We continue to think about all of you, our customers and partners, during this difficult time. This pandemic has caused deep challenges across our industry and for all of us, and I hope you know that DealerSocket continues to be here for our dealers. Our goal has been to strike the right balance between being prepared for our dealers and the market when our industry recovers and offering discounts to help our dealers as much as possible during this difficult time. 

We will get through this, and we will get through this together. We are committed to fighting through this with you. We are beginning to see the first signs of positive trends as we climb out of the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this has us all hopeful for the future.

In April, we heavily discounted our software for our dealers. In addition to our discounts in April, we have decided to offer the following DealerSocket billing reductions for May for all of our dealers:

We have already sent out our May invoices, so next week you will receive a credit memo for the above discounts. With that said, similar to our discount package last month, there are some basic qualifying terms listed below.

In addition to these discounts in April and May, DealerSocket continues to offer our customers several promotions and free months of certain software products to help you navigate this crisis. Our offers include promotions for:

Since we are adding promotions and various resources for dealers often, please view DealerSocket’s latest information by clicking here, and, as always, please feel free to reach out to your Customer Success Manager with any questions or if we can help in any way:

If you are not yet an Auto/Mate DMS customer, I hope you know that we can reduce your DMS bill significantly during these challenging times as well as into the future by switching to Auto/Mate DMS. We have several bundled packages that include our Auto/Mate DMS product combined with other DealerSocket products to support you.

Thank you for partnering with DealerSocket. I hope you know how much we value and appreciate your loyalty, partnership, and your business.

I wish you, your families, and your team members health in these unprecedented times.

Sejal Pietrzak
CEO and President


Details regarding our COVID-19 relief package:

With threat actors working overtime, DealerSocket’s head of information security offers three tips to keep your dealership’s and your customers’ data protected.

By Gregory Arroyo

Greg Tatum has a warning for dealerships everywhere: Cyber threat actors are working overtime. Noting a definite uptick in suspicious activity since COVID-19 hit Europe in late February, he adds:

“Threat actors are actively searching for new targets through a number of different mediums. Things like social media platforms are a very popular target for information gathering that can be used in an attack.”

Tatum serves as DealerSocket’s head of information security. He joined DealerSocket nearly four years ago from a security services firm that works with companies in much more sensitive environments than automotive. I’m talking about healthcare and government contractors, sectors that see billions of attacks each year. So, yeah, we have the right guy on the job.

“DealerSocket spends a considerable amount of effort protecting our customers’ data,” he notes. “It’s part of what we do just to make sure our customers’ customers’ data is protected.”

Tatum isn’t the only one sounding the alarm. The FBI issued its own warning on March 20, noting that scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal money, personal information, or both.



Just last week, the National Automobile Dealers Association reported that attackers are now putting up COVID-19-related websites that prompt visitors to download an application to receive COVID-19 updates. But you don’t need to download the app, as the site installs a malicious binary file as you contemplate whether you should.

The attack method uses AZORult, software that originated in Russia approximately four years ago to steal data and infect the breached computer with malware.

Tatum also alerted me to a new phishing campaign that pretends to be from a local hospital notifying recipients that they have been exposed to the Coronavirus and they need to be tested.

But it’s not just phishing and ransomware attacks. Business email compromise, or BEC, is also on the rise. That’s when a cyberthief breaks into a legitimate corporate email account and impersonates an employee to get the business, its partners, or other employees to send money or sensitive data to the attacker.

“In this climate we live in today, this is part of business,” Tatum says. “This is part of what we have to deal with as consumers of technology.”

Tatum, by the way, is available to help. He advises DealerSocket customers to contact their Customer Success Managers to get connected. In the meantime, he offers the following four tips to safeguard your organization and your customers’ data:

1. Stay Committed to General Security Awareness

The following is general security etiquette your teams should employ:

2. Separate Work and Personal Data

Use company-issued computers and mobile devices for work purposes only. If you don’t have a company-issued device, be sure to check your company’s policies about using personal devices to access your organization’s data or networks.

Additionally, consider creating separate user accounts. Never use your work email for personal reasons or vice-versa. This segregation helps the company maintain the confidentiality of the data it collects and helps you maintain your privacy.

3. Secure Your Home Network

Update your router’s username and password immediately and use a strong, unique password. And never use the same password for your network and your router. Note that most routers ship with default login credentials that are public knowledge.

4. Don’t Forget About Physical Security

The comfort of your own home is no reason to forget about physical security. Simple acts like keeping doors locked and not leaving mobile devices unattended in a vehicle are non-technical ways to improve security.

