Most automotive leads come into a dealership’s CRM using the ADF 1.0 standard format which is based on XML language. The auto-lead data format (aka ADF) allows dealership to receive more information that just the name and email of a potential customer. It allows the details of the page they were visiting, the time and date, the name of the lead provider that sent the data, as well as their own dealership name where it is being sent to. ADF has five primary element or sections:
- Prospect – main wrapper of the code which contains id number of the dealership date and time stamp
- Vehicle – what vehicle is the customer interested in
- Customer – contact information of the customer
- Vendor – the automobile dealership
- Provider – the provider of the lead
Within every primary section, there are subcategories called nodes. Nodes offer the actual details for every section, such a name, email, address, etc. These leads are used for buying, lease, selling, and trade-ins. It’s a powerful method that has millions of leads changing hands every day.
The benefit for auto dealerships to use ADF is to sell more cars and improve customer service levels. CRMs can consolidate leads from multiple sources, and it reduces errors caused by manual handling of customer information. It supports existing and future sales automation tools and lower training costs
As for service providers, they can streamline the transmission of leads to dealers, reduce the use and dependencies on fax or standard emails. They can exchange information quickly with partners and vendors, and they too can improve consumer, as well as dealer satisfaction.
Not all CRMs can read auto-lead data format, there are only few in the industry and the dominant ones are DealerSocket and ELeadsOne. These CRMs have a DTD (document type definition) file installed that allows it to verify the validity of the XML document for ADF 1.0.
Because ADF 1.0 has not been updated in the past 18 years, dealerships have mangled the incoming data that enters their CRM. For example, owners and general managers have asked CRM companies and third-party lead providers to add new nodes such as “source” inside the provider element which doesn’t follow the standard of ADF 1.0. This won’t show up in the reader view of the CRM, but it’s used for possible reporting purposes.
Auto dealerships have asked lead providers to add the names of salespeople or service technician to a lead, or to add a word inside the provider name node to determine to whom that lead should be assigned. Online chat transcripts have been stuffed in the “comments” node within the customer element, because there is no other logical place to put it. It’s become a free for all and while this may help the dealership in the short term, they later find that it’s difficult to change CRMs due to the incompatibility with their new formats or they can’t pull reports effectively.
Most third-party vendors do not fully utilize ADF 1.0. Are you aware that you can send a lead for more than just one car at a time? The vehicle section can accommodate more than just one vehicle. Most dealerships aren’t aware that they can have the ADF reparsed, only until recently that was only offered to dealerships or OEMs via large internal data centers. As of early 2018 there are new SaaS applications that can convert your ADF by cleaning up data or moving data before it reaches your CRM.
Leads are not only sent via email, they can be sent via API (application programming interface) which in general terms it is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components. This is usually used by large dealerships, or those that have over ten years in the business, and exclusively used for OEMs .
Consumer personal identifiable information (e.g. salary) should never be sent via ADF email, as it is susceptible to hacking. Also, if you are considering making updates to the way your lead provider is sending you leads, please consider using the existing ADF standards, while it may not be ideal for new digital retailing add-ons – it will keep your system clean. This will help because ADF is expected to finally make a big update in Q4 2018. New elements and nodes will be introduced to help dealerships expand the amount of information that can acquired and viewed within most automotive CRMs.
ADF 2.0 Specification Committee has recently gotten together to update ADF standards, which have not been revised since May of 2000. There are 18 automotive vendors who have contributed to the new ADF 2.0 Standards. They will introduce two new elements—details and custom—to accommodate needs of those beyond CRM systems. The committee has been working on the revised specification since Nov 2017.
The new elements introduced in ADF 2.0 will provide areas for creating transaction types such as: sales, service and parts, URLs for sensitive data information, and standardization for chat that can be built out between dealerships and their CRM for custom use. ADF 2.0 will still be based on an XML format and will be limited to use in the automotive vertical.