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I’m back from NADA 2024 in rainy Las Vegas (really, it rained a lot – but it was dry inside the convention center).  It was another excellent show, especially from an educational standpoint. We saw a huge number of people from the East Coast make the long trip out west, which is a great sign of how hungry dealers are to learn about the trends that are shaping our industry and how they can stay ahead of them. 

The Ikon booth was hopping from opening to closing. We had an electric Hummer in the booth covered with the icons of our dealer’s custom-branded apps, and anyone who attended a presentation was able to design their own pair of custom Nike sneakers. You can’t beat Custom-Branded Dealer Apps and Custom Sneakers!

So, as I said, NADA 2024 was an awesome experience. If you weren’t able to attend this year, I encourage you to make plans for NADA 2025 in New Orleans. I’ll try to fill you in as best I can on what you missed.

The market is changing: It wasn’t that long ago that nearly every auto dealership’s strategy was to get as many people in their showrooms and sell as many cars as possible, but that’s not necessarily the best way to build a sustainable, thriving business. Over and over, I heard from dealers looking to improve and build on a quality relationship with their customers. The relationship shouldn’t end when the customer drives off the lot. You want to sell them their next car and the next one after that. And over each car’s lifetime, you want them to return to your dealership for service, repairs, and parts. Capturing that business, in addition to the sale that’s currently on the table, requires a long-term strategy. 

Theft & Fraud are on the rise: There were sessions on this topic, and I heard a lot of anecdotal stories. Fraud, theft, or misuse of vehicles is increasing, and insurance costs are rising, in addition to the immediate losses from the vehicle. Rates are high. We’re no longer in the post-COVID free-for-all when you could sell everything on the lot at a significant margin, so dealers can’t just absorb these costs.

Vendors are coming to recognize auto dealerships for the great businesses they are: Car dealerships are often the largest businesses in small to mid-sized towns, and they’re still largely family/privately owned. They have a huge impact on the local economy, employing hundreds of people, and the money spent there goes right back into the community instead of to some hedge fund on Wall Street. Vendors have taken notice, and not just smaller firms: Microsoft, Google, Apple, and other tech giants, along with non-tech vendors that typically support businesses outside of automotive dealerships,  were well represented at NADA. That tells me that the industry will see a ton of technological innovation coming our way and that businesses generally see dealers as great partners. 

Big push on legislation: There’s a lot of legislation at the state and federal levels governing how dealerships advertise pricing and pushing to eliminate non-value add-ons to vehicles. But even beyond legislation, buyers today are smarter. These vintage revenue generators may have worked 5 to 10 years ago, but today, when you have add-on products, they must provide value for the customer while creating value for you. For example, customers can get many add-ons for cheap or free, like window security etching or door edge guards. Paying a dealer for these is not a good deal for the customer and can hurt that dealership’s reputation and future business. That’s why Ikon offers a real $10k theft benefit and ties it to a quality dealer-branded product with additional value for dealers and their customers. 

Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z preferences: The younger the buyer, the more they want to research a new vehicle using their phone. They’re not interested in coming into the store until they’re fairly sure the dealer has exactly what they want at the price they’re looking for. They want to search inventory, conduct online chats about vehicles, and compare pricing without having to go to the dealer or even fire up a computer. They want a phone app. 

What Ikon offers dealerships

Ikon’s consumer connected-car app is always dealer-branded, and while dealers can make money selling this app to customers when they buy a vehicle, the app’s value goes way beyond the initial sale. Both the customer and the dealer see lasting value from the program.

Features include:

    • Vehicle Location: Very helpful when your teen uses the car. When you tell them not to speed, they’ll know you will be able to verify whether they listened via text alerts.
    • Stolen Vehicle Recovery: The app can connect drivers with the police and empower them to recover their car if stolen quickly and Ikon warranties that service with up to a $10,000 benefit in addition to whatever their insurance provides. Plus, Ikon provides no-cost lot management with a $3,000 dealer deductible warranty reimbursement per vehicle if stolen. Over ninety-nine percent of all vehicles are recovered within 22 minutes on average. 
    • Roadside assistance: The app connects you to roadside assistance and a direct connection to your dealership.
    • Service reminders and easy scheduling: The app logs mileage and reminds customers when service is due. From there, scheduling an appointment with your service team is simple. 

People interact with their phones almost 100 times and spend 4.5 hours per day on mobile devices. With our dealership apps, customers log in an average of fifteen times per month. That’s one interaction almost every other day with the dealer’s brand and the potential to search our dealer’s inventory, schedule service, or contact the dealership. It’s an interaction they initiate, which makes it even more powerful.

Plus, dealers can take advantage of our smart marketing. Our dealers own the customer data and relationship. That data is especially valuable. It can guide sales and marketing strategies so they are more effective and identify new services that customers want. 

The bottom line from NADA 2024: It’s clear that auto dealerships recognize their businesses need a different strategy to meet the expectations of today’s customers. That means adopting a digital strategy that helps build relationships over time to sell customers additional services and win their repeat business. Plus, the wider world of business and technology now sees auto dealerships as great potential customers and business partners. It’s an exciting era for our industry.

If you were at NADA 2024, reach out on LinkedIn to let me know what you thought of the show and what struck you as most important. I’d love to hear your perspective. 

Schedule a demo with us today, and you can still get custom Nikes…for free!

Jay Law

Senior VP of Sales

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