Gregory Arroyo is the former editor of “F&I and Showroom” and “Auto Dealer Today” magazines. He now serves as senior manager of strategic content for DealerSocket. Email him at garroyo@dealersocket.com.

In all great moments of history when everything seemed bleak and that the bad times would never end, they did. The question is, will you be prepared?

By Patrick Mendoza

I’m not going to sugarcoat this: The current situation is bad, and it’s going to get worse.

You’ve heard this a hundred times the past couple of weeks, but these truly are unprecedented times. I’ve never seen such a drop in both the stock market and consumer purchasing, and such a rise in unemployment and concern.

The fall due to the pandemic all happened very quickly. Just one month ago, the stock market was at record levels, and analysts were predicting new auto sales to remain around the 17 million mark as it has been for the past several years.

Now, dealerships are closed due to government mandates and have had to furlough large swaths of their sales teams. Sales have fallen off a cliff, and now JP Morgan Chase is predicting auto sales to only reach 10.3 million units this year…10.3 million.

That’s bad. But you know what, this won’t last forever.

In all great moments of history when everything seemed bleak and that the bad times would never end, they did. The title of this post is “Hard Times Come Again No More,” which is the name of a sad song the soldiers used to march to in the Civil War. Think about how bad everything seemed then: brother vs. brother, the United States ripped apart with no hope of reconciliation. But guess what, we did, and we were stronger than ever.

It’s dark now, and, as King George VI said on the eve of World War II, “There may be dark days ahead,” but the industry will be back, and I think it will be back quickly.

Before long, customers will be back. Showrooms will turn their lights on again, and sales will rise.

The question is, will you be ready?

The downtime is your time to make sure you have everything in place for when the good times return. Do you have all of your customers and prospects in your CRM? Are you using a useful data mining tool to help you attract your customers back to your store? After all, it’s cheaper to retain an existing customer than attract a new one. What about your inventory? Are you stocking the most profitable vehicles for your lot?

Now, more than ever, it is your opportunity to be ready for when the people come back.

If you haven’t, or if you’re not sure, operators are standing by. It never hurts to call us and see if you’re ready. We’d love to help you.

Patrick Mendoza serves as director of corp. communications for DealerSocket, Inc. Email him at pmendoza@dealersocket.com.

The Kansas City dealer group is hoping the digital steps it’s taken through the years will sustain demand through the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Gregory Arroyo

Pictured is the showroom of Soave Automotive Group’s Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City, Mo.

Soave Automotive Group, a multi-rooftop operation serving the greater Kansas City area, was off to a solid year, with sales and service profitability outpacing 2019 through February and no sign of that momentum wavering. That was before local health officials delivered two COVID-19-related orders within a period of six days.

The first, which ordered the closure of all social venues like bars and restaurants on March 17, left Kristopher Nielsen unfazed. As Soave’s eCommerce and customer experience manager, he was on the line that day with DealerFire’s design team to get the group’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic online and out to its markets.

“We have no plans to scale back our ad budget,” Nielsen said. “We’re not going to have a knee-jerk reaction. I think there are real opportunities to gain market share in this difficult situation.”

Ready for Anything

The forward-thinking steps the group has taken over the years to button up its operations and virtual presence was the reason for Nielsen’s optimism. He felt especially positive about the integration between the group’s DealerFire websites and DealerSocket’s CRM.

The connection allows him to see how many website visitors a campaign generates, which vehicles they look at, time on site, and then alerts his teams when those customers return — critical capabilities in the weeks ahead.

Nielsen also feels good about the group’s online service scheduling and fully online purchase process, which had generated robust engagement in the 90 days prior to his call with DealerFire. The newest addition to Soave’s websites is DealerFire’s test-drive delivery scheduler, which Nielsen added as part of the provider’s 100-day free use offer.

All three shopper experiences would get calls to action on the landing pages he wanted DealerFire to build to house the group’s COVID-19 response. The main message was that Soave Automotive’s dealerships were open and ready to help.

Promoting those landing pages would be an email campaign, press release, announcement bars on the group’s homepages, and the same SEO content strategy Soave had perfected since partnering with DealerFire in 2010. “The biggest thing for us is checking in on customers and orders coming in,” Nielsen said. “We’re contacting customers reaching the end of their leases. They’re going to need a car regardless of what’s going on in the world.”

Stay the Course

Soave was closing out a lighter than usual but still productive weekend when the second health order was issued. This time, all non-essential businesses were ordered to close on March 24 to stem the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 700 people in the Kansas City area. Dealership service departments could remain open, but sales were limited to appointment-only.

