February 26, 2021

BMW Electric

Specialists In Automotif

Takeaways from a virtual NADA Show

A year ago, I wrote about heading into my first NADA Show in Las Vegas, unaware of what to expect.

That week was near-constant motion — walking the show floor, taking in technology vendors’ newest offerings, talking to dealers. I boarded the plane home to Michigan with a notebook full of ideas and topics to explore. A month later, the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S. and shut down many dealership showrooms across the country, and the emphasis on digital auto sales I heard at the show seemed even more prescient.

That theme remained top of mind last week during NADA’s first virtual show, held remotely rather than in New Orleans as initially planned out of concern for attendees’ health and safety as the virus continues to spread.

Here is some of what I’m taking away from this year’s show:

  • One: It will be critical for dealers to master the customer experience. Software is important, but dealers have to change their processes to meet customers on their terms. An omnichannel approach — which strives for a seamless transition between shopping online and in person at a dealership — will build on the acceleration around digital retailing in 2020.
  • Two: Technology tools increasingly will focus on transactional capabilities, not just lead generation.
  • And three: Dealers will have to more intentionally promote their new customer experiences to compete with online used-vehicle sellers, such as Carvana and Vroom, which market themselves as faster, better and easier than dealerships.

I found the virtual conference experience to be largely seamless with no major glitches. The challenge with a virtual show, however, is that by design, it can’t yield the insights that come fortuitously from walking the floor and interacting with dealers and software providers. This year, all of my conversations were done by phone or video, scheduled in advance. I still learned about emerging trends and new features, but I missed those unplanned, organic interactions. Here’s hoping it’s safe to be in person again next year.

What did you take away from the show? Let me know what digital trends I need to watch this year: [email protected].