NADA Special: Marketing and Selling Vehicles in 2023 and Beyond

Greg Uland Hi, I'm Greg Uland with Reynolds and Reynolds and this is Connected. I get to talk today with Colin Carrasquillo, the digital marketing manager at Nielsen Automotive Group. They have 11 stores that he's responsible for all the digital marketing. So, Colin, thanks so much for talking.

Colin Carrasquillo Thanks for having me. Really happy to be here. First and foremost, we have to say we are happy Reynolds customers. Loyal to you guys, you're loyal to us, but thank you once again. Let's get into it.

Greg Uland Well, we appreciate the partnership and everything you do for us, but want to talk with you definitely about online presence, online retailing, what that means in today's world, what that means for you. There's so many different definitions. And what that purchase path can look like for consumers and what, frankly, the selling path can look like for the dealership, too. So I want to get into a bunch of that. But let me just start maybe can set the stage for you specifically, where you're at in the country to give people an idea of region. And then what percentage of consumers are interacting online and how they're doing it and then we can just go from there.

Colin Carrasquillo Absolutely. Now, so great questions. From a marketing perspective, as a digital marketer, everything in this space right now, you can say digital as a little touch or input or impact on, especially when it comes to the transaction, which is what we're going to be talking about today. But Nielsen Automotive Group, as Greg said, 11 stores in Northeast. It's New Jersey, we're out there. If you're from Jersey, represent. But with that online is really important and a focus point that dealers need to hone in on. What we're seeing right now. One, we actually need to take a step back and say to ourselves, okay, as dealers, don't do yourself a disservice by not providing customers options. As you and I were just chatting about, there are customers that would still come into the dealership, the old walk up, walk in, still happens. Customers, the majority of customers, would start their deal online leveraging e-commerce tools. Or the technology that we have, and that's 80% of customers actually might even be more. Now, I was in a study the other day where 92% now of customers start their journey online and as you've mentioned, many different touchpoints for each customer. Then of course, there's the customer that wants to do everything 100% online. So first and foremost, we need to do ourselves the service of providing customers those various options to transact the way they want. But we've seen a real explosion in engagement, and this is coming out of the COVID pandemic and this is coming out of the inventory challenges we've been navigating. But that consumer is a very digitally tech savvy consumer.

Greg Uland Yeah. So where do you see the biggest drop off? So when you think about people doing a deal online, you have, to your point, various points. So certainly you're going to see people shopping for the vehicle, looking at options. You're going to see people looking for price. You're going to see people looking for payment. At some point, a majority of them are dropping off. Whether that's at the credit app, whether that's at uploading a driver's license, whether that's at the test drive, there's various dropoff points. Where are you seeing the biggest percentage dropping off and then coming into the store?

Colin Carrasquillo The biggest percentage dropping off, believe it or not, and this is just from the platforms that we're able to track, right? Is after a customer is building out their payments and gets their specific payment on the vehicle that they want, with the monthly terms that they want, they may get to value their trade, but the majority of customers are actually just calculating a payment and then exiting the platform. So what we need to do a better job of is not only internally but for the customer, for the customer experience, ensure that whatever e-commerce tool you are utilizing in your dealership, your team has an exceptional understanding of the tool. So they are then able to educate the customer because we look at it as, alright, who's the player in the space that we're all trying to be? Amazon, right? Dealers need to be like Amazon, but what happens there is we're not Amazon. And so you need to ensure that you have these tools that you're actually leveraging, that your people understand so they can teach the customer, right? So I hope that makes sense and answers the question. But yes, believe it or not, it's just the payment valuation, monthly terms, so on and so forth, and then you're out.

Greg Uland Why do you think that is? Why do you think they don't go further? Is it because they don't trust it? Is it because they don't understand it? Is it because they're just not comfortable with it? What do you think the reasoning is there?