Nielsen said the shoppers who visited his group’s showroom that weekend were especially motivated to buy. Online traffic remained relatively stable, but lead and contact volume declined. Service capacity also declined, as customers opted against non-critical repairs.

Pictured is one of the COVID-19 landing pages DealerFire created for Soave Automotive.

“We’re actually still on track with last year, but January and February were very strong,” Nielsen said. “We’re now going to give back some of those gains.”

As for inventory, Nielsen said the group is keeping in touch with manufacturers as production shuts down. The group wasn’t concerned about being oversupplied, Nielsen noting that Soave has enough vehicles on the ground to get through April.

“A rising tide lifts all boats. Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked,” Nielsen said. “We recognize that all we can control is how we react. So we’re trying to stay positive and plan as best as we can for where things may go.”


DealerSocket’s First Pencil blog offers a peek into discussions taking place in dealer showrooms everywhere. At-home test drives are top of mind, as is digital retailing.

By Gregory Arroyo

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I drove to my son’s school this morning to pick up his tablet for virtual learning. I was excited to get out of the house, but the reality of today’s situation hit me when I saw masked and gloved teachers approach my vehicle to hand me his tablet.

Great leaders always seem to rise to the occasion, and those teachers were doing just that.

I’ve also witnessed great leaders emerging in dealer showrooms. We’ll be featuring them in our new “Inside the Dealership” series, but I’d like to share some tidbits from those interviews as well as notes I’ve jotted down from the social media groups to which I belong.

No Plans to Scale Back

You got to love car people. No matter the situation, you’ll never hear fear in their voice. I say that after listening in to a call between DealerFire’s design and content team and Kristopher Nielsen, who serves as eCommerce and guest experience manager for Kansas City’s Aristocrat Motors.

“We have no plans to scale back our ad budget,” he said firmly. “A rising tide lifts all boats. Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.

“We’re not going to have any knee-jerk reactions,” he continued, “because I think there are real opportunities to gain market share in a difficult situation.”

What he was referring to is the shopper conveniences his group offers, including the group’s fully online purchase process, online service scheduling, and at-home test-drives. All three of those offerings got calls to action in the group’s email, landing page, and other marketing pieces detailing the operation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Top-Down Leadership

Then there’s Honda of Cleveland, Tenn., which had an action plan in place the day before Tennessee Gov. Brad Lee declared a state of emergency. That plan was delivered by Brad Cobb, president of Bowers Automotive and owner of Honda of Cleveland. He first shared it with the dealership’s general manager, who shared it with his managers, who shared it with their teams.

“The key has been the communication from the top,” Hailey says. “We’re respecting what’s going on, but we’re not fearing it. We just want to keep things positive.”

Mixed Reports

Overall, it seems at-home test-drives are top of mind, at least on social media. While I try not to plug my company’s products, I feel compelled to share that DealerFire will offer free use of its test-driver delivery scheduler for 100 days to owners of a DealerFire website who also use DealerSocket’s CRM. Click here for details.

News regarding showroom traffic seemed mixed. Some car people reported a business-as-usual sales weekend, while others reported cancellations and empty showrooms. Things seemed to turn a bit as the week progressed, as I began seeing posts about dealers adjusting employee schedules. One post indicated that the dealer was letting employees walk with the promise that the dealership would hire them back once the crisis subsides.

It’s only been Week One of this social distancing, and I can’t fathom what’s to come. My heart and thoughts go out to my commission-based friends manning showrooms and F&I offices. Hey, we got this.

As my friend “Mad” Marv Eleazer likes to say, good luck and keep closing.

Gregory Arroyo is the former editor of “F&I and Showroom” and “Auto Dealer Today” magazines. He now serves as senior manager of strategic content for DealerSocket. Email him at garroyo@dealersocket.com.

The business has navigated unprecedented hardships before, and DealerSocket’s First Pencil blog believes there’s no reason it won’t do it again.

By Gregory Arroyo

Remember the period between late 2007 and 2009, when the housing crash that caused the credit crisis led to the Great Recession? The market was tough to read, and the used-car guides were all over the map.

Dealers that bulked up on big trucks and SUVs were stuck with a lot full of them, as gas prices reached $4 a gallon and finance sources tightened up. Any car buyer with below-prime credit couldn’t get approved, as banks weren’t sure where car buyers — particularly those with investment properties — would land and finance companies were dead in the water.

