Best PracticesDealership Communication ToolsIndustry EventsIndustry News & TrendsOther Stuff

Digital Dealer 22 Review with Kevin Frye #DD22

Can Peyton Hoffman Keep Me from this 5-Hour Energy Drink & another Digital Dealer review?

Woo hoo! It’s spring break!

I mean – “Hey boss, is it OK if I go to Digital Dealer 22 in Tampa to learn about the latest and greatest in automotive digital?”

Use your noggin knucklehead!

The last approach might be more successful if you want to join fellow dealers in sunny Florida to work, train, and network 24/7 to become a better digital dealer when you return. And who doesn’t want to go to Tampa, Florida for Digital Dealer 22 after a long, cold winter? Are you ready to begin this recap?

 Sunny Tampa, Florida hosts Digital Dealer 22

(humming to the tune…) Blinded by the light!

Or more appropriately, blinded by the white, which would be the skin tone of many northern dealers like myself as I flew in Monday and tried to catch a few rays at the pool before Digital Dealer 22 began. With multiple hotels to choose from within walking distance of the convention center, dealers had some great choices for accommodations. And of course I walked over to pick up my badge for early registration which was plenty convenient  – BUT…

 Smooth check-in for Digital Dealer 22

I speak for drink, at least that’s what I think…

While checking in, I was told, “since you are a speaker, you don’t get a give-away bag or drink tickets”. Holy tight-ass, is this a new low in cost control care of Digital Dealer that they won’t even give a “speaking” dealer like myself a few drink tickets? Am I not even worth a couple Pabst Blue Ribbons after I complete another great Digital Dealer session? Don’t they know how many hours I put into creating a first class presentation? Or perhaps they are figuring out how many drinks I have while putting together my presentation and they are concerned for Kevin’s liver. Oh well, more on that later…

 Candice Crain, Brent Wees, Josh Mitchell and Arnold Tijerina at #DD22

The Jeff Wyler Automotive Family sent a team of seven to Digital Dealer 22. I bring this up as I recall when I was the only person from our large auto family that attended these conferences for many years, and I know that many of YOU have also been that lone person. Has your dealership(s) also expanded who is attending as our market becomes more competitive?

A Jack in the Box, or a Charley in the Box? That makes steak???

The Wyler team had a wonderful steak dinner at Charley’s Steak House on Monday night – and it appears that 98% of Digital Dealer entertaining was also taking place there. Joining our team was Kate Frost who is now working with the Jeff Wyler Automotive Family as our social media consultant. She has taken our Instagram efforts from zero to 120 mph in less than 6 months and is doing much more. Thank you Kate, and welcome to the Wyler family! And time to get ready for day one of #DD22…

The Jeff Wyler Automotive Family enjoys dinner in Tampa

(to the tune of Twisted Sister…) I wanna walk! WALK!

I love starting each day with a short walk to the convention center, crossing the bridge and enjoying that Florida sunshine. Folks were picking up their badges at the registration counters with minimal lines and waits, which was a huge improvement from last fall at Digital Dealer 21. As I came up the steps, I was greeted by Jim Ziegler, who was speaking that morning. One problem – we were both speaking at the same time, so I was unable to join Jim’s session. Jim has always been passionate about being the dealers’ advocate. I am still trying to figure out where he is getting all of his energy as I am years behind him and he brings an energy level I envy. Thanks for all you do Jim!

 Welcome back to Digital Dealer Jim Ziegler!

Practice practice practice!

While the Wyler team went to the peer strategy round-tables, I spent some time setting up my room for my upcoming presentation. My session involved some advanced Google Analytics techniques that included several screenshots and video clips, but I was discouraged to find one small screen in the corner for one large room. The size of the room was great but I was concerned that folks would not be able to see my content, what do you think? This was the case in several sessions. Hey Digital Dealer – could we at least have 2 screens, or one large screen in the middle for these larger rooms?

 Big room, one small screen in corner

Talk about Stranger Things

I had spent a LOT of time preparing some great clips from the Stranger Things series from NetFlix which aired last year to complement my training. This is a tactic I call “entertraining”, where you both entertain and train but I ran into major issues. I ran through every slide, and every video, and everything worked flawlessly. Great video, great slides, great sound. As soon as my presentation started, every video failed but one very short clip – what happened?

Digital Dealer records the sessions so that folks can purchase them later to view. After learning that at least 5-10 speakers had the same problem as myself with their powerpoint videos failing, I figured out the problem. Once they start recording your presentation digitally, it takes up all of the RAM in your laptop and your videos cannot play. ARGH! I was one pissed pirate when I figured this out and am still upset. I have the highest respect for the attendees that come to my session and that means lots of preparation and practice to deliver a flawless presentation. Digital Dealer – let’s please get this figured out or not record sessions in the future.