Colin Carrasquillo So I'm going to be honest with you and don't hate me out there. E-commerce providers are partners of the dealers, but the process is still too cumbersome, even though the goal is to provide a better customer experience because customers don't want to interact with us. Yeah, what we're actually seeing is that they will do a portion of their deal online, but they still are coming to the dealership to see the car, touch the car, take a test drive, so on and so forth. So the reason why I don't believe they're getting further in the funnel is because although we're saying we're going to try to make the process frictionless by having all of these different things that have to be done before time, that the person shows up is actually creating a little more friction because the biggest thing is the disconnect between what the customer's done online. And then what happens when they arrive at the dealership. We've seen a lot of issues where a customer can start building their deal out online. They surrendered very valuable information to us. And then once it gets down to the sale for the customer, they start up they greet us. Hi, how can I help you today? What are you interested in? And so I believe knowing that and seeing what you actually have to go through on these tools, it's not as easy as I believe it can be.

Greg Uland Yeah. So making it simple. And the other thing, too, you're talking about starting over. You're starting that deal over to. So the customer thinks that they know what they're going to pay, but they haven't factored in half of the deal, which is the trade in. They haven't potentially submitted a credit app to get approved for that rate with that bank. So it's kind of a guess. It's a pretty simple math equation versus having them go through making it easy so they can go through a bigger portion of that where they get to 683.92 is my monthly payment. And when I come into the store 683.92 is my monthly payment, correct. So being able to streamline that and make that easy to get to that point. Because you're right. People are going to want to come in and test drive the car for a long time. It's a big emotional purchase. And we want to touch it. We want to feel it, want to sell it. We want to know what it rides like and what the features are like in a lot of cases. So you're going to want to come in, but to get to a payment that is real and to get it to structure a deal that is real, it's not a lead. It's not an appointment. It's a deal. When you come to the store and the salesperson has a deal structure literally in the CRM or the desking tool or even in an app. And I just having a single deal is really where we need to go.

Colin Carrasquillo Correct. So with that point, and I'd like to say this for the dealer community out there listening. Virtual commerce, e-commerce, virtual retailing, whatever you want to call it, it is not a lead generator or lead provider. It is a sales generator or sales tool that needs to be leveraged at the dealership. And I was once told something which I will always say when we talk about digital retailing. Essentially 80% of what happens, the end result of that outcome. So whether it's a transaction or a customer bounces, 80% is actually the process that you have in place at the dealership. Only 20% is the real technology. And because there's tools out there that are a dime a dozen and they all do the same thing. But how are you handling that customer who is in fact a different customer than someone who would just normally submit a standard form fill or chat through the website? Each one of them has to be handled a little differently. But yeah, your point is the consistency. You got to ensure that there's consistency from the online experience to what happens at the in-store brick and mortar experience for that customer.

Greg Uland So let's take it one step further. You're thinking about somebody going through some portion online, coming into store because it's one transition point. Are you seeing at all people coming into the store and then saying, can I review and sign this paperwork at home? Like, are you seeing a transition, a second transition point from in-store back to remote?

Colin Carrasquillo So we are not seeing that person essentially saying, hey, let me go home and consider this. But what we are seeing is that there's a need for a salesperson to actually reengage with the customer based upon the information that the customer filled out in the tools. And so it's the offline, I should say, your online experience once again offline in the dealership, but actually leveraging the tool right in front of the customer. So hey, Mr. or Mrs. Jones, whatever it may be, let me walk you through the deal. This is what they built out, that they saw. You're building trust, you're showing transparency. But if there were things that they did not submit at that point in time, maybe they didn't value their trade or when they did a walk around, maybe they didn't provide photos to you to see. So now you can go and you can walk around the trade in. If they have a trade and you can show them, okay, this is what your vehicle will go towards on the deal, what it's worth, so on and so forth. Here are some other missing pieces. And essentially you're becoming a guide, leveraging the technology. 80, 20. 80% the process, what you have in place 20% the technology, leverage it in store. Biggest missing piece right now.

Greg Uland What are your thoughts on how to leverage that? So traditionally, I'm a salesperson. I have a desk that I sit down at. I have a PC and customer sits across from me and we talk about it. I may or may not share my screen and we go through it on screen or we may just talk about it. Basic. And what are your thoughts on personal devices like an iPad or along those lines to go through some of those selling options? You mentioned the same in-store experience you have online. So do you see that being more powerful on a bigger screen, like a desktop or on a handheld device, like a tablet?