The good news right now is we’re not experiencing any of those market dynamics. But news surrounding COVID-19 (a.k.a. the Coronavirus) has certainly heated up in recent days.

Hearing about Tom Hanks was disconcerting. So was hearing about the National Basketball Association’s decision to suspend the season, after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first major professional athlete to test positive for the virus. Now his teammate, star Donovan Mitchell, has tested positive.

As of March 10, there have been at least 116,000 coronavirus cases worldwide. About 64,000 people have recovered, and 4,000 have died. Here in the United States, multiple states are under a state of emergency.

With all that said, the one thing I love about this business is how opposed it is to doom-and-gloom talk. In fact, just yesterday, the founder of a car dealer Facebook group I belong to urged all admins not to allow panic to take over the group.

“I don’t want negative talk about this affecting us,” he wrote.

It made me think of this great line from the first Avengers movie: “Until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.”

Hey, consumers who need a new car (or used) today will still need it tomorrow. Still, it’s not business as usual, so preparation is vital.

So, if you’ve loaded up with inventory the past couple of months to take advantage of tax season, monitoring aging will be key. And if you’re part of a group that engages in group trading, it’s time to dig into your inventory management systems to ensure vehicles are on the right lots. It’s not time to panic, but you should have exit plans in place.

I recall a story told to me back in 2009. A dealer in the Northeast took on a bulk of pickups in trades just before things got bad. Having dumped $5,000 to $7,000 into the vehicles, he refused to take a loss at auction when things did — even though he was losing money each day those vehicles sat on his lot. His patience was rewarded, however, as he ended up grossing $2,000 to $5,000 by waiting out the storm for a couple of months. Americans do love their trucks and SUVs.

You also need to fire up that CRM. Hey, you know you have customers reaching the end of their finance, lease, or warranty term. Vehicles also need to be serviced. Maybe it’s an excellent time to offer free service pickup and return.

And if you’re a dealer that dipped your toe in the digital retail waters — or maybe offer test-drive deliveries — today’s uncertainty represents an opportunity to really test those strategies.

So, start promoting those customer conveniences, and make sure your digital retail button stands out. In other words, remove any conflicting calls to action on your vehicle details and dedicated landing pages. Banner promotions on your search results pages and VDPs are a must.

Now, when it comes to your employees, I suggest not sticking your head in the sand. Management teams need to get educated on this virus, and communication will be critical. Care also needs to be taken when it comes to the cleanliness of your showroom, employee offices, and common areas.

With all that said, here’s what I do know in all this uncertainty: Every time this business faces a severe hardship, it always seems to come out the other side a better industry. I’m sure that will be the case once again.

Gregory Arroyo is the former editor of “F&I and Showroom” and “Auto Dealer Today” magazines. He now serves as senior manager of strategic content for DealerSocket. Email him at garroyo@dealersocket.com.

Through new integrations with DealerSocket, Facebook believes its platform can help auto dealers turn car buyers into customers for life.

By Gregory Arroyo

Remember when the prevailing wisdom when it came to your dealership’s interactions on social media was to treat it like a cocktail party? Join the conversation and don’t sell, they said. Dealers haven’t lived by that standard for years, and now Facebook wants to make it even easier for you to market your inventory and post-purchase services.

In fact, the social media giant believes its family of apps can act as an extension of your CRM and turn car buyers into customers for life. Brent Parres, partner manager for Facebook’s automotive vertical, talked about Facebook’s new play during a recent webinar in which three new integrations with DealerSocket were revealed. He also shared the following stats to prove the platform is worth your attention and a bigger slice of your marketing budget:

The timing of Facebook’s push is interesting. Currently, approximately 34 states are considering changes to their privacy laws. Speaking at the Vehicle Finance Conference this past February, Mark Templin, president and CEO of Toyota Financial Services, said there is a real possibility the industry could be looking at “51 different standards” when it comes to protecting consumer data.

As I noted back in January, data remains our industry’s best opportunity as well as its greatest threat. Facebook knows all too well what I mean.

Remember all the scrutiny Facebook came under after the exposure of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in March 2018. Well, it forced two significant shifts in how the social media giant manages its platform:

Shift No. 1: Facebook now views its family of apps as a single, privacy-focused messaging and social networking platform. For users, that means easily and securely communicating across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. For dealer marketers, that means you can use the same budget to target car buyers across Facebook’s platform.

