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Digital Dealer 27 Review with Kevin Frye #DD27

Digital Dealer 27
“OMG – do you know what is hotter than us? Las Vegas in August!”

Is there anything better than going to Las Vegas in mid-August? Perhaps some roofing work in southern Texas? Or maybe an asphalt job through Death Valley? Ok, we get it, it’s HOT in Las Vegas in August – and Digital Dealer 27 was hot as well!

Early arrival in Las Vegas – no line for a taxi 🙂

The direct flight from Cincinnati to Las Vegas was moved to an earlier slot, meaning we arrived in Vegas at 7 am. PERFECT time to make an early check-in to Mandalay Bay because, let’s face it, “people-watching” is one of the most underrated benefits of Las Vegas. We are walking in with our baggage and smiling faces, while we see others: A) Crestfallen after losing all of their money. B) The WolfPack is returning with their tails between their legs. C) The “Walk of Shame”, no further comments needed. Great news – Mandalay gave us an early check-in, and we spent Sunday relaxing, hitting the spa, and catching up with great friends that were also arriving during the day.

Do I look debonnaire with my new drink, the “Modern Old Fashioned”?

I picked up my registration on Sunday afternoon and wow – quite a walk to the convention center (about 15″-20″), reminded me of Digital Dealer at MGM Grand. Glad I picked up my badge on Sunday as I gave myself some extra time on Monday morning to walk over. There was a line for badge pickup, but lots of people were working the desk and badge pickup was moving along quickly.

Long time no see – Kendall Billman looking sharp in exhibit hall

And the First Shall be Last… Well, that Bible verse doesn’t bode well for me as I get to speak in the first session time-slot at Digital Dealer to give me time for this beloved recap. I was sincerely excited to share my presentation “Can You Handle the Truth: Unlock the Secrets Inside Your Modern Shopper’s Mind”, where I featured the results of a consumer experience study that we completed with a mix of consumers, whom we interviewed in our Wyler in-house studio.

There was a pet convention next to Digital Dealer 27 this year – loved seeing all the dogs

These questions asked the modern consumer where they consumed their media, how they preferred to communicate, whether they wanted a digital retailing experience, and more. The results? Not only insightful, but POWERFUL in allowing me to show dealers how to cut their CRM workloads in half while selling the same, if not more cars, saving marketing spend, and doubling if not quadrupling their website conversion. Would you like to know how?

Brent Wees, Arnold Tijerina, and Adam Ross, trio of talent!

Hands-down – consumers prefer to text. Yet we setup our websites for forms and phone calls, and our CRM task lists are stacked with phone calls. By taking our form submissions and adding a disclaimer to opt-in for text, we were able to get the opt-ins for text that we needed. Further, I shared that most third party sites and many OEM sites that send you leads have ALREADY disclaimed an initial opt-in for you as a dealer. That means you can TEXT these people. Our contact rate has jumped significantly as a result, and our sales reps are thrilled. Why?

Gayle Rogers and Tim Mueller (how does Tim get so tan working with Google? Google it…)

I can look at any dealership CRM tool and I will find a ton of overdue tasks, most of which are phone calls. One of the consumer questions we asked was “when do you answer a phone call?” Answer: if you are not in their contact list, or they are not expecting your call, they DON’T answer. In fact, they don’t even listen to your voicemail, they read the transcription. Which is essentially a glorified text. Dealers are asking their teams or BDCs to make hundreds of phone calls per day, with 90% going into voicemail. We are creating non-consumer facing “busy work” that aggravates our customers while frustrating our sales reps.

Always great to see my GREAT and brilliant friend Alex Jefferson

Consumer-facing solution: cut those phone tasks in half! Focus on text. Become more consumer-facing. Contact more prospects. Reduce dealership workload. Sell more cars. Happier customers and happier sales reps. And perhaps time to reconsider the exorbitant cost of a BDC that makes hundreds of outbound calls each day, only to go into voicemail. Rant over.

Nick Cybela, Alex Jefferson, and I at the Cox booth in exhibit hall

What about digital retailing? We found that people want a digital retailing tool almost unanimously if it helps them to complete some or most of the car buying process online. HOWEVER, our follow up question found that almost none of them wanted to buy a car 100% online. They still want to come in and test drive and visit the dealership.