Colin Carrasquillo Ding, ding, ding. So what you want to do. One, make sure you have mobility, too. We're all mobile people. There's tons of people walking around the show today. The whole point is we all have some. Then in our pockets. Cell phones. That's what we're used to looking at. It's a mobile device. It doesn't hinder us. It doesn't buckle us down to one specific location. So what we do see is that you actually want the desktop component of it, but supplemented with something that you can carry around easily, like an iPad or a tablet. Because with that, what you will do is you'll be able to walk with the customer, you'll be able to go see the vehicle, touch it, what they wanted to do while also being 100% transparent with them right then and there, where they can see what you're looking at or what you're putting in or what they're putting in, for that matter. But we also need to understand, and this is just a trend that we see with digital, although the majority of traffic coming to a website is primarily from a mobile device, what we did see is actually an increase in desktop traffic over the time period of COVID and even after because customers are starting looking at the payments and things on their phones and the screens are just too dang tiny. So then they're going back to their houses and they're actually then completing more of the transaction on a desktop device. It's almost like, okay, yeah, let me look at this. I'll look at it later when I can really hunker down and see what I'm doing here. So that's what we're seeing with that type of technology.

Greg Uland That's great. And then talking about the in-store experience a little bit, too, so they get in there. And you mentioned, I think before we started recording about you have different franchises, you have 11 stores with a bunch of different franchises. Each of those franchises has their own requirements, or at least preferences for different tools. VR tools and things like that. So what do you see when you have a VR tool online? You have a CRM and or desking tool in the store, you have your DMS or F&I in the store into accounting, like there's all these different pieces and you guys may be a little different with a little bit more streamlined of a process. But there's certainly got to be some disconnect at some point. Can you talk about that a little bit and what that process looks like?

Colin Carrasquillo So one, the disconnect does exist and it's very frustrating because it does go back to what we were talking about with the customer experience, having that disconnected experience. A customer does something online and then they show up at the store and they have to start over or it was not what they did online. Very, very frustrating for the customer, ends up being very, very frustrating for the dealer. But internally, yes, to address what you're discussing with the process. Or the tools that you have in place, the tech you do need to ensure that, yes, like you said, you have a streamlined flow, that these tools do communicate with each other. And that is sometimes the biggest pain point for dealers, especially when representing various OEMs. You do have a requirement to use a specific tool if you want to be a certified vendor or excuse me, a certified vendor if they are. But even for dealers to remain certified, you have to use a specific tool. It works both ways not to get too much into that, but from a tier one level, the OEM has access to all this wonderful information. That's why they want it in their tool. They can leverage that to bolster their marketing campaigns, which then on a tier three level, we hopefully can capture that and then get people into the dealership and convert them into sales. But when the tools themselves do not communicate, that's where you have a lot of trouble, a lot of problems. And it's even pain points that we go through and experience for sure.

Greg Uland Yeah. And the hope I think for everybody is we can work together as really a collective ecosystem to make this stuff work more cohesively and to not have those situations where if you want to sell an electric vehicle, you have to use XYZ platform and move to something where it's if you want to sell an electric vehicle, that's great. Sell it. But how do we get there? How do we work together to make that feasible for everybody involved?

Colin Carrasquillo I can tell you, and I don't normally say I'll speak for people, a bunch of people. I am one person. I have my own opinions. But what I will say is the dealer community is absolutely screaming that, yearning for that. And whether it's APIs where all these tools can communicate together. But right now that is the biggest problem is because they don't. And so that synergy between all the tools, whatever it may be, the goal is sell the car. Manufacturers, they get paid on producing vehicles, but we still need to move cars. And so that's it. I think if we could crack that nut where it becomes, hey, how do we all get all of these wonderful companies that are here at this wonderful NADA to work together and communicate together? Efficiencies would be identified. And I think the whole process could be made much, much smoother.