Shift No. 2: Facebook no longer allows marketers to use natively integrated data from third-party firms like Nielsen Data and Polk for custom audience targeting. That doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of third-party data targeting outside of Facebook. The social network simply wants dealers to rely on their data (whether scrubbed by a third party or not) when operating on its platform, which brings me to the first of three key integrations between Facebook and DealerSocket:

Integration No. 1: Facebook Audience Integration with DealerSocket’s CRM

The new connection, a pilot of which was recently completed, will allow Facebook campaigns to sync with customer lists inside DealerSocket’s CRM. Parres said that translates into limitless audience segmentation. Think about what that means in terms of your operation’s post-purchase, customer-for-life efforts.

“Those systems will match data back and forth and update back and forth, so you don’t have to constantly update your audience lists,” Parres explained. “The fact that DealerSocket is going to set this up for you and refresh the data automatically … You can’t get any better than first-party data.”

Integration No. 2: Automotive Inventory Ads

DealerSocket will soon roll out an inventory export that automatically uploads a dealer’s entire inventory to Facebook to populate the social network’s Automotive Inventory Ads. Facebook serves up these ads based on availability, pricing, and intent. That means consumers looking for Volkswagen are shown models with the body styles that mean the most to them.

“It’s our best-performing product when trying to drive leads or sales on a specific piece of inventory, so this integration would put you at a unique advantage,” Parres said of the integration, which will be available to users of DealerSocket’s CRM, Inventory+, and DealerFire websites. The connection also means no more switching out creative, because the creative is the inventory out on the lot.

Integration No. 3: Facebook Direct Lead Post

Facebook Lead Ads, which take advantage of the social network’s audience selection and optimization products, allow dealers to customize lead forms that auto-populate based on a Facebook user’s profile data. Soon, through a new integration, the information collected from those lead ads will automatically post into DealerSocket’s CRM so the sales team can take immediate action.

“We know the longer a lead sits, the worst the potential outcome will be,” Parres said. “So, this would be a huge convenience for [dealers].”

What’s also interesting about Facebook’s timing is many dealers are reconsidering their investments in third-party lead sites. Maybe a little competition is what’s needed.

Gregory Arroyo is the former editor of “F&I and Showroom” and “Auto Dealer Today” magazines. He now serves as senior manager of strategic content for DealerSocket. Email him at garroyo@dealersocket.com.

Senior Customer Success Manager Erik Post returns with a great tip on how to use DealerSocket’s CRM to capture customers who inquire about a vehicle your dealership doesn’t have in stock. Here’s a hint: Make sure to check “Wishlist” when creating the opportunity. Post also explains how to monitor your dealership’s “Wishlist” within the CRM’s Dashboard, so you know when that vehicle gets added to inventory via trade or auction.

Two successful car dealers share how they use DealerSocket CRM to drive their showroom process and increase employee engagement.

By Gregory Arroyo

Increasing CRM engagement is challenging. Hey, sales talent and technology don’t always mix. Still, the one thing I noticed over a decade covering this industry is talent that produces month after month and year after year typically adheres to a strict process — one that is often driven by technology.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a couple of process tips that have helped some pretty successful operations increase CRM engagement while preventing opportunities from falling through the cracks.

Tip No. 1: J. Pauley Toyota’s “5 PM Call” Reminder

Adam Nobles is the internet manager at J. Pauley Toyota in Fort Smith, Ark., and he’s a big fan of DealerSocket CRM. “You guys have done a phenomenal job,” he says. “To me, the biggest thing is I can customize it.”

He points to the ability to customize reminder labels as an example. DealerSocket CRM does offer a list of generic reminders, but users can customize them after clicking on “Add New Reminder.” In J. Pauley’s case, Nobles created three key reminders: “One Week Follow-Up,” “Day 3 Follow-up,” and “5 PM Call.”

Nobles says the latter is designed to tell a salesperson that an unsuccessful attempt to reach a customer was made that morning. “They were probably at work,” Nobles says. So when that “5 PM Call” reminder pops up at, yes, 5 p.m., the salesperson knows to make another attempt at reaching the customer.

The same goes for the dealership’s “One Week Follow-Up” and “Day 3 Follow-Up,” which immediately tell a salesperson or internet staffer what task to perform.

Tip No. 2: Great Lakes Honda’s “3-Day” and “10-Day” Follow-Up Process

Ryan Huang is the sales manager at Great Lakes Honda in Akron, Ohio. He also is a big believer in CRM. “Whether it’s DealerSocket or one of the other popular ones, you have to use the CRM to its full potential,” he says. He and other sales managers made CRM and process training a key focus in 2019. They also made a few process tweaks to encourage engagement.

