What do you enjoy most about working in retail automotive, and what would you change?
I love our industry! I have been given many wonderful opportunities in retail automotive for over 20 years. I have found that our industry really embraces technology, and so many of us have an entrepreneurial spirit. My first paying job in high school was working at a dealership on the weekends, writing handwritten lead forms to get customer information. It’s incredible how times have changed! We now have the technology to respond to leads 24 hours a day. This amazing AI gives consumers a better experience while freeing up more mundane tasks for the team working in dealerships. Dealers are leaving money on the table if they are not leveraging technology to give them a competitive edge, including technology to serve up different options to consumers to help with vehicle shortages.
What is the top trend you’re watching in retail automotive this year?
Electric vehicles will be a big part of our future, and dealers have started to see vehicles like Teslas come in on trade. We work with our dealer clients to help them understand how to market to consumers looking for EVs and still make money on custom F&I packages. I recently bought a used Tesla from one of our local dealer clients after finding it online from our BestRide.com consumer site. I traded in my pre-owned BMW i3, my first EV, which just became too small with growing kids. The local dealer I worked with had a process to buy the vehicle from the comfort of my home easily, drove the Tesla to my office for a two-day test drive, and brought the paperwork. A salesperson showed me how to use the technology and explained the charging features. It was the most amazing experience and one every dealership should strive for. With so many OEMs releasing new electric vehicles, all dealers must know the ins and outs of these cars when selling and in case of trade-ins. It’s also essential to continue to engage consumers after they put down deposits and are waiting for their new vehicles, EV or not.
What piece of career advice would you give your younger self?
I would advise my younger self to consider doing more mergers and acquisitions sooner in our Digital Air Strike history. In the past ten years, we have completed eight M&A transactions, but we could have started sooner. Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, we completed two. We acquired our first consumer-facing company, BestRide.com, to expand seamless online car buying, and we bought a leading inventory marketing SaaS company, LotVantage. Our acquisitions have not only helped the company grow with new complementary technology but have also added significant talent to our growing team. It’s vital to look at ways to continually expand and improve your company.
What has been the top key to your success in retail automotive?
I attribute my success to being flexible, pivoting fast, and always being an option thinker, especially when curveballs hit our economy or industry. I started Digital Air Strike during the height of the recession after my business partner decided to close our advertising agency. After attending a conference, I partnered with several successful dealers and industry veterans. We identified that consumers wanted to do more online. There were also similar inventory challenges that prepared us for today. When the pandemic hit, 60% of our clients wanted to cancel their digital marketing programs. We helped them through the tough times, often giving them technology at a highly discounted rate to help them “stay open” virtually. Our clients were able to engage with customers online from their homes, and they learned to embrace new ways to engage with consumers. Digital Air Strike has only grown since, continuing to hire and increase revenue. With the right approach, adversity can bring out the best in all of us when we embrace creativity and new ways to do business.