Greg Uland Yeah, it's good. Something else I wanted to touch base with you on while I have you is thinking about the signing ceremony. So getting a little bit offline, a little more in line. But. But bear with me for a second. So let's say you have somebody in the store is buying the car. They have a buyer who is out of state. And they both need to clearly sign the documents. They want to do it electronically. Do it digitally. Are you handling that today or maybe you don't see it. Maybe I'm just going down a path that isn't going anywhere.

Colin Carrasquillo We do have some of those instances for sure. The services or the stores, I should say, are all now DSGS, they have this big safeguards coming through. And so all that technology is out there, we're able to do that. But it's all done actually digitally because then it has to go up in the cloud because we are all now paperless showrooms. Which wow, who would have thought the dealer space would have ever gotten there? But they did. So but that's actually what ends up happening. You sign either on docuSign's or sign on iPads and you're able to do that and have the digital documents.

Greg Uland Yeah. And being able to handle different buying scenarios and that's what you see. I think that's one of the biggest struggles is there's so many different ways to basically buy a car. But from the dealership's perspective, we don't want 100 different ways to sell a car. It needs to be a single process for a lot of reasons, one, efficiency. But two, customer experience, three compliance. And making sure that it's smooth and seamless. So having ways to handle those different scenarios is really important. I wanted to ask you too, going back to the beginning of our conversation earlier, bounced around a little bit, but it's great thinking about online selling. And you mentioned a vast majority of your customers start online, do some portion of it, get to where they kind of know the monthly payments and they come into the store. Are you starting to see any traction with online buying, like through I want to go all the way through deliver the car to my house.

Colin Carrasquillo So this was another wonderful session. We've done it. We've done in the past at some of the stores. And so I will say, yes, it can be done. It does exist. And this was from a wonderful session that I heard here. And it was ultimately we say we offer this online buying this online retailing, and someone can go on the website and have a call to action where it says get today's price or start my deal or yada, yada, whatever the call to action you're using is. And then they go on and they use the tool. And it's the same stuff that they've actually been using for years before. It's just all packaged together. So you have your value trades together. You can add your F&I products protection plan, so on and so forth, build out the payments, choose the vehicle. It's more all comprehensive. But the point is those tools existed. So do I see more of it happening? I think what we're going to see is the majority of people will continue to operate the way that they're operating, which is start a lot of the deal, do a lot of the deal online to save time. But then they do get to a point where they are either frustrated or there's friction or they don't have time to do it on their mobile device or at home, which then at that point, the information's already to us and that's when it's on us to do what we do best, which is now listen to the customer's wants and needs, identify a vehicle, so on and so forth based upon what they put and then go from there and ultimately sell the car. I think it could work. But I said something to you earlier and I said it on here, but I'll say it again. We need to provide the options for the customer. And what you said just before stuck out to me because it's true. We just need to sell cars. We don't need 100 ways to sell cars. But what we do need to understand is that for the consumer, we actually do need to provide them not 100 ways, but ways to transact. Now we need to be ready for those ways that consumer may enter our shopping process, the funnel.

Greg Uland Yeah, hundred percent. So as the digital marketing manager, obviously you're focused in a lot of different areas. You're talking about digital retailing, you're talking about your educated on the in-store experience, in that transition and blending that. But thinking about digital marketing in that arena, that's changed a lot in the last two years. And even execution of what you do and you have your proactive marketing where you're trying to get attention. And drive demand. If you're reactive marketing, where you're trying to capture demand. And those are two different things, but they need to sync up clearly. So I don't know with inventory where it's at and with this state of the industry, how has digital marketing, we'll just leave it broad like that. What changed from your perspective? I mean you had to adapt a lot.

Colin Carrasquillo Yes. So well, that's one of the things I think. Well, one, dealers and digital marketers, we were like this, right? And so we were always rise to the occasion, let's say. The dealer community is exceptionally resilient. And when you look at all of these different factors that we have been battling against. So COVID, inventory challenges, affordability at this point in time. So marketing actually is impacted by all of those external factors based upon, like you said, messaging we're putting out there, consumer actual interest, our intent, our consumers going about looking for a new vehicle or starting the deal, whether they're using these digital retailing tools or they're calling the dealership up. So for me, it's changed quite drastically. And I've been with the Nielsen organization for five and a half years. But even within that time frame, like you said, things have sped up, adoption of technology has sped up. But overall, digital marketing has just become a way more sophisticated way to generate opportunities for a dealership, for sales and service, for things that's all works one in the same.