The three-day and 10-day follow-up tasks the management team created for themselves are a great example, and they’re Huang’s favorite. Not only are they designed to ensure proper follow-up, they force the dealership’s sales and BDC teams to enter notes into the CRM. More importantly, it ensures sales managers never miss a customer.

DealerSocket CRM allows users to create customized labels for reminder tasks. DealerSocket’s First Pencil blog shares how two dealer customers utilize that capability to their advantage.

The process works like this: If a fresh “up” enters the showroom but doesn’t buy, the salesperson who engaged the prospect has three days to follow up. “Seventy-two hours after the customer leaves our dealership, the CRM sends me a reminder to review the opportunity to make sure proper notes were taken on that customer, and that the salesperson is completing proper follow-up,” Huang says. “If they aren’t completing proper follow-up, I have the opportunity to go straight to that salesperson and say, ‘Why haven’t we called this customer’ or ‘Why haven’t we emailed them.’ And if there aren’t any notes, God forbid I catch it.”

If there aren’t notes or a follow-up was missed, Huang will type in a few notes of his own: “One of my favorite things to do on the third day is, if there aren’t any notes in there or the salesperson hasn’t followed up, I’ll type a note for the salesperson to see,” he says. “And I’ll write, ‘Why didn’t you write any notes on this customer? What’s going on with them? How can I help?'” Seven days later, Huang receives the “10-day follow-up” task, which allows him to see if the salesperson replied.

“I can see if they took action after I wrote those notes,” he says. “And if they didn’t take any action and it’s seven days later, whoa.

“So those two tasks for fresh-ups have truly helped us, and it ensures that no customer slips through the cracks,” he adds, noting that the dealership will soon implement a similar approach to RevenueRadar leads. “Another way it’s useful is, let’s say the salesperson went on vacation. I get the three-day call task and I get the 10-day, allowing me to follow up with that customer because I can see the salesperson is on vacation or not at the dealership for whatever reason.”

Gregory Arroyo is the former editor of F&I and Showroom and Auto Dealer Today magazines. He now serves as manager of strategic content for DealerSocket. Email him at garroyo@dealersocket.com.

California dealers are racing to comply with the toughest privacy rule in the United States, one that is spreading quickly to other states.

By Gregory Arroyo

The thing that’s so mind-blowing about the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is its timing. It arrives just as technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are about to usher in a major transformation in how dealers stay connected to their customers.

The state of California estimates the CCPA will protect over $12 billion worth of personal information that’s used for advertising in California each year. And as Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association (CNCDA), put it, there is “no federacy privacy law with the scope and breadth of this landmark piece of legislation.”

“The biggest challenge is knowing where to start, because the law is so extensive and overwhelming,” Maas says, noting that the association recently published the second edition of its “CCPA Handbook” and is expected to host a series of seminars later this month addressing CCPA compliance.

For California dealers, Jan. 1 — the statute’s effective date — marked 182 days to get into compliance before state Attorney General Xavier Becerra begins enforcing the toughest privacy rule in the United States. State estimates put the cost of compliance at $75,000 in the first year, $2,500 annually.

By the way, fines for each intentional violation is $7,500.

Truth is, this blog entry isn’t directed at California dealers; it’s directed at dealers in Connecticut, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington State. Because what happens in California tends to spread, and the states I listed are considering taking similar steps to protect consumer privacy.

Groundbreaking Consumer Rights

The California statute grants consumers the right to know what categories and specific pieces of their information are used, shared and/or sold. It also gives them the right to opt-out of the sale of their data. They can also request that you delete their information.

Honoring those rights means California dealers must determine “the categories” of consumer data they collect, then map out the flow so you know where it’s going. You then need to take steps to ensure the data is protected. Wait, there’s more.

The CCPA also requires that you have a consistent method of tracking where each piece of consumer information goes and how it’s used. And if a customer asks for his or her info to be deleted — and, yes, your website must offer this capability — you must ensure you and all your vendors comply.

All those activities mean coordination with your software vendors is essential. If your planning to make the trip to Las Vegas next month for the 2020 NADA Show, make sure to click here to schedule an appointment with our CRM and DealerFire digital teams. We’ll be in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Central Hall (Booth No. 3915C), where we also plan to host discussions with compliance experts on the CCPA and its spread to other states.

California’s New Privacy Notice

Now, setting up those consumer rights is a privacy notice California dealers need to hand to their customers “at or before data collection,” the statute says. Compliance guru Randy Henrick with Auto Dealer Compliance says it differs from the model FTC form in that it requires that dealers address the “categories of information described in the CCPA.” It must also inform consumers of their right to learn who their information was shared with during the prior 12 months. The notice must also inform them of their right to opt-out of certain sharing or request that certain pieces of their information be deleted.

