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In High Demand

The demand for digital marketing tools at NADA 2012 was a tell-tale sign of the industry’s changing attitude toward the Internet.

March 2012, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Jennifer Washington

From the bustling show floor to the crowded sessions inside the Las Vegas Convention Center, mobile tools and digital marketing solutions were all the rage at this year’s National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention & Expo.

The average age of vehicles on the road today is at an all-time high, consumer confidence is on the rise and the auto finance market is loosening. That combination of factors should help dealers release what many believe to be an overflow of pent-up demand.

The tools exhibitors showcased — from enhanced CRMs, consumer- and dealer-facing mobile tools, lead-management systems and social media-management systems — offered better functionality and ease of use.

The ability to customize websites, mobile websites and apps on the fly also was a hot topic this year. “With the smartphone, you’ve got the web in your pocket. The mobile app just makes it a lot easier to communicate,” said Mike Martinez, DME-automotive’s chief marketing officer.

Third-party sites like AutoTrader.com, eBay Motors and marketing firm QAR Codes also were out in force to preach the importance of lead response times. “Dealers should be contacting the customer as soon as they bid,” said Clayton Stanfield, eBay’s manager of dealer training. “You can use that opportunity to tell customers what you have to offer in terms of financing, products and any deals your store might be offering.”

Whether you’re a full-fledged Internet dealer or you’re looking to set up an online strategy, here is a sampling of solutions that ruled the show floor at NADA 2012.

-->(Click here to view mobile tools product gallery)<--

Mobile Tools

Mobile was a hot-ticket item in the aisle ways, driven by a new crop of mobile tools designed to allow dealers to manage everything from inventory and customer data to the performance of their stores.

“Mobile has to be part of any dealer’s technological platform strategy,” said Glen Garvin, general product manager for Dominion Dealer Solutions. His company’s new Be Back app alerts customers when they’re in a positive equity position with their vehicle. If they’re ready to trade it in, the app will then alert the dealership.

ADP Dealer Services’ DriveMotion dealer portal, available this summer, doubles as a customer-facing tool for

Drive DMS users. The app mirrors the system in that it offers financing, trade-in, service and CRM tools on a single portal.

Consumer-facing apps also are getting smarter, as companies like  AutoMotionTV, MobileAppLoader and Mobi-Drives continue to develop new ways to keep their dealer-branded apps on car buyers’ phones. Standard features include service schedulers, click-to-call functionality and the ability to issue service coupons. Newer features aimed at keeping these apps relevant to customers include parking finders, driving directions, flashlights, Facebook accessibility and chat features.

Companies like AutoMotionTV also are helping dealers track how their apps are performing, while other firms like MobileAppLoader are equipping their applications with VIN and QR Code scanning. MobiDrives, which currently offers three versions of its dealer app, allows dealers to keep a three-year record of a vehicle’s service history. It also provides full integration with leading DMS providers, a feature that is becoming key as dealers ramp up their mobile marketing efforts.

DMEautomotive takes its mobile tool’s DMS connection a step further by integrating it with other tools like Journey, the company’s new customer marketing program. “That builds the muscle memory necessary so that the next time you have alerts
or messages, the consumer will remember to go to the app,” said Mike Martinez, the company’s chief marketing officer. 

Mobile CRM tools also were popular inside the exhibit hall. Car-Research XRM’s Mobile CRM  solution was designed to allow dealers to use their smartphones to update customer accounts, access sales and service stats, check inventory and follow up on leads. Every action taken is recorded into the central CRM system, allowing salespeople to “communicate with their customers and complete CRM tasks while their away from their desks,” said Patrick Kelly, the company’s president and COO.

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