Greg Uland So yeah, hundred percent. So how have you shifted targeting of customers? Because there's advertising. And then there's a little bit more direct marketing. And I think direct marketing is becoming much more automated where we can we can capture a larger audience doing less work, essentially. So it's a highly customized, highly targeted. But how have you embraced that or how has that changed for you, too?

Colin Carrasquillo So it's challenging right now in the sense that especially with affordability, as I had mentioned, you need to actually think of a couple of different tactics. And what I will say before I do answer the question as a tactic from a tier three level. So a dealer, you almost need to take a tier one approach. And what I mean by that, for the folks out there, national advertising campaigns, which manufacturers usually step up, they'll have a national campaign. They had rebates and incentives, and we're really not seeing that anymore. So what we need to do, first and foremost from a digital marketing perspective, is actually depending on the brand, dealership. This is also going to be different for all dealers out there, but understanding that without that tier one support, you, on the dealer level, on tier three, need to make a tier one type of message, but do it efficiently in your market. And there are tons of avenues through digital advertising marketing where you can do that, whether it's YouTube campaigns, whether it's local streaming campaigns. These are digital aspects that now you're creating brand awareness that, hey, inventory's back. Whether your dealership might step up and say, hey, this week, whatever it is, we're doing $1,000 additional Nielsen cash. The customer's not going to know that unless you're getting that out to the masses. And that is not something that unfortunately, if someone's searching for Jeep Grand Cherokee or whatever, Laredo near me, you can have that in your ad copy. But because it's so succinct, because it's a fleeting moment, it's actually the best move is to create the awareness on that higher level efficiently, as I mentioned, and then being able to capture the content that's generated. So once people see that video, then they can either click through or they can go on Google, they could do a search, or now I'm hitting them with the same special on Facebook, so on and so forth. So understanding the ecosystem and actually now activating based upon what the need is in the market right now, we see a need for tier one advertising. And then the second part of your question, which is a very great question, just in general, what are we doing with the consumer? How data has really become everything we need to do one of three things? Or as I said earlier, it's understanding. First-party data messaging has become exceptionally customized. Okay, 2025, we have third-party cookies going away, the cookie crumbles. So what that means out there is that individuals, when they used to go to your website or would go to a different outlet, would get pixelated or a cookie, and then they would travel to a different site and lo and behold, your inventory or whatever it is, is following that person around. They're looking at it. They're seeing it on the sites that they might go to on a regular basis. That's no more 2025. So what we need to do is understand our first-party data, because as I've been saying, what happens here is imagine Googl. Imagine Facebook, two separate entities, both very powerful marketing tools. So Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has YouTube as well. Google's the number one use search engine in the world. YouTube is the number two. So here are platforms that no longer are going to communicate back and forth like a Facebook. Normally you'd be able to advertise and track that same person. Greg, you as a shopper, I'd be able to serve you ads on Facebook and know that because you were cookie and pixel that you could then get the same ads on YouTube and Google, so on and so forth. What these entities are becoming is what I like to call walled gardens. Okay, so Google YouTube, they're having their own little garden party over there. It looks really nice. Facebook's having its own garden party. Instagram maybe drank a little too much dancing around. But the whole idea is to get invited to each party. And the way you do that is by understanding your first-party data, the CRM data that you own, dissecting that. So we had said, understand the data, the three D's. Understand the data, dissect the data, and then deliver the data. Now you're going to need to use that and upload it into those respective channels that are now siloed. They no longer communicate. In order to market to that customer across their path to purchase.