Henrick used the word “certain” because the statute does allow businesses to retain consumer data if there is a legal basis. Think of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which requires that dealers retain credit applications and any written record used to evaluate the application for 25 months. Governor Gavin Newsom also signed into law a CNCDA-sponsored bill that clarifies that dealers and manufacturers can share information about consumers related to recall and warranty repairs without running afoul of the CCPA. There are questions, however, about whether other federal requirements will take precedence.

“I suspect it will be months, if not years, before we learn if that is the case,” Maas says, noting that he suspects there will be several attempts made to modify the CCPA before its July 1 enforcement deadline.

CCPA Enforcement Date Approaches

Attorney General Becerra published the CCPA’s draft regulations in October, which kicked off a public comment period that ended in December. Barring any revisions to the proposed regulations, which will require an additional 15-day comment period, the regulator is now expected to submit final text to the Office of Administrative Law. The OAL will then have 30 working days to review and approve the regulations. If approved, the rules go into effect.

“I don’t believe there will be any delay in the attorney general beginning enforcement of the law on or after July 1,” Maas warned. “We are urging our dealers to comply now.”

Gregory Arroyo is the former editor of F&I and Showroom and Auto Dealer Today magazines. He now serves as manager of strategic content for DealerSocket. Email him at garroyo@dealersocket.com.

An interesting observation causes a general manager for a Toyota store to wonder if the industry has reached a tipping point in today’s Digital Age.

A general manager (GM) for a Toyota store in Arkansas made a stunning observation: A “super-loyal” customer who has purchased five cars from the same salesperson, who he loves and “won’t buy from anyone else,” came in as an internet lead. Yup, instead of calling his beloved Jackie to say he’s coming in to look at a new Toyota Tacoma, Mr. Super-Loyal visited the dealership’s website, found the vehicle he wanted, and submitted a lead form. The horror, right? Well, it wasn’t the first time the GM observed such a thing. “He was an internet sale, so the website got credit for that sale,” the GM told me. “It wasn’t a conquest sale. We didn’t go out and get us a new customer, but, technically, on paper, it’s an internet sale.” Remember when market studies told us car buyers were shopping less than two dealerships before pulling the trigger. Well, according to a poll of 2,001 consumers conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Urban Science, consumers are visiting, on average, 2.5 dealerships. Wait, it gets better. Generation Z and young millennials — you know, the ones who were supposed to skip the showroom experience altogether — are visiting, on average, 3.5 dealerships. Gen X visits 2.3 dealerships, while older millennials and Boomers visit, on average, two. Randy Berlin, global director of dealer consulting for Urban Science, says the reason visits are higher among the younger demographics is “they have no brand identity or loyalty.” “The young people, they’re just not brand loyal at all, except for maybe Apple,” he adds. And get this: Berlin says the average customer is submitting an average of three leads. The reason, he says, is customers are cross-checking prices. See, price (84%) is the most significant influencer of a buying decision — even above a “low-pressure sales approach (72%).” The GM’s story and all this new data makes me wonder why data mining isn’t getting more hype, especially when we’re dealing with a less loyal customer who is focused on price and is cross-checking two to 3.5 dealerships. All of this reminds me of something I heard from one of our Strategic Growth Managers for our RevenueRadar tool. His name is Winston Harrell, a 33-year industry veteran and a serious data-mining pro. To demonstrate the power of the tool to new clients, he asks them to load the solution with the conditions that point to a high-target prospect or are important to the dealership. Then he has them run a report to see how many people the dealership sold a car to in the last month fit those parameters. “It’s pure amazement,” he says. “Unfortunately, no one reached out to those customers, so they showed up as a fresh up or an internet lead.” And you know your third-party lead providers are more than happy to take credit for those sales. Harrell says the reason most dealers lose faith in data mining is they don’t have a defined process that’s written down, implemented, and managed by a dedicated person. Think BDC manager. DealerSocket commissioned its own study. Conducted by Strategy Analytics, nearly 50% of the 500 dealers polled listed “Identifying the best places to invest marketing spend” as their No. 1 pain point. Again, I’m not sure why data mining isn’t getting more hype when it’s clear the answer is buried in the data.

