Are You CASL Compliant?

Important Update:

The Government has decided to suspend the implementation of the provision known as Private Right To Action.  This is the provision that would allow lawsuits to be filed against individuals and businesses for alleged violations.

Check out this government page for more information:

The government will be reviewing this, but the rest of CASL is still moving forward July 1.

Continue reading “Are You CASL Compliant?”

Strathcom Media has been Chosen for the Kia Dealer Website Certification Program!

Kia Optima

All of us at Strathcom Media are extremely excited to be named a Preferred Website Vendor for the Kia Dealer Website Certification Program! Kia had great success in 2015/16 with the program and wants to work with only the best moving into 2016/17 to take the program to the next level.

How can a preferred partner help you with the Kia DWCP?

  • Preferred pricing on website products. Who doesn’t love a deal?  With three different website service levels you can select the product that meets your dealership’s needs.
  • We know what Kia is looking for and will ensure you get and maintain a high certification score.
  • Best in class insights and performance.

More specifically, how can Strathcom Media help you?

  • 19 years of experience and the Canadian automotive industry is all we do. We speak at every major automotive event, we train manufacturers, and we work with some of the largest automotive groups in the country. We have the expertise to help you succeed.
  • We are a Google Premier Partner and a Facebook Preferred Partner. This means we can provide you with a best-in-class online advertising solution.
  • World class website platform. Does your website have technology like Personalization, Geo-Fencing, Notepad, Silent Salesman, Inventory Management, Data Syndication and Dynamic Incentive tools? Ours do.

If you are looking for different results moving into 2017 give us a shout and let us show you what we can do differently.

Facebook Automotive Partners Summit

We were one of only a few Canadian agencies invited to attend the 2nd Facebook Automotive Partners Summit in Menlo Park, California on Tuesday.  It’s always great to be recognized by a world class company like Facebook (it’s also very nice to leave the snow behind in Edmonton and hang out in Silicon Valley) but the greatest value comes from the industry-specific training and advanced learning that Facebook provides us.  So, here is the highlight reel of what we learned.

Facebook office in California

It was a jam packed day with over a dozen speakers covering over a dozen topics, as well as a tour and happy hour (more on that later).

First off, the technology that Facebook is working on and putting out is pretty slick, check this video out: This isn’t going to revolutionize the auto industry, but it gives you an idea of what they are capable of and that Facebook truly can reach everybody. Just wait until Oculus is full swing!

I’ve said this before and I am going to continue to say it again: Facebook is not about likes and shares. It is about highly targeted advertising, to relevant people, with a variety of ad formats.  We know that consumers go on a journey when they buy a vehicle.  Facebook enables you, as a dealer, to provide impactful advertising from consideration to ownership. So, what does this look like in terms of format or targeting?

  • Local awareness ads and videos with broad targeting focused on reach
  • Carousel ads to showcase inventory or features of vehicles with in- market auto data or website retargeting and look-a-like audiences
  • Lead ads for test drives and website clicks to VDPs with MAX in-market auto data and/or website retargeting
  • It doesn’t end with sales though, there are huge applications for fixed ops
  • Messenger is going to be big, not sure how big, but it is going to be big and it is going to have an impact in the auto industry
  • The other takeaway that I found very interesting were the abilities Facebook offers you to market to a multi-cultural nation.  Obviously this is very applicable in Canada, take advantage.

Facebook office in CaliforniaBeyond the great information and data presented, it would be a shame if we didn’t talk about the campus. Security is tight so don’t show up just expecting to have lunch with Zuck’.  Once you are in, it is like digital Disneyland; in fact, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg sits on the board of Disney and had them come out to help create the community.  It is truly amazing, and the California weather doesn’t hurt either. They have everything that you would expect your typical Silicon Valley company to have: cafeterias and food, a bike shop, a spa, a bank (of course), an ice cream parlour, a BBQ smokehouse, a woodworking shop, and a pop up shop that local businesses from Palo Alto can occupy so that Facebook can support the local economy.  Watching people work on their laptops while eating ice cream truly makes one envious.  One of the most interesting and important parts of Facebook HQ, in my opinion, is that it is located in the old Sun Microsystems campus and left they some of the logos around to remind everyone how quickly everything can change.  It is a good message for all: keep pushing forward.

GOOGLE THINK AUTO 2016: Full Review

For those of you who need more than a brief summary of think auto here is the big one, enjoy.