Greg Uland I think that's a gap both today and what's going to continue to be a broader gap going forward is you can have the data right in most dealerships. Do you think about your customer base? You guys with 11 stores, you probably have 700,000 customers in your database and a lot of information about who they are, where they live, what they drive for their spouses, how much they make, a ton of information. But what do you do with it? And taking that action and that next step is really the biggest gap that I see. Because you hear a lot about a CDP, as an example. And it matters. It's important and there's no reason to disregard it. But you'd need it to be managed, right? And then once it's managed, then you need to do something with it. You got to take action. And that's where we really need to focus and deliver when it comes to marketing is you have the information. How do you execute?

Colin Carrasquillo So I could not agree with you more. It almost makes me think you had like a bug over there listening to what I was saying at a vendor presentation. But yes, these data platforms, as you're talking about, it's like the buzzword of 2023 and NADA 2023. And this is to the dealers out there, it's great to have all the data and all the information, but then I challenge you, what are you going to do with it? You can see what lead sources might not be providing the best outcomes or results for you. You may be able to identify a process problem on a salesperson level. That's how granular these KPIs and all these platforms can and are getting. But the fact of the matter is, yes, Greg and I will ask the same question because it's a great one. But you're right, I just want to reiterate it. What are you going to do with that information? So the activation is really what's going to be key for 2023 and beyond dealers that understand it and activate the data will be very successful. Dealers that just have the data and continue doing exactly what they're doing now, hey, you might be okay. Like I said, we're a resilient bunch, but it's going to get tricky. It's going to get tricky if you don't have a plan in place to understand the first-party data for sure.

Greg Uland Yeah, and your point a minute ago I think plays into it really nicely because you're talking about creating the tier one message yourself. And and frankly, as a dealer, you think about the budget that a tier one has. So give me a manufacturer that you guys have.

Colin Carrasquillo Stellantis Chrysler, Dodge Ram.

Greg Uland So yeah, so Ramp commercial is a great example, right? You think back to Ram commercials or Jeep commercials or whatever. Two years ago, three years ago. There are a lot different today. And if you don't see them now, but if you wanted to put something out there that would cover the same amount of population as what they did, the budget that it would take is just astronomical. So being able to deliver that message, but do it, and to your point on platforms and customize the message for the individual is really, really important.

Colin Carrasquillo Correct. So that's it. It's doing a big message on a smaller scale. And now is a great time to do it. The space really in automotive is uncharted. And there are dealers that are doing this and they're doing it with success. And the fact of the matter is why? Why not give it a try? Because once we were talking about budgets, it's a very, very cost effective way to get your message in front of a lot of people in your hyper local market. And that's the biggest thing, is these are your customers. They're right in your backyard. You don't want to lose that opportunity to a dealer that is doing this and doing it well, because I guarantee you right now is a land grab. We are trying with inventory levels coming back. Dealers are definitely getting a little more aggressive with marketing for that reason.

Greg Uland Yeah, for sure. So we've went kind of all over the place. What haven't we touched on, what haven't we talked about that we should?

Colin Carrasquillo I mean the big thing was first-party data which we talked about. As far as that information, I would challenge dealers and we use a company that does a lot of our email appends, ensuring that we have clean data. And deduplication in the CRM, which is a massive, massive issue that I know a lot of dealers run into, is having multiple customer profiles, having vehicles on file for customers that they haven't owned or so on and so forth. And that is just muddying the capabilities that we as digital marketers and as dealers will be able to do moving forward with the things that we had discussed and chatted about. So find yourselves a vendor partner that you trust that can offer you services that would help you clean your data, fill in the missing pieces of the data. You'd be surprised how ugly it can get out there. There are dealers where there's customers in your database that have just the first name associated with them, you say, hey, I'm going to send out an email, blast all my customers. Well, guess what? They're not getting it because you don't have an email on file or phone number on file, so on and so forth. So ensure that information's in there. And then, we're stoked for 2023, 2024 forecasts. I know people are saying, hey, it's looking a little rainy out there in terms of what may come. But I always say be the rainbow on a rainy day, like it's a challenge. We need to rise to the challenge and we're ready for it.

Greg Uland Sounds great. Well, Colin Carrasquillo, thank you very much for joining. I appreciate it. And have a great rest of your show.

Colin Carrasquillo Thank you.