Learning about a new solution from Digital Air Strike – yes, we are pursuing

I have GREAT NEWS. Dealers have an incredibly important role in the future with digital retailing. We still get to build value with the test drive. We still get to present the full F&I menu. And now, in addition, we get to build value with CONVENIENCE which is sold at a premium, meaning we can build profitability in a declining margins market. Bottom line – if you are not offering digital retailing, you are not consumer-facing.

Brent Wees and Bill Playford host a great interactive session with ACTIONABLE items

Whew! I hope I inspired many of you as I worked to do during my session. Now it was time to rush over and practice for Tech Tank later that day, and then go to Exhibit Hall.

Sean Squared! (Sean Stapleton and Sean Bradley)

First item on the agenda was to work with current partners with pressing issues. I met with Cloud One, KBB, Cox Automotive, Activengage, and many more. It is super convenient to walk to Activengage, find out my integration with DealerTrack Accelerate is being held up at Cox, then walk over to Cox and work to resolve that, etc. It was also a great opportunity to get together in person with some of the key decision makers at Activengage as I shared my vision of having our websites “serve” the consumers needs immediately rather than “chasing” them later.

Meeting with the ActivEngage team, Carol Marshall, Ted Rubin, and Eric Schlesinger

Alright alright alright… The first keynote, “How Human-Centric Brands Win in a Tech-Dominated World” with Stefan Olander, Former VP at Nike, was well received. Was that because he looked like Matthew McConaughey? I liked Stefan’s analogy about having an open mind and not being afraid to test. Remember that eye chart when you went to the optometrist? They kept asking “better or worse?” Ask that same question across all of your processes and sharpen your vision (see that pun???).

Lucky me! Jenny Harris, Elaina Raggio and Julie Frye. Just call me “Charlie”

Michelle Denogean with Roadster and Mike McFall with 360Converge lead a great session “Digital Retailing and the Impact on Your Dealership’s CRM”. I think we have all seen that graph where, after 90 minutes in the showroom, customer satisfaction begins to decline. Digital Retailing, if executed successfully in the showroom, can fix that problem. Michelle also shared that we must treat digital retailing leads differently. Our consumers use digital retailing as they want to feel empowered – is your process working those leads setup to empower them? Or just push tasks on them?

Joining Tamela Bauer and Greg Noonan at the Skyfall Lounge

Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution. Ok, problem here. If you were in keynote hall, it was distracting to hear the presentation next door at the Food and Beverage Hall. And while I was in the F&B hall for the previous presentation, I struggled to focus as I could hear the presentation in Keynote Hall. Um, they were only separated by a curtain. And further, they were cleaning up after lunch with some kind of locomotive pulling multiple carts of clanging dishes and silverware. Or maybe I am just getting old and cranky and am losing my hearing 🙂

Great to see David Boice, Dean Evans, and Andrew Diffenderfer

Next up was “Think with Google: #NoMoreCoreModels”, with David Boice from Team Velocity and Andrew Diffenderfer with Google. I meant “The Google” – that always builds immediate credibility with your friends and business associates when you call it “The Google”, at least that is what my good Google friend Julio Gonzalez told me. We learned the latest news from Google about our consumers, and another reminder to ensure you have your store visits setup in Google Analytics.

Julio Gonzalez with “The Google”

It’s just another manic Monday… Heads up, there was some chaos on Monday at Digital Dealer. Unfortunately, some speakers had to cancel sessions due to unforeseen reasons (accident, family emergency, etc) and this happened after the session books were printed. God bless Alissa Calvaruso with Digital Dealer who was literally updating the schedule boards with handwriting while moving things around as best she could. The Digital Dealer app showed updated info regarding sessions BUT I had multiple people tell me that they could not find the app.

THANK YOU Alissa Calvaruso for all of your hard work, you are GREAT!

Hopefully a simple fix, have the app searchable from your app as “Digital Dealer” rather than “Emerald Expositions”. I know that DD sent out a direct link, but it comes down to “consumer-facing” and most folks were searching directly for “Digital Dealer” and not finding the app.