Google Think Auto 2016

This year, Think Auto was held in the historic Massey Hall. While the venue was definitely cool, the seats left something to be desired. The event featured a lineup of well known Googlers that took turns presenting different topics. Think Auto followed a similar path to previous years and updated a lot of the data points. There was a strong message presented again this year that OEMs and dealers are not living up to what the customer wants. One dealer group executive who attended the event told me he wasn’t quite sure he liked Google presenting itself as “the supreme overlord telling us how shitty we are at our jobs. We sold more cars than last year didn’t we?” Anyway, his words, not mine.

Sam Sebastian, the managing director of Google Canada, opened the event with a discussion about change which really set the tone for the whole day. Due to the fact that there are a lot of stats at Think Auto, I am going to use a lot of bullet points, this will make it easier for you if you are only looking for the numbers. Continue reading “GOOGLE THINK AUTO 2016: Full Review”

Highlights of DealerTalk 2016

This year’s edition of Kijiji’s DealerTalk went down at the Allstream Centre on Tuesday, September 20.  One of the changes for this year was having two streams that attendees could attend; one for sales and marketing, and the other for the executive level.  I personally thought this was a great way to provide attendees with the flexibility to attend what mattered to them most.

Jon Montgomery speaking at DealerTalk TorontoThe day opened with an inspiring keynote from Georgian College Alum, Olympic Gold Medalist and TV personality Jon Montgomery.  Jon is definitely a charismatic and fearless guy. Who else flies head first down a sheet of ice at 140km/hour? Or just hands his golf medal into a crowd and says: “I’ll get it later”?

After Jon Montgomery, dealers were invited to head to their first break out session.  Due to the fact that I can only be in one place at a time, I cannot give you a break down of all the sessions, but if you are looking for a bigger breakdown check out the site:

I checked out Alan Dickie’s presentation on how he uses video and Facebook for his business and how car dealers can do the same.  Alan is definitely an energetic presenter.  He opened with asking everyone in the room to go to Facebook and put in their status “if I can guarantee you $3,000 over what your vehicle is worth would you trade it in?”.  Towards the end of the session he asked the brave souls who did it what happened.  It definitely generated some buzz.

After Alan I checked out Susan Seto’s data driven presentation on what motivates Canadians to buy a car.  This was a jam packed session with a lot of charts.  Having just attended Google’s Think Auto event, I was interested in seeing what Susan had to say.  It’s important to note that Think Auto samples 5,000 individuals while, to my understanding, this data was based on 1,800 individuals.  Biggest difference in my mind was in the data on most important sources used when buying a car.  There was a little bit of overlap, but while Google says Search, OEM Sites, Dealer Sites and Reviews are where customers are looking, Kijiji – surprisingly – placed classified sites on the list and did not have a single mention of dealer websites.  Seems a little convenient, but then again, I sell dealer websites and Kijiji sells classified listings.  You’ll have to decide for yourself or trust Google!

After lunch I checked out Kyle Costa’s presentation which focused on some fundamentals that you need to get right and then some next level initiatives you can work on when you have the foundation laid.  I agree with Kyle’s mentality that other industries are being disrupted and our industry is ripe for the picking.  Companies like Carvana and Beepi are making an attempt to change the game and if you don’t step up, they will succeed.  Kyle provided real examples straight from the trenches that are working for him, not just ideas a consultant dreamed up and has never tried.

DealerTalk TorontoKevin Graff closed the day with an afternoon keynote which was very impressive considering he had only 30 minutes. Kevin had everyone agreeing that we can all sell more and provided us with five foundations to do this:

  1. Focus on Goals – if I called anyone in your store would they know their target?
  2. Share Results Constantly
  3. Accountability for Success – people play the game different when they know it matters
  4. Ongoing Training and Coaching – do you train every week?
  5. Make it Worthwhile

Overall, I thought that the day was well put on and well received by the attendees.  I also really appreciate the sweet K-Way jacket from Kijiji!

Google Think Auto 2016

Google Think Auto 2016
Massey Hall, Toronto, September 8, 2016

Another edition of Google Think Auto is in the books and, as always, it was an insightful afternoon from the online powerhouse.  The theme of the event was change, but this always seems to be the case with technology.  Technology drives change and creates the expectation of change.  We have all been talking about Uber, Air BnB and Netflix for awhile now, but it still remains relevant to be cautiously paranoid about someone coming to our industry and turning it upside down.  We need to continue to push forward and effect change.

Speaking of change, this year Google made some changes to their Think Auto study. They expanded their study from 3,000 car shoppers to 5,000 car shoppers which means that they have deeper data than they have had in previous years. This was also the first year that Google included a dealer-specific segment.