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  • Millennials Value Exclusivity: Salespeople should use words like “unique”, “one of a kind”, or even “special” when selling to Millennials, because members of this demographic believe they’re unique and their rides should be as well.
  • Millennials Hate Waiting: Give them the VIP treatment by having the salesperson waiting and ready to show them cars based on the needs they shared when they chatted, texted, or messaged the dealership. Millennials hate being taken to the salesperson’s “lair”.
  • Millennials Want to Text: Must text millennials. You have to text with them.
  • Millennials View LinkedIn: Make sure your salespeople have a LinkedIn account with a photo, content that humanizes them, and connections, because Millennials will look them up to see if they can trust the salesperson.
That was the list my colleague jotted down while listening to millennial whisperer Jason Dorsey at our recent DealerSocket User Summit in Anaheim, Calif. Dorsey serves as president and lead researcher at the Center of Generational Kinetics in Austin, Texas, and he shared insights on various generations, including mine, during his keynote address on Aug. 21.According to my colleague, his message was well received. In fact, she noted in her email that one general manager in attendance emailed Dorsey’s speech notes to his team and told them to review it and be ready to discuss when he returns. My colleague was kind enough to also send me those notes before being shuttled to the House of Blues to watch celebrity band Royal Machines during our DealerSocket After Dark party. How nice of her, right? She concluded her email with the following: “This might make for a good blog.”Yeah, she’s always thinking about me.

My colleague’s thought about the blog was a good one, but I wondered how millennials would feel about the list. I mean, it kind of makes them sound entitled — that’s until I reread the list.

Yeah, “unique” was the reason I bought my current vehicle four years ago. I just hadn’t seen very many of them on the road or in the parking lot at work, and the thought of having a vehicle no one in my family had made this Gen Xer forget about the issues pointed out to me in the reviews I read.

As for the VIP treatment, why not? Heck, I know of a few dentist offices that could heed that advice. But, yeah, if they came ready to buy, shouldn’t you be ready to sell. Besides, isn’t your dealership’s sales process designed to keep customers moving so they don’t have time to second guess their decision to buy. So I guess being ready for them and not making them wait isn’t asking too much, right?

I totally agreed with the texting recommendation. In fact, I had a millennial colleague at my previous gig who came to me for advice on buying a car. A couple of days after we talked, she returned to show me how the deal went down. I write “show”, because she handed me her iPhone to show me the texting exchange she had with her salesman. In his last message, he told her she owed him for getting management to agree to her price. He then asked her out for coffee, which you probably shouldn’t do.

I also agree with the LinkedIn advice. The social media site was my go-to source for learning about people I needed to interview for a magazine article. And I just hated it when an interviewee’s LinkedIn profile had no photo and his or her “Experience” section only listed company names and titles.

In fact, I’ve used LinkedIn to look up my son’s baseball coach and fielding instructor, his tennis coach, teacher, an email solicitor, and someone who liked (or hated) a social media post I made or an article I wrote. And, yes, I even looked up the guy who sold me my last car.

So I guess that list contains solid advice, and maybe this Gen Xer was just being — as Dorsey describes my kind — his typical “skeptical,” “cynical” self. By the way, Dorsey also says Gen Xers make great managers and leaders because we dive into the details. Who am I to question an expert, right?

What I find interesting, and I’m sorry for the shameless plug, is many of our most recent updates to our DealerSocket CRM address Dorsey’s recommendations. Last month, for instance, our product teams rolled out a new mobile-optimized widget for our DealerFire websites. It’s designed to connect car buyers who request a text conversation to users of our CRM through our SocketTalk texting tool.

Earlier this year, we rolled out the capability to send walk-around videos (up to 500 MB, or roughly two minutes) and vehicle images through SocketTalk. The texting tool can also receive images and videos, a capability your used-car manager can use to get a head start on appraising a customer’s trade. Oh, and we also added an emoji keyboard to SocketTalk.

The CRM release that really speaks to Dorsey’s recommendations, particularly tip No. 2, is SocketCredit. After having a positive exchange via SocketTalk, imagine being able to text a link to our SocketCredit credit application or a request to perform a soft pull on the customer’s credit. Heck, you can even mention to them that the soft pull won’t harm their credit. Hey, Gen Y knows how hard credit pulls ding their scores, thanks to their baby boomer parents.

Talk about a connected retail experience, right?

Dorsey also offered great insights in “Decoding Gen Z the car buyer,” a report DealerSocket developed in conjunction with Automotive News. Born after 1996, Gen Z is entering the workforce by the tens of millions while wielding roughly $3 trillion in purchasing power. The article breaks down the vehicles Gen Z wants and how they want to buy them.