening’, Sinclair said businesses today have to think about six screens – desktop, mobile, tablet, TV, wearable technology and car infotainment displays.

How can businesses cope with the pace of change?

“Businesses that adapt quickly and win the moments that matter will be the ones that can cope the best,” Sinclair said.

He gave examples outside of the automotive industry. One was Netflix, which saw that 23% of its customers were watching on a mobile device, so made sure it developed for a mobile audience. It also tracked settings for people’s preferences for content and knew there was a place in the market for a political drama.

“Netflix commissioned a £60 million television series called House of Cards without a pilot, basing their decision on big data,” said Sinclair. A second series has just been commissioned.

Tesco and Nike are examples of companies diversifying from their traditional comfort zones. Tesco has gone from selling groceries to selling its own tablet computer device with the Hudl and Nike is now producing wearable technology, such as the FuelBand fitness tracker.

Supermarket chain Morrisons developed a wine taste test profile for every bottle of wine it sells online. It helps customers who are not experts determine which wine they might like with a set of intuitive indicators, such as whether you like salty or sweet foods.

Sinclair said: “These companies are changing what they do to keep pace and even exceed it.”

Marketing teams also have to change how they think about advertising. Stories and viral videos are more memorable than ever and they are no longer constrained by 30-second slots on television.

Sinclair gave Virgin America’s safety video as an example. Safety videos on flights are usually unengaging, but Virgin created a choreographed song and dance routine to bring the safety video alive.

Not only has Virgin seen a higher level of engagement from passengers, it’s also had nearly nine million views on YouTube.

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