 Great to see Kim DePalma who has always supported dealer presenters

You can chew, but DON’T blow!

Of course, my session had to live up to its name of “Stranger Things” as I am always giving out some, let’s say “different” give-aways, and in this case it was some Bazooka chewing gum which was featured in the Stranger Things series. I was getting some “strange” looks from folks in the room as they opened their gum and of course opened up the comic strip that was inside. Turns out that all of the comics were printed in Arabic. Wait, ummmm, wasn’t I just calling Digital Dealer out on cost control? Holy hypocritical tight ass, that gum I ordered online must have been sourced out of some third world nation. Sorry folks…

 Jessica Ruth, Blake Arbogast, and Peyton Hoffman at the Dominion Booth

VDP, yeah you know me

My session focused on some of the flaws in Google Analytics that can mislead you in your reporting results. I shared how to fix this with the setup of events and event-based goals, and then followed up with some actual examples that dealers could see for some hands-on training. Much of my session focused on VDP-based solutions and I shared how I feel these will be a bigger part of our future digital marketing solutions in the future. Why? That warrants a full article in itself – stay tuned to see in an upcoming DealerRefresh blog.

 Three Wise Men – Nick Cybela, Dan Moore, and Glenn Pasch

Line’em up kids!

Exhibit hall opened after my morning session and there were a lot of vendor booths on the floor, with only 2-3 empty stalls in the corner. I liked Cox’s new setup at the entrance. Rather than having multiple large booths for each of their entities, they had one large rectangular booth where you could walk around to the different “stations” for VinSolutions, vAuto, etc. that were part of the Cox family. I imagine that setup is likely a more efficient spend for their money as well. Is that important to me? YES – as ALL of us need to become more efficient as our market becomes more competitive, including our partners.

 All-in-one Cox Exhibit. One stop shopping in exhibit hall

I spent a lot of time in exhibit hall this conference, looking at the different solutions available. It was great to see Nick Cybela and his team with FlowFound where they are providing virtual reality solutions. Virtual reality – and augmented reality – are 2 advanced digital solutions that are in the market, but are still trying to find their place in the dealership mix. I am certain that many of you have ideas of how to use virtual reality, but it has really caught my attention for the following reasons.

 Nick Cybela and the FlowFound team

Mushrooming or showrooming, which is worse?

Well, your HR department might have some ideas on that, but all of us would agree that “showrooming” is an issue we all face. When the sales rep leaves the customer alone to approach the desk, out comes the customer’s cell phone and the showrooming begins as they begin to “cheat” on you and look at other dealers. I believe virtual reality can help fix this.

What if you had a virtual reality kiosk in your showroom with a library of some great video content. When the sales rep is ready to approach the desk, they first take the customer to the virtual reality kiosk and have them view a short VR video that not only creates a “wow” factor for your dealership, but also builds value in the car you are trying to sell. The sales rep can now return from the desk and find that their customer has remained engaged with the product, and is hopefully receptive to the “bump” you are ready to approach them with. What do you know, virtual reality is not only a defensive tool to prevent showrooming but also an offensive tool to help build gross…

 Lance Alm, GM with Jeff Wyler Auto Family, getting virtual reality demo with FlowFound

Small plates anyone?

I did hear some grumbling about the small plates being handed out for lunch. While not as small as the dinner plates in a Barbie RV, but not as big as the plates provided with an EZ Bake Oven, they were certainly not large enough for some of these dealers’ appetites. Well, it wasn’t porridge for crying out loud. Lunch was fair, and for me, it was a quick affair as I was doing my favorite thing at Digital Dealer – picking other dealers’ brains.

 Was great to see Jenn Pederna. I don’t know how she handles working with Brent Wees

You have 2 ears and one mouth – use them in that proportion

What is your #1 concern today in our market? That was my question for fellow dealers on the floor, and almost unanimously, the answer was “compressing margins”. When our costs to acquire cars to sell are rising, while the gross we can earn when selling them is declining, we have compressing margins, and that means less profitability. Dealers are struggling in today’s highly competitive market, and they are looking for more efficient digital solutions to help them to optimize profitability. I talked about this at length in my presentation.

