Where are you spending your dollars on digital?

SAN FRANCISCO -- The impact of digital tools on dealerships’ marketing has grown exponentially. Those tools have been a hot topic at the last few NADA conventions. But it may be time for the focus to shift.

“Digital marketing has left the building,” Scott Gruwell, general manager of Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix, told me on the sidelines of an automotive lenders conference. “The real growth in dealers’ use of technology in the next few years will be in operations.”

You could see it at the exhibitors at the American Financial Services Association’s Vehicle Finance Conference. Vendors there, like those at the NADA Expo, are offering services unheard of a decade or so ago to improve operations such as F&I.

Open Dealer Exchange, a joint venture between powerhouse rivals CDK Global and Reynolds and Reynolds, demonstrated software that automates loan processing between lenders and dealers — another step toward paperless transactions, with no need to rekey data.

Another vendor offered automated systems that send text reminders to consumers a few days before a car payment is due. Folks who don’t miss a payment don’t meet the repo man.

Several offered ways to accurately and fairly evaluate consumers, often millennials, who have thin files or no files because they simply have no credit history.

Spending on marketing is always a bet. Sophisticated digital marketing can boost the odds, sort of like counting cards, but some of the money is still going to be lost.

Dealers who use digital tools to simplify, speed or otherwise improve their operations, though, gain an advantage that will pay off in the current good times and the future not-as-good times.



You can reach James B. Treece at jtreece@crain.com

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