We were thrilled so many of you joined us for the Digital Dealer 23 Conference & Expo, Sept. 18-20th at the Paris Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV! The event was filled with 100+ progressive educational sessions, innovation and discovery, and opportunities to develop invaluable relationships and learn from others in the industry.
Day 1: Brainstorming, Cutting-Edge Technology, & Next-Level Strategies
First on the agenda, was the Peer Strategy Roundtables, bringing together dealership personnel from across the U.S. into one room for the ultimate brainstorming session! Having the opportunity to meet with other dealers from similarly-sized stores, allowed attendees to learn firsthand from other dealers’ unique experiences, successes and challenges, many of which parallel the ones at their own store.
Shortly after the roundtables, sessions kicked off with presentations from Andrew Diffenderfer and Tannis McKenna (Google auto specialists) on the four pillars that form the Google Dealer Playback; Kevin Frye of Jeff Wyler Automotive Family on how to be successful in tomorrow’s market; and Andrew Myers of What’s Next Media on how to use and create sales-oriented videos to build value for your dealership.
Next, was the Exhibit Hall Grand Opening, unveiling an impressive 125 exhibiting companies from across 22 product/service categories, including auction tools, BDC tools and training, CRM and DMS solutions, inventory management, video tools and marketing, valuation and re-marketing, and more.
After a short break for lunch, it was back to the session rooms to learn about effectively measuring ROI from Facebook advertising campaigns (Greg Resnick, Facebook); managing an effective Quick Lube Service Lane by using proven sales skills and processes that improve customer retention and increase customer pay gross profits (Don Reed, DealerPro Training); top employee retention strategies most dealers miss that are costing them profit (Glenn Pasch, PCG Companies); and how to use organic and paid search data analytics to optimize your website and funnel search user experience (Kent Wilson, Dan Cummins Chevrolet Buick).
After the breakout sessions concluded for the day, came Tech Tank, a competition modeled after the show “Shark Tank.” The competition was moderated by Eliana Raggio of DealerOn (known as the “Webinar Goddess”) and featured contestants from iReconCars powering MyCarPedigree, DriveCentric, Uber for Business, Cognosos, and SAVYTM by EasyCare. Each contestant presented their latest innovative product, followed by an intense round of Q&A with the “sharks” (Erich K. Gail of Cardinale Automotive Group, John Luciano of Street Volkswagen, and Bryan Armstrong of VW SouthTowne). After the audience casted their votes live, SAVYTM by EasyCare was announced as the winner!
Automotive thought leader Brian Benstock, GM and VP of Paragon Honda and Paragon Acura, delivered the afternoon Keynote Address. During his presentation, “Relentless – Doubling Our Business With Frictionless Transactions,” Brian discussed Paragon’s record-breaking year, and the forward-thinking strategy they are using to meet their goal of doubling their business in just 24 months. Their strategy: a frictionless transaction for the consumer that revolutionizes the purchase process, and ultimately creates a “store without walls.” Brian inspired the audience to adopt the same ‘relentless’ mentality that he first read about in a book by athletic trainer Tim Grover, which re-affirmed his belief in the “next level.” He touched on how to recognize industry disruptors and their strategies threatening the auto industry and dealer model, and how to develop a plan to compete with them.
As the Keynote let out, attendees gathered in the Exhibit Hall for a Cocktail Reception. Dealers explored the technology solutions on the Exhibit Floor, scored some exciting giveaways, and conversed with others in the industry.
Day 2: Digital Transformation, Charitable Giving, & Partying in Vegas
Day 2 began bright and early with breakfast in the Keynote Hall, followed by a full day of sessions, and more time in the Exhibit Hall for demoing products.
Morning sessions included a Beatles-themed presentation on mobile and voice search (Shaun Raines, DealerOn), an in-depth session on content strategy, which included a hands-on portion where each person built their own personal content marketing plan (Brent Wees, Nextup); and a workshop on advertising vehicles online and best practices for capturing engaging vehicle content, including photos, videos and rich OEM-specific descriptions (George Nenni, Dominion Dealer Solutions).