  Jennifer Sanford, Sean Stapleton, Jeff Loos with Lotlinx and Tom Lapointe

Ladies and gentlemen – our business is changing. That’s right. The “gravy train” for profits is ending, and if it is ending for dealers, it is also ending for our vendor partners. We must ALL work together to become more efficient in an ever-more transparent market that is driving down our margins. Understanding that this is a top priority for dealers, I felt that activity in exhibit hall was stronger than normal. If there was a solution which could give a dealer an edge, it was being looked at. Let’s look at a few.

Am I dreaming or streaming?

The folks at Dropin Auto were very busy providing demos on their new streaming product. Was it the free drinks at their bar? Or their unique new product that enables you to put a “Live Stream” video button on your VDPs? As I best understand, when the shopper clicks on the “Live Stream” button, it alerts one of the sales reps at your dealership to respond with a live stream video of the vehicle. I have to admit, it was a pretty impressive demo. Think of it like live chat times 10, as you could not only get instantaneous chat with the shopper, but show them the car while they are hot.

Louis Ziskin provided some additional details for us about their solution which you can read about here.

 Lots of activity, and free drinks, at the DropInAuto booth

We must divide and conquer!

That is how we work with the Wyler team we send to these conferences. We meet before the conference and decide who will attend which sessions. Since we are a big Dealer Teamwork customer, we had some of our team going to see Sean Stapleton, others to see Greg Gifford with his Local SEO presentation, our video producer going to see Tom Gallaher, and being the analytical geek I am, I went to see Brian Pasch and Tom Moore who were presenting “Eliminate Digital Marketing Blunders, BOTS, and Waste!”.

 Jason Wiley, AJ Maida, and Jeff Gonzales. Jason and Jeff are with DyGen. Apparently AJ is Mat Koenig in another form (nametag?)

Brian and I are on the same path towards efficiency in the industry. Our vision for the future is very similar. It was great to see Brian in the back of my session tweeting and I wanted to sit in his to see what he and Tom Moore had to share. One key concept that we both agree on is to STOP focusing on the quantity of digital traffic and start focusing on the quality. We have a mutual vision in teaching fellow dealers how to set-up their Google Analytics and other tools to best measure the quality of their incoming traffic, and then teaching them what to look for. Brian is pushing for the standardization of goals and events in GA for the industry so that we can hold vendors accountable for performance with the same metrics. Brian, you have my support!

 Great to see Michael Groves back at Apple Autos (with John Yoder)

I was unable to attend the next speaking session as we had practice for the upcoming “Tech Tank” panel. Once again my team split up to see great speakers like Joe Webb, Andrew Meyers, Kathi Kruse, and more. And speaking of the “Tech Tank” panel, wow! We had some great solutions to choose from.

Is Twitter going down the $hitter?

Are we seeing the slow demise of Twitter at Digital Dealer? It seems like there was little Twitter action by dealer attendees outside of a few, but lots of posts from the vendors. Hats off to Joey Little who also brought this up as much of the content was canned and pre-programmed, with little real-time insight in the sessions as compared to previous years. I have seen a similar pattern at other shows this past year. Good news for you though – I have tagged names through this recap with their Twitter handles so you can follow each one and keep on top of our industry.

Chris Hill is always passionate about automotive, joined with Ross Stirewalt of

Want an appointment? You better have some Voodoo…

Vendor Voodoo caught a lot of dealers’ attention with its unique approach on how to help vendors connect with busy dealers. Basically, the vendor makes a donation to your charity of choice in return for an appointment to see you. Vendor Voodoo helps you manage a busy schedule, while allowing both the dealer and vendor to support a local charity. There was a fair amount of feedback on this concept of “pay to play”, but I have to give a kudos for the creativity of the idea..

 With long time friends April Rain and Kate Frost – strong leaders in our industry

The winning solution was 1Micro Secure Asset Control and their new key management system. It allows dealers to closely and conveniently manage their car keys as well as their cars. Why do I think it won? Simple – it is helping dealers to be more EFFICIENT and to save money in their daily operations by saving time with not chasing down cars and missing keys.

 Jamie Grum wins the Tech Tank competition with 1Micro Key Solution

Hey Batman, do you see the signal in the air?

Well for me, that was a cell phone text and a crisis back on the work-front, so I had to miss the keynote. I am certain that I am the only dealer this has ever happened to (insert heavy sarcasm here). The feedback I received was that keynote speaker Michael King did very well. In fact all of the keynotes were strongly attended – just look at the large crowd in the picture below.

 Packed keynotes at Digital Dealer 22

And speaking of attendance, everything I saw and heard was that the turnout for DD22 was stronger than average for a spring conference. While some other shows are starting to stagnate, Digital Dealer seems to be getting a second wind and growing stronger.

Do the DT’s stand for Dealer Teamwork?

