At the beginning of 2022, I wrote a (somewhat controversial) article about my predictions for the 2022 year in automotive. Now that we've closed out the end of the year, I'm going to break down what went as predicted, what didn't, and why.
1. Brand Will Matter More Than Ever Before
In my original article, I noted that in 2021, to the delight of many marketers, we saw more dealerships begin to embrace the value of nourishing their own brand. This was only amplified in 2022. Nuff said.
2. Franchisees and OEMs will Butt Heads
They did! Some OEMs pushed forward in incredible ways, such as Toyota Canada. Toyota Canada has implemented programs that continue to allow their dealers freedom of choice for websites, marketing, participation, and more. Other OEMs hit the fan, such as Ford in the US; you may recall the backlash about participation in their EV programs being mandatory and the outrage many dealers felt. While frustrating, I believe these moments of tension will someday play out in a more fair and open-ended system for dealers and OEMs alike.
3. Dealers Will Cancel Digital Retailing Tools, Yet More Will Come
Not only did we see dealers cancel digital retailing tools left right and centre, we also saw big shifts in the workforces of these tools. Many employees opted to leave into different verticals completely, while others shifted to more solidified brands in automotive.
This isn't to say that DR tools are dying, but dealers are not panic-purchasing them out of FOMO, perceived need due to a no-longer-existing pandemic, or shiny object syndrome. There's a place for many of the DR tools out there, and I believe that dealers have realized that they require solid processes in order to excel with these tools.
4. Google VLAs Will Take Over in Multiple Ways
Take over they did, and our first-mover approach to organic SEO around the subject helped us create many new relationships in both Canada and the US.
On top of entering the market more solidly, Google VLAs became Google VAs and customers had amplified awareness of this ad type.
Want your own? Let's chat!
5. Google VLAs will Cannibalize Part of Search Budgets
I'd give this one a "sort of" for accuracy. Dealers did opt to move budget from search to VAs, but our team consistently advises our clients to run both ad types in tandem. We have found that VAs can support great traffic numbers, while feeding the retargeting engine and supporting search ads.
6. OEMs Will Push Focus on Direct-to-Consumer Efforts
We've continued to hear positive things from European countries about their DTC efforts and more brands are attempting to replicate this in North America. Tesla is still doing well despite consumer backlash and Musk's Twitter debacle, Carvana is now dubbed to be dying, and OEMs are pushing the model in different ways.
Brands such as Genesis and BMW have commenced DTC efforts with generally positive reviews from consumers. The end outcome for dealers I'd venture to say is still to-be-determined.
7. Content Will Re-Become King
Content absolutely re-became king, albeit in different ways than imagined. With the continued rise of TikTok, reels, and new ways to generate content, content marketing and content creation are at all-time highs in terms of volume and performance.
Recent AI entrant ChatGPT is already changing the game - something I don't say very often. This tool allows users to have AI generate written content for almost any purpose I can imagine. From blog posts to bios, recaps to re-wording, scripts for plays, outlines of existing content, and more; it's changing things. There are differing opinions, but love it or hate it, we're getting dramatically closer to true AI content that doesn't sound like AI. An engine like this can power written and SEO-focused content), but can also provide inspiration for video content, text posts, and more.
We have been creating content ideas since before content was cool - let’s chat!
8. Used Car Prices Will Continue to Rise
Simply put, we've seen a softening of used car prices in both Canada and the US. We've also seen vehicles sitting longer than they did during the pandemic. Great for consumers, not so much for dealers.
9. Independents Will Have their Time to Shine
We have a history of partnering with incredible independent dealerships for our website tech, inventory, and marketing. Yep. The fully monty. How can these dealers afford to do it all? They sell more cars on this two-way street!
2022 has been a great year for growth, change, and inspiration from independent dealers and I'm excited for what 2023 will bring.
10. Another Round of Free Trials for Third-Parties
Yep. With many tools being dropped, deemed unnecessary, and new entrants popping up (still - how cool is that?!), free trials have been abundant for our dealers and beyond. It's historically been a growth mechanism in the SaaS world and I don't see that changing.
11. Another Round of Handshake Deals for Mandated Tools on Mandated Sites
To point #2, yes. That sadly seems like it will never change. Again, a shoutout to our friends at Toyota Canada for *not* doing so while others have.
12. EVs Will Grow, Slowly
13. Adoption of New Media Channels Will Grow
I can no longer count on one hand how many dealerships have TikTok accounts; let alone how many individual sales and marketing folks are using the channel for their work. That by itself is impressive and as expected.
We've also seen new listing sites, training channels, and integrations come in clutch for our dealer partners.
14. Attribution Will Change, Again
Will it ever stop changing? That is the real question! Attribution is still looked at from an incredibly flawed lens.
On the bright side, efforts like the GA4 Standards Council (that we're a founding partner of!) and other tools are making this easier. Consistent reporting and attribution will help aid in the fundamental flaws in how dealers measure performance.
We have a long way to go here from a mindset and implementation perspective, but I'm confident the right dealers will get there faster.
15. Local Markets Will Shine
Even our rural markets are "on top of the world" when it comes to sales this year. Local markets have been able to solidify their positions as important community members. I believe that a renewed interest in content creation and distribution for dealers has had a great deal to do with this.
17. Transparency Plays Will Win
Well, the proof was in the pudding on this one.
18. Playing Nice Will Work
Most of our dealer partners have benefitted from changes in inventory and pricing, even if the prices aren't skyrocketing as they'd hoped. The dealers that have clearly priced their vehicles, not made "bait and switch" attempts, and have been kindly human to their markets have seen that strategy work. This will increase brand loyalty in the long term and create positive brand associations.
Playing sassy worked too, though. We've had fun and success with our dealer partners that are running conquest campaigns against their sassy competition.
19. Franchisees Will Create Additional Locations
They did, and they bought others. Groups have been growing faster than I've ever seen, and new locations with strong differentiation strategies have been interesting to watch for us marketers.
20. Privacy Will Remain Messy
Oh yes, still messy. I don't even care to elaborate.
21. Dealers Will Get Creative With Digital Delivery
Similar to the points around content creation and distribution mentioned earlier, dealers have been more open than ever before on finding new ways to connect with their customers. How fun!
22. The Market Will Accept COVID-19
All jokes aside, North America breezed past COVID-19 like it never happened and a return to "real life" was welcomed by the masses. While that's not everyone, it has been an overwhelming majority.
The Final Tally
20.5 out of 22 or 93% - not too shabby! I'd take that over a tarot-card-reading psychic any day! Let's see if I can beat that in 2023, shall we?
Agree, disagree? Let me know in the comments. I can't wait to see what 2023 brings us!
If you want to enter 2023 with a bang, hit me up at FlexDealer. We specialize in putting the octane in your tank.