Several dealer speakers brought their in-store knowledge to the stage. Erich K. Gail of the Cardinale-Group of Companies, presented “Leadership & Accountability: Stronger – Faster – More Profitable ‘NOW,’” a mastery-course in leadership and accountability. Flo Lopez and John Luciano of Street Volkswagen shared how to create a complete video marketing strategy tailored to your dealership’s unique mission and culture to yield maximum customer engagement in every department of your dealership. Josh Mitchell (formerly with Huntington Beach CDJR) led “BDC RAW,” a Q&A session answering questions on best practices surrounding culture, lead handling and phones.
Following the sessions, was the Digital Dealer Charity Auction, where attendees engaged in a bidding war for a 2017 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883N Motorcycle (generously donated by ADESA and TradeRev) to raise funds for Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Southern Nevada chapter. A generous winning auction bid of $10,500 from David Wilson Jr. of Preston Automotive Group, and additional cash donations from attendees, far surpassed the initial goal of granting one child’s wish at $8,000.
After the Charity Auction, Marketing Agency VP Frank J. Lopes delivered the monologue and moderated a panel of successful dealers during the afternoon keynote “The “Dealers and Vendors…Can’t We All Just Get Along?” The panel, consisting of Erich K. Gail of Cardinale Automotive Group, Jesse Peterson of Eide Automotive Group, and Dave Wilson of Preston Automotive Group, discussed the current climate of dealer and vendor relations from the dealers’ perspective. They provided solid steps and tips in how to pick the right vendor for you, how to decide and set proper expectations for your vendors and how to cultivate a relationship that is beneficial to both the dealer and vendor.
The Digital Dealer 23 “Midnight in Paris” party was held later that night at the Chateau Nightclub & Gardens, on the Paris Hotel & Casino’s rooftop, under the Eiffel Tower – with spectacular panoramic views of the Las Vegas skyline!
Day 3: Disruptors Bring Game-Changing Solutions
After a night of partying, it was back to business the next day, as there were still many powerful presentations on the agenda.
First, was a rock-the-house Keynote Panel titled “Disruptive Growth: Control Your Future,” featuring some of the best in the business from both the digital and automotive space. Scott Empringham, CEO of Flash Point Communications, led the discussion with disruptors: Trace Przybylowicz, Head of Automotive Industry Relations at Facebook; Kelly McNearney, Google’s Senior Strategist on Automotive Retail; Brian Benstock, GM and VP of Paragon Honda and Paragon Acura; and Mark Olson, Director of E-commerce and Business Development for Findlay Kia. They revealed the mindset it takes to compete and WIN in an immensely competitive and turbulent time.
We then heard from Brent Durham and David Wilson Jr. of Preston Automotive Group during their session, “Breaking into the Top 100 Dealers List: A Unique Story of One Rural Dealer,” where they shared the processes that enable them to punch above their weight and compete with the biggest Ford retailers in the country, despite being in a rural town with a population of only 800.
Of the many other noteworthy sessions, were presentations on: step-by-step processes for finding and retaining top talent (Craig Lockerd, AutoMax Recruiting & Training and Steven Warner, AutomotoHR.com and AutomotoSocial.com), cause-based marketing for reputation management, consumer experience and retention (Ryan Leslie, AutomotiveMastermind); increasing organic traffic by optimizing for new voice-based devices, and how VR experiences can become a unique selling proposition (Manny Castillo and Nick Cybela, FlowFound); and adapting your marketing approach using multi-touch attribution (Steve White, Clarivoy).
Until next time…
We want to thank everyone who attended and contributed to making Digital Dealer 23 one of the conferences yet! We also want to thank all of our incredible sponsors, exhibitors, and speakers who brought such great value to the show!
We hope you will join us again for Digital Dealer 24 (April 10-12th in Orlando, FL) which will feature brand new sessions, strategizing and networking opportunities, and innovation!