“Shark” Kris Nielson keeping folks on their toes at the Tech Tank

This shark can swim fast! Not much of a break for me as I then rushed over to sit on the Tech Tank panel. I think having one Tech Tank session is plenty, and as always, it was a highly organized tech tank ran by our brilliant and beautiful moderator Eliana Raggio. My favorite part was when one of the presenters moved Eliana away from her podium and decided to present from there. BRAVE man, lol. My personal favorite was RevGen, a new geo-fencing solution that uses some cutting edge technology – check it out.

And the winner was… Driven Media Group!

A well I bless my soul, what’s wrong with me?, I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree… Wow, the day is not nearly over and it is time for a cocktail. How about an “Elvis Presley?” Also known as a Red Bull and Vodka, one taking you up and other taking you down. Maybe that drink should be called “Confusion”. Time to start working the hall and greeting the awesome folks of automotive.

Vodka martini – dirty. Cheers friends!

Quick shower, throw on some cologne (Brut by Faberge, if you are curious) and time for our Wyler team dinner at Rivea, on the top floor of Delano. Fantastic view of Vegas, both from the restaurant and their adjoining bar. This was not only a great time to network within our team, but also to reward everyone for their hard work – thank you Jeff Wyler.

Great time with the Jeff Wyler Automotive Family team dinner at Rivea

You might remember from my Orlando recap that we went to a virtual reality experience. This time we took most of our Wyler team as well as my main man, soul brotha Alex Jefferson, to enjoy the Virtual Reality experience at the MGM Grand. Absolutely hysterical and an incredibly great time. Between my wife Julie and our team member Jenny howling over the headsets as they shot zombies, I think I was nearly deaf afterwards. Thank you Nick Cybela with FlowFound for setting this up (our industry’s resident virtual reality expert). Day one – over. (and heads-up, if you are going to NADA in Vegas next year, this is a great event to setup!)

If you want a GREAT team-building event, Virtual Reality is a hit

Wake up, you sleepy head, and get your hiney out of bed… An early start for Tuesday. Headed over for a great breakfast (thank you Digital Dealer, the food has really improved across the last shows, well done). Always fun to sit down at an empty table, and within about 15 minutes I am surrounded by friends and strangers who are soon to be friends. Katie Richter with Cuneo Advertising sat down with me and started sharing some invaluable insight about OTT and traditional marketing with one of my team members, and even offering to host him on a future visit to learn more about their cutting edge, successful tactics. This is what I love about Digital Dealer, the networking. We remain ahead of the curve by helping others, and receiving help in return. And btw – Katie is one of the smartest minds in automotive, thank you for your help 🙂

Typical table loaded with talent at Digital Dealer

One of the things I encouraged dealers to learn more about was OTT (over the top) television. With so many young people who never subscribe to cable or satellite (remember when that was the first thing you called about when you got an apartment or house?), and with older people “cutting the cord” in droves, how do you reach those people? I attended “CTV, OTT… WTF?” and simply put, OTT is a complex area to pursue. Dealers need to partner with a great provider who will help them navigate through selecting an effective OTT solution which will give them the best benefit. Where to start? Use this simple form provided by Premion (thank you) to ask your providers on how they can best help you. (and yes, we are testing ourselves).

Digital Dealer party with Katie Richter, Alex Jefferson, and Kenny Calhoun

Walk this way, walk this way… Back to exhibit hall and time to walk around some more. I cannot say that I saw a lot of new, innovative solutions. There were a couple that caught my attention though.

Great to spend time with Andrew Gordon of Dealer Science

FUNNELAI was something unique that I learned about. They have a platform that allows you to sort through digital platforms to find purchase-ready customers. If you are selling new Mercedes-Benz, and someone is online at eg. Reddit forums and post they are looking for one, the platform allows you to start a conversation with them on that respective platform. An organized way to reach across multiple platforms to reach prospective shoppers. I would imagine you would need someone dedicated to engaging with it each day.

FUNNELAI brings a new platform for dealers to consider

The next one I spent a lot of time with was DealerX. Yes, they have been a presence for a long time in our industry, but suffice it to say, what they are offering only continues to grow. I don’t know if I have the words to describe how powerful the platform they have developed has become. I will share this, I am looking to test and I believe my friend Alex is doing the same. Let’s just say that DealerX’s platform gives us unparalleled transparency into how our marketing efforts are really performing, while also (bonus!) helping me target shoppers accurately in this privacy driven market.