NO! Cocktail hour started and I had no free drink tickets. I pulled out my banjo, opened the case on the ground, and started playing the theme to Deliverance to hopefully get some tip money to buy some drinks. Before I finished the first 9 notes, Melissa Green was there to deLIVER (did you catch that..) some free drink tickets to me and save the day. Thank you Melissa for restoring my faith in humanity, and Digital Dealer. More great times followed connecting with fellow dealers and vendors, and then off to dinner at the Columbia.

 Cecil Bolling, Kelli Pierani, Lance Alm, Ron Overstreet, Ross Stirewalt at Columbia restaurant

Let’s just say that when you mix type-A, outgoing car folks with a little libation, good times always follow. I cannot share the contents of much of the evening but let’s say I have some videos that can earn me some nice retirement money. And while I got in around 3 am – this big dog was there at 7:30 eating breakfast the following morning for day 2!

 Lots of fun with awesome #AutoFam in Tampa

At heart, I am an exhibitionist…

Hold on a sec, maybe the night before after some liquid courage, but I did spend the first session in exhibition hall completing a demo with one of the major providers at the show. Sorry folks, name withheld on this important meeting.

 Ran into Heather Allred, Mat Koenig, Tom Lapointe, Ted Dupuy, Kevin Campbell and many more fun folks

How sick am I?

Well, I guess sick enough to see Brent Wees and Mark Stringfellow at 10 to see “How Sick is Your Sales Floor?”  Of course it was a great session if Brent was involved, though I cringe every time he calls me up front with another opportunity to humiliate me.  Wait, he was very nice this time, Brent must be really sick. Brent and Mark shared many great tactics to deal with the psychology of the sales floor. Visit to see one of their great tricks to help you become more efficient.

 Brent Wees and Mark Stringfellow “entertrain” the audience at #DD22

More demos followed at 11 am – and I did not attend the charity auction but I heard a lot of noise and excitement over there. Another quick lunch, and off I went to see my counterpart at AutoNation – Famous Rhodes.

Just send the bills to Jennifer…

As in Jennifer Bills and Famous Rhodes who shared some of their strategy with SEM, SEO, Display and Social Media. Take a guess – do you think they are trying to become more efficient? If the largest in the industry is heading that direction, is that a signal that you should do the same? Did you know that your used cars get 8x more traffic on the major aggregators that your new cars? And understanding that, are you using your heavy traffic VDPs to drive traffic to vehicles that need help (eg. Similar vehicles). Lots of great ideas in this session. Thanks Famous and Jennifer.

 The Infamous Famous Rhodes and myself, with the boring name “Kevin”

More time in exhibit hall, texting to find fellow friends. Wait, did I mention that it seemed like there were lots of texting solutions this year? While each has some great ideas, I am uncertain where they fit in our mix as most of the major chat providers we use are already providing text solutions, and it is hard for me to see where these add-on text solutions work for us. Even our service scheduling provider (xTime) has a text solution. What do you think?

And the lion will lay next to the lamb…

That’s it baby, now I am bringing scripture into these Digital Dealer reviews. A big shout-out to Phil Sura for orchestrating the next keynote panel that put Twitter, Google, and Facebook on the same stage. Fortunately, speakers Peter Leto with Google, Trace Przybylowicz with Facebook and Chad Rumminger with Twitter were ran through some metal detectors followed by a strip search to ensure that no knife fights would follow on stage. A great keynote presentation followed which shared how dealers can leverage each of these HUGE social platforms to help them to sell more cars and service.

 Josh Mitchell, Peter Leto with Google, and Jason Wiley in exhibit hall

And then it started catching up with me…

Two nights with less than 4 hours of sleep. I enjoyed another great evening with friends but this time I wrapped up by midnight. I am sorry that I missed the Joe and Shaun Karaoke event, but I chose to go back to my hotel room and dunk some Oreos in a warm glass of milk and get a good night’s sleep.

 Great job by Phil Sura with his keynote panel (joined by Tim Kost)


A full 6 hours of sleep brought me back to life (just like the college days) and I returned for breakfast and another quick meeting. However, I had to fly out the morning of Day 3 as I had a very important meeting with Homenet upon my return. I was incredibly disappointed to miss presentations with Kate Frost, Steve White with Clarivoy, Matt Raymond, and Elise Kephart. I am certain that you all did well – and all of the feedback I have received was positive for each of you.

What is this? Disabled Dealer?