Here are some highlights from this year’s study:

  • Online video is continuing to become more important for consumers but is still not being fully utilized by the auto industry in Canada. Since OEMs are not producing the content, it is up to individual dealerships to start creating the content that customers are looking for.
  • The average car buyer is making 3 dealership visits, but:
    • 40% visit one dealer only
    • 23% visit multiple dealers of the same brand
    • 37% visit multiple dealers and brands
  • Prices and Payments and Booking a Test Drive are pain points for customers
  • 65% of shoppers have emailed a dealer
    • About half of customers are not happy with the timeliness or the quality of responses
  • Google is going to have a Dealer Digital Excellent Award this coming year

We will have a more complete summary to follow with more detailed info and stats, stay tuned!

What’s New With YouTube?

Ashley Hahn, Brand Strategy Lead from Google, gave us a great update and presentation on what’s going on with Canada’s second favorite search engine, YouTube. Couple fun facts about YouTube:

  • 400 minutes of content uploaded to YouTube every minute, that’s more content creation than the big three networks have put together in the past 5 years combined.
  • Canada loves YouTube, 26.6 million monthly users, reaches 84% of the online population in Canada

In my opinion YouTube is still greatly underutilized by Canadian auto dealers.  Although there are a variety of reasons, video production and quality have always been at the top of the list of why dealers aren’t on YouTube.  Well, you’re in luck!  YouTube has just released a new app call YouTube Director.  This is a slick new app designed to help the average dealer or SMB get on YouTube.  

Okay, so maybe you have filmed a video or two, what else?  YouTube is a great medium to help generate awareness, but the power of YouTube’s platform is the targeting.  Ashley provided an example of how we can target the ‘true self’, not just the demographic self of an individual that might be valuable to your business.   

  YouTube - Demographic Self vs True SelfYouTube - Demographic Self vs True SelfYouTube - Demographic Self vs True Self

We know that lots of Canadians go to YouTube and they go to YouTube by choice.  The days of watching what’s on just because it’s on are long gone.  YouTube can help you reach the undecided, not the uninterested, consumer that matters to your business.

How about some good examples from outside the auto vertical!

  • Warby Parker Help – an online eye wear company that answers questions and demo’s products using YouTube.  Video quality is good but not Hollywood good. This has direct application to our industry.
  • Geico Unskippable ad – Ad Age campaign of the year and super funny.  It’s all about context! We all hate when we don’t see that Skip Ad button, so have some fun with it like Geico.
  • Dollar shave club  We have all seen this video, it’s been watched over 23 million times.  The success of this video helped Dollar Shave Club recently get sold to Unilever for $1B.  Not bad
  • First YouTube video uploaded 18 seconds of non-sense, you know, in case you were curious.

Our habits with YouTube and online video in general have changed.  We used to watch it at home, alone, in isolation.  Now we watch videos in public with our friends.  I am watching these YouTube clips on a flight with a colleague.  The times have changed!  YouTube was driven to prominence by millennials, but it is certainly not just for millennials anymore.  Not to mention those same millennials now have cash and purchasing power – probably individuals worth targeting.

It is only going to get worse (or more important depending on how you look at it).  Variety did a survey of American teens that revealed YouTube stars are far more popular than traditional celebrities. That’s right, PewDiePie is cooler than Katy Perry.

 In summary, YouTube: underutilized by Canadian auto dealers + hugely popular with Canadians + great targeting abilities = one massive opportunity for you.

What’s New in Waterloo? Google!

Google WaterlooWe were honored to be one of only 16 Google Partners invited to come and spend the day at Google’s latest and greatest office in Canada’s tech hub – Waterloo, Ontario.  This is one of the many perks that we get as a Premier Google Partner in Canada.  The day was packed with insightful speakers, great content, exclusive training, lots of food, and a tour.

If you were not aware, we are giving away 6 trips in September to this very same office where you will be treated to a similar experience – click here for details and to enter.  You will not be disappointed if you win!  

So what did we learn? A lot!  We are going to break this down into three additional posts.  One on Google’s brand new Expanded Text Ads, another on every business’s favorite source of frustration: Google My Business, and finally, one on What’s New with YouTube.  

A little about the newest Google office first.  It is in an incredible building that was built in 1918 and was actually a former rubber plant.  It houses approximately 500 Googlers with the capacity for about 500 more.  These engineers don’t work on Canadian specific projects either; they work on big ticket items like Gmail, Chrome and the Ads Infrastructure.  Like all Google