Jeff Tognetti continues to innovate with DealerX – I am highly impressed

With all my focus on texting, I thought it made great sense to go see Steve Roessler’s session “Text Message: Best Practices & Effective Ways to Drive Customer Engagement”. Sometimes it’s the simple things that stand out, and I liked how Steve encouraged us to ask showroom ups and phone-ups “Are you a texter?”, and if they reply “yes”, tell them why we would like to text them, eg. “We would love to send you pictures/video of the car you are interested in”. If our consumers preferred way to communicate today is via text, any effort to accommodate that is consumer-facing.

Recon Velocity helps dealers reduce the time from acquisition to lot-ready

Shish boom bah… Another quick session and back to exhibit hall to meet with folks, and off to eat. Many thanks to Katie Richter with Cuneo Advertising for hosting a wonderful dinner. I was fortunate to sit with Matt Weinberg with Drive Motors and learn more about him. Let me say he has a fascinating background and I learned a lot more about what makes him tick and why he is such a brilliant mind in our industry. I encourage you to find out for yourself, especially if you are trying to learn about digital retailing as Matt excels in that area.

Joining Katie Richter and Matt Weinberg for a wonderful dinner

Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight! Off to the Digital Dealer party to enjoy some drinks, music, dancing, and good times with friends. This might be the first nightclub I have gone to that closes at 11 pm, but is it a reflection of my age that I was glad? After 3 days of going 110 mph, I was happy to return to my hotel room.

Plenty of space at the Mandalay Bay Convention facilities

Let the sunshine in… Final day, I was up bright and early to have breakfast, and Alex Jefferson and I had scheduled a full demo of DealerX at 8:30 am. Tip – the best time to focus and learn more about the solutions in exhibit hall is usually early in the morning before the chaos begins. After that I met with Podium to review some detailed reports, and then my final session.

Alex Jefferson and Julie Frye relax at the DealerX booth

James Grace is another incredible mind in our industry and he shared how to use Google’s advanced eCommerce capability to identify and eliminate thousands of dollars in wasted paid search. As dealers face compressing margins, and the cost of Google SEM continues to rise, this is an area that all dealers should be looking at closely. James is the founder and CEO of Wizely, Inc. and if you go to his website from a desktop PC, you can get a copy of this deck which is invaluable.

Booths were especially busy on Monday afternoon

Leaving, on a jet plane… You can call me John Denver. You can call me Johnny Knoxville. But you can stop calling me Johnny Red-eye as that overnight direct flight back to Cincinnati throws me out of whack for a couple of days, so I took the afternoon flight back. Did I have any final thoughts?

Premion had some innovative solutions with OTT for dealers

Did anything with Digital Dealer 27 stand out? The greatest strength with this year’s conference for me was exhibit hall, specifically with meeting current partners. We are pursuing some new solutions that we met with as a result of Digital Dealer (minimum of 3 vendors), so yes, we did bring some new business.

Did I mention there was a pet convention next door???

What about dealers? What is the feeling in the current market? Simply put – cautious. There was a lot of uncertainly entering 2019 and continues to be. Dealers are glad to see that the market is doing better than expected, but the general consensus is that we have peaked and will likely decline in the near future. As a result, dealers are cautious to spend and test. They are focused on how partners can help them be more efficient with their operations. And finally, how they can best prepare for the future.

Veronica Dunford – where have you been??? Great to see you!

My final suggestions – could we expand the networking hours during Digital Dealer to start a bit earlier? So many of us have dinner plans that we often have to leave early to get ready, as well as the vendors who are often hosting these events. And my challenge is this – how can dealers be best prepared for an uncertain market in 2020, perhaps a good focus point for Digital Dealer 28? And final challenge is for speakers – are you sharing ACTIONABLE items that dealers can return with?

Amy Hughes sharing the latest and greatest from Experian

I am excited to see Digital Dealer 28 in Orlando return to the Rosen Shingle. Call me a fuddy-duddy but I love having everything in one resort, where I can simply walk around the resort to multiple restaurants, bars, pools, and see all of my great industry friends in one place without having to travel everywhere. Maybe I can rent one of those scooters next spring, or just hijack one from the local grocery store.

Farewell from wifey and I after another great Digital Dealer

It was great seeing all of you, much love from Julie and I to the greatest people in automotive 🙂

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