Speaking of Matt Raymond, was he reaching for an all-time low by arriving in a wheelchair and looking for some type of registration discount? Or perhaps this was a brilliant move on his part to get free publicity for his presentation with countless selfies in exhibit hall? Or was Matt just looking to get fellow dealers to push him around? Well played Matt, well played…

 Bobbie Herron wheeling Matt Raymond to his next session #AutoFam

Before I forget – what was the second concern of most dealers I spoke to? It was the recent purchase of Digital Dealer by Emerald Expositions.

Love’em or hate’em, you gotta RESPECT him

I am talking about Mike Roscoe. Over the years I have learned more about conferences than I care to know. What goes on behind the scenes with conference organizers and our vendors is an amazing amount of work to make these shows as smooth and wonderful as possible for dealers like you and myself. It is a high pressure business that involves a lot of money, preparation and aggravation.

Here is where you will find #DD22 decks in about a week

I think all of us can agree that Mike has created a first class product with Digital Dealer. He was one of our pioneers and innovators that brought fellow dealers together in the most challenging transition of our industry as automotive entered the digital arena. Along the way, he worked with a lot of great people to build these shows, including Cliff Banks, Kim DePalma, Ceren Isildak, Melissa Green, Arnold Tijerina, and I know I am missing so many more names. Mike and his team were very supportive of encouraging dealers like myself to speak on the podium, but there is more to that.

 Too long since seeing my long time friend Katie Richter!

Many of you know if you have attended my sessions that I often present content that is controversial and can aggravate many of our vendors. These are many of the same vendors that pay a lot of money to participate in Digital Dealer. The reality is that my sessions are not as welcome at many other shows as the show organizers are hesitant to offend anyone. Mike Roscoe has NEVER attempted to censor me or moderate me – or my fellow dealers. He has always encouraged me to share the truth and supported my efforts – that is true transparency in the industry.

Mike and the entire team at DD have been great friends to my wife Julie and I as well. I value their friendship and Mike – you have my highest respect. And Emerald Expositions, as the new Digital Dealer owners, you have a high standard to maintain and dealers are looking at you closely to deliver the same high quality content combined with a first class experience.

 Why Sean Stapleton should not challenge Tom Lapointe to a wrestling match. BTW – socks?

Can you handle the truth?

I talked about “true transparency” in my session, as part of my vision of digital automotive in the upcoming years. As one of the initial folks to openly present on attribution in the industry, and as the first dealer to build a model for others to share, I have seen a lot of folks pursue the study of how to best identify what digital providers are giving them as an “assist” as they sell cars. In our efforts to become more efficient, I shared what I felt was a better model:

  1. When less than half of a dealer’s inventory is even seen on the major aggregators, and that half is the cars that don’t need help getting VDP’s, wouldn’t it be better, and cheaper to just syndicate the cars to them that need help with views?
  2. If the battleground for the modern shopper is at the VDP, wouldn’t it make best sense to send them directly to our website VDP where we have our best tools and processes to win that battle? (think credit pre-approval, video of the car, trade in value tools, etc – and no competing ads)
  3. If we work in a performance based industry, isn’t it fair for our vendor partners to only get paid for proven performance as well? As in we only pay for VDP views?
  4. Why should we have to argue with our vendors on whether their solution is performing? If they delivered shoppers directly to our VDP, we can directly see the quality of the traffic (this is what I was teaching how to setup correctly in Google Analytics).
  5. Why are we pointing our fingers at our vendors when WE as dealers bear responsibility as well? If the provider delivers quality traffic to my website, it is my responsibility on whether I have optimally merchandised the vehicle and provided the best tools on the VDP to win the battle at that point.

Think about this – why should we have to trust that “shoppers are going to these sites and they don’t submit a form or make a call, they just arrive at our dealership” when true transparency is available. If I see these shoppers going directly to my VDPs on my website, I can SEE if they are engaged whether they call or submit a form, and then I know the provider is doing a great (or not so great) job for us. Do I have the perfect solution? I don’t imagine, but I am seeking it. Can we unite as dealers and vendors in one common team to become more efficient in a market with leaner margins? We need to, and I am pushing each of you that direction.

With Kelli Pierani and Cecil Bolling from our Wyler eCommerce team

And speaking of Digital Dealer 23 – it will be at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas from September 18-20. Until then, I will be learning how to count cards with Jerry Thibeau so that we can dominate the Blackjack tables this fall. Cheers to each of you and I look forward to seeing you at Digital Dealer 23 in Vegas! And make sure to check out our Jeff Wyler video recap of Digital Dealer 22 below.

This review is also post over in the DealerRefresh forums for commenting – click here

As a former Naval officer I am driven to produce results & to lead people to reach their full abilit Aviation, outdoors, tennis, running, weighli...