As soon as I arrived on the exhibit hall floor at this year's NADA Show, I looked up and down the rows of vendors' booths and saw people filling the aisles, shaking hands and standing alongside vendors to watch product demos.
It was the same calendar day that the coronavirus had been declared a pandemic two years earlier, and it struck me that the last time we all gathered for NADA, in February 2020, no one had any idea that we were just weeks away from a massive disruption.
That thought was followed immediately by another: This feels normal.
Over the last two years, I've learned that "normal" is not a constant. The pandemic has profoundly altered our lives, and we're still learning how to live with it. That theme resonated with me throughout my exploration of the show floor. The technology capabilities that vendors displayed this year build on the industrywide digital acceleration that began when dealerships needed to sell vehicles online after stay-at-home orders in the spring of 2020 required them to close their showroom doors. And the tools draw on the insights we've learned about consumer behavior in the two years since, including shoppers' desire to transact more online while also remaining open to visiting brick-and-mortar stores.
I don't expect that the industry will ever revert to the pre-COVID normal of wanting to get customers in the door to complete a purchase. The new normal, at least for now, is a blend of the two approaches.
Dealers, what technology got your attention at the show? What's now the normal practice at your stores? Email me at [email protected] As always, I'm interested in hearing your stories.