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Our time in the Information rEvolution

As someone who has been playing on the eCommerce side of the automotive industry for some time now I find myself having to explain things quite often.  Some folks get it, others don’t.  And that statement can be used for just about any venture I’ve worked on in the past 8 years of doing this.

I also have a degree in History and have always been fascinated with how many similarities can be found since man began recording things (yeah, I know I’m a dork).  We seem destined to repeat ourselves over and over again, but with bigger toys.  I will say that I have struggled to find a similar thread in history that can relate to this Information Revolution we’re in.  The only major event before, when things moved very rapidly, was during the Industrial Revolution, but things are much cleaner this time around.  And you didn’t have two major widespread-philosophies in the industrial revolution.  Yes, there were the workers and the owners, but that was not as global as the users and the doers are in our current revolution.  So, what piece of history can we correlate things to today?

I know!  The transportation evolution.  Not sure if we can really call that one a revolution because it took so long, and is still occurring even today.  But if we look at the earlier parts of the evolution we have the wheel, the horse/camel, and the boat.

Sailing vessels did more for humanity than any other form of transportation.  It brought villages together, it created commerce on a large scale, and it created exploration.  Communication, Commerce, Advances – these popeyesailorthemes sound fairly similar don’t they?

The sailors of the day were on the cutting edge.  These were tough individuals who understood the mood of the sea, knew how their hull cut the waves, and what type of rigging material could get them to port before the competition.  They were delivery men who were paid on how much and how often they could get a product to market.  A product, in this case, could be grapes from Italy to France or a map of a “New World” with scientific studies of the indigenous people or wildlife.

Then there were the people who just booked charter on a ship, or simply waited at market for the latest products to come in.  Is all of this really starting to sound familiar now?  Sometimes products failed because it was too much for people to stomach.  There might not have been the financial resources available for the expedition or nobody knew what to do with that silk you were hauling back.

Essentially, we had the doers and the beneficiaries.  The sailors and the customers. And all the same principles that govern us today were in existence thousands of years ago.

Today, most of us on DealerRefresh are sailors and our customers are both our coworkers/bosses/vendors and the people who buy or service their cars at our stores.

So, what is the take-away from this article?  Next time you find yourself against a wall, trying to get something accomplished, find some relief in that you are on the cutting edge attempting to take someone on a voyage with you who is just doesn’t get it.  And you’re definitely not the first person trying to get the ship out of port amidst adversity.

And here’s a little quote that popped up in Viigo for me yesterday of Putt’s Law:

“Technology is dominated by two types of people:  those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.”

Disclaimer:  I’m sure I am not the first person to ever compare the information revolution to the transportation evolution, but I didn’t do a single bit of research on this article.  I’m claiming it to be 100% original to me.  It actually stemmed from a Sunday afternoon chat with my grandfather about the evolution of car sales from the horse trade and his struggle with technology.  During that conversation I formed the similarities between these two different periods of human history in an attempt to help him understand things a little better.

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
"All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again."

Alex- you know your post was good if it is giving me an opportunity to quote the best show ever on TV...Battlestar Galactica!

Seriously- what a great post. I am a history maniac and truly believe the best way to figure out what's going to happen is to examine what has already happened. It's laid out in front of you (or behind!) like a roadmap.

I could down many a beer with you discussing some of your thoughts here...the transportation "evolution" vs. "revolution" concept and how it relates to the Information Revolution (BTW- for transportation, I would say it was evolution until about 100 years ago, then became revolution when mobility for the masses was introduced).

As for parallels between transportation and information, how about this? The info stage we are in now is where transportation has been for the past 50 years. Relative to cars, almost everyone (in the U.S.) was able to become mobile and afford more than one vehicle, etc. The concept of "transportation" became ubiquitous. Now, the concept of information is also becoming ubiquitous- it is available everywhere, on demand, via laptop, phone, etc. The parallel is the Transportation revolution made people mobile. The Information revolution made information mobile (mobile devices will become the primary way most of us get our information within the next decade...if not already).

Man, you put me up to some deep thinking while I was eating my lunch. Nice work!
Brian - you buying? I'm there!

We could certainly have a great philosophical debate on this whole thing.

Thanks for the comment!
  • M
    mike sayre
  • July 16, 2009
Alex ur a very wise man.
We should chat one day online over some beers.

I struggle with the same stuff daily, trying too justify my reasoning or ideas to other people, educate them on what's going on with online stuff.

It's freakin exhausting tho, some get it 100%, most get it halfway - then need their hand held, and a few have no fkn clue, and the worst are the ones that don't know shet and then say I'm a stoopid putz that doesn't know anything to the owners, LOL.

We are in an information revolution, you're right on. The whole fighting amongst ATT, Yahoo, Google, MSN, GE, APPLE, AOL, ADOBE, etc......... it's all about the digital asset control online as i'm sure alot of us in the know, know.

Whoever holds the majority of the online content/data/assets/digital/media in the future has the nuts.
(a poker term not being crude, for any noobs out there:)

Google/Youtube has the nuts right now online, period.

I'm ok with that, but Googles needs too adjust their strategy a tad, quit setting ur base price @ zero just too starve off ur competition ~ while u dominate search and creep into other markets with ur free stuff?

No way in hell.

If that continues i'm calling the GOV and blogging my mind out, suggesting we ALL need to get our bailouts from Google.

Google has also hurt the car dealers, and the automotive market over the years, as well as craigslist.org imho!!

That's a whole other subject tho, and I'm going to try and stay on topic here.

We all need too remember capitalism is the USA's backbone. GOV has tamed the Bells phone companies, ATT, microsoft, etc.

If we all worked for Google someday would we be Americans?

I'm just curious.

  • M
    Mike Keesee
  • July 16, 2009
Speaking of cutting edge philosophy, does anyone know how to sent text messages online, if you do not know the carrier? Is there a program or hopefully something free that does this? I'm trying to do my research, but having a road block.

  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • July 16, 2009
@Mike, you should post your question over in the forum. http://forum.dealerrefresh.com
Alex. Welcome back from the Penguin expedition!

I know we've spoken on this over the years, but for the other readers and in line with your post, here are some existential questions for how car are sold (near and dear to all of our hearts):

1) Is here is a picture/video/VIN decode, now "call or email" as good as we can do in online auto?
2) If not 1), then what? Jeff, Alex, help me here if I cross the vendor posting line.
3) Mike Sayer... you are right... in the absence of any means to differentiate you, your brand, your dealership... your gross profit via Google, YouTube, the Internet goes to zero. If that doesn't work for your profitability and sales commission model, what does?

I'm not trying to be a smart ass about it. I mean I can be a real ass sometimes (ask Jeff since we achieved true wisdom at the Ward's Spring Training together), but here I am being serious. What you describe is a very real problem in the industry and behind a number of the very real shakeouts occurring right now.

In the words of Michael Dell, "the Internet is not going away, but flawed business models are."

To date myself, the $24,000 question is "As an industry, how do we effectively harness the power of the Internet for PROFITABLE car sales?"

Low price? Low response rates? High effort? High technology costs? CRM response focused on "Get 'em in to the showroom?"

I'll hold my tongue so I don't cross that vendor line that Jeff reminds me of all the time.

P.S. Alex, all I could think of as I read your post was if the sailors of yore were the explorers, merchants and traders, then us car dealer software entrepreneurs must be Vikings. ;-)

P.P.S. A Battlestar Galactica quote on a car dealer forum? I so have a crush on the actress who plays the hot blonde Cylon. HOT!
Go figure the AI guy has the hots for a robot! ;-)