We are in the midst of The Digital Revolution and to learn more about both the current state of play and trends for the future, AADA Convention Director, Patrick Tessier, attended the 2018 Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas from October 16 to 18.

The exhibitor-based program featured a large Expo and a plethora of new digital products and solutions for dealerships, as well as keynote addresses, special presentations and round table sessions.

Of the top 100 US Dealership Groups, 98 attended Digital Dealer 25 in order to stay ahead of the technology curve.

The program delivered more than 100 educational sessions and over 70 hours of presentations led by top dealership executives, trainers, and consultants. With over 130 technology-focused providers at the Digital Dealer Exhibit Hall, attendees had a smorgasbord of industry speakers, peer-to-peer opportunities and exhibit hall offerings to choose from, all carefully designed to impart groundbreaking business strategies for dealerships.

During the three-day event Dealers had the opportunity to gain all the knowledge and ideas they required to map out an actionable growth strategy, learn what the best of the best dealerships are doing now to generate record profits and understand what fuels the passion that drives the automotive industry’s most progressive, highest-grossing dealership groups in the US.

At the Peer Strategy Roundtables, in the company of peers from similarly sized dealerships, they sampled the latest products and services in the digital realm, learned best practices and heard new ideas.

Keynote speakers included executives from the top 100 dealerships in the US.

SpinCar was the standout product, with its revolutionary 360-degree photographic mapping technology attracting rave reviews. Other highlights included the keynote address on ridesharing, hosted by Lyft; a session on the ‘Subscribe and Drive’ subscription model that could change the way Dealers do business, and a customer communications product called Gubagoo, which incorporates text, video, Facebook Messenger and Marketplace and allows Dealers to Live Chat with customers.

Google penalty expert and algorithm analyst, Dr Marie Haynes, gave a fascinating presentation on Search Engine Optimisation while, to borrow a line from Mark Twain, Matt Weinberg from Drive Motors assured delegates that the death of the car salesperson had been greatly exaggerated.

One of the most important and revealing insights came from James Moore, digital sales expert and Chief Revenue Officer for Simpli.fi, who drove home the point that without having their own data, digital tools and marketing are next to useless for Dealers.

“There was so much information, so many products and speakers,” Mr Tessier said. “What I learned is that you need to have a plan before you attend a convention – you need to know what you are going there to learn or you’ll be overwhelmed.”

Other program features included:

Dealer ops and management

Delegates learned how to optimise their human capital. Educational sessions in this category included leadership, management of single/multi-store locations, succession planning, talent management and retention, and employee recruitment/selection.

Employee hiring and training

Experts taught attendees how to build and maintain a top-performing team by recruiting the best talent, improving onboarding processes and creating an exceptional culture.

Compliance and risk

There was a focus on avoiding costly and damaging mistakes by staying current on regulatory and legal matters, OEM standards, best practices, data/cyber protection and fraud prevention.


Attendees learned proven leadership and management coaching techniques, as well as policies and procedures, to increase productivity, profitability and growth.

Reputation and loyalty

Valuable information was shared on how to secure loyal customers through strong branding and reputation management strategies, i.e. cause-based marketing, customer satisfaction, retention programs, etc.

Succession planning

Very much an issue for many Dealers, the keys to securing a longstanding future were shared via insights into factors/trends in dealership evaluation, mentoring personnel and methodologies for seamless transition.

Disruptors and emerging trends

Dealers were equipped to thrive in the new world of automotive by preparing for emerging technology, i.e. AI, new concepts (ridesharing, connected cars) and industry disruptors.

Sales strategies/variable ops

The average buyer visits just 1.6 dealerships while car shopping, down from 10 years ago when buyers visited an average of five dealerships. Educational sessions in this category covered e-commerce, BDC sales strategies and CRM solutions for both new- and pre-owned vehicles.

Customer experience

Delegates were shown how to create an exceptional and seamless buying experience across all departments and stages through the path to purchase, i.e. inquiry to showroom.

Lead management

Sales experts conducted sessions on how to manage a variety of outbound and inbound leads and customer data. This encompassed fine-tuned BDC operations, including lead to salesperson handoff, appointment setting/follow-up procedures, call tracking and managing customer data in their CRM.

Lead handling/sales technique

Sales teams learned what to do with the lead after it comes in. They were informed on best practices, proper follow-up, maximising every interaction, overcoming pushback and dealing with specific buyers/scenarios.

Pre-owned sales

Again, experts shared their knowledge of how to handle, manage and convert leads to used car buyers, with action and language that communicates value and builds trust and loyalty.

F&I strategies

Lessons included transforming the F&I process from a source of frustration to a revenue-enhancing compliment to a sale; how to expedite the F&I process, earn trust and keep buyers engaged and sell more F&I products.

Fixed operations

The focus was on how to handle and convert leads, satisfy customers in all scenarios and increase revenue in parts sales, preventative maintenance, service and repair.

Marketing and advertising

The average car shopper is exposed to over 5,000 ad messages per day. Sessions in this category covered digital and traditional marketing, and shared how the USA’s highest grossing dealerships use the latest marketing strategies and technologies to generate record-breaking profits.

PPC advertising

Attendees were taught to maximise the performance and ROI of paid online ad campaigns through strategic bidding strategies, use of planning tools, keyword selection, reporting and analysis, and targeting.

SEO/SEM strategies

This stream showed how to increase online visibility through organic search efforts and paid ad campaigns, and shared content marketing strategies to drive traffic, link-building techniques, and on-page optimisation.

Data and analytics

Delegates learned how to extract, manage and use data and analytics for real-time engagement, business intelligence, actionable insights, KPI measurement and ROI analysis.

Social media

Such a vital and pervasive influence in our daily lives. Dealers heard how to perfect their social media results by learning the latest tools and techniques for content marketing (live streaming, Facebook Marketplace, etc) and advertising on social media.

Traditional marketing

Lessons were given on how to best use offline marketing channels (TV, radio, direct mail and print), and how to integrate traditional channels with in-store and digital strategy.

Mobile marketing

Delegates heard how to drive growth and stronger consumer engagement through mobile marketing. They learned about mobile creative, design and UX, messaging, targeting, consumer trends, analytics and attribution.

Video marketing

This under-used tool was addressed, with instructions on how to leverage the power of video by learning production techniques, innovative and practical videos to create, as well as distribution channels and strategies for maximum reach and engagement.

Email marketing

Marketing personnel were taught how to improve their email marketing efforts by learning the latest in email design, targeting, automation and personalisation, technical tips for optimisation, best practices and strategy integration.

Website/digital retailing

Vehicle merchandising tools and techniques were shared so as to maintain compelling and accurate vehicle listings online and to assess how they’re performing.

Fixed operations

Service managers learned new marketing and advertising strategies and campaigns (seasonal, factory recall, etc) to attract and retain customers for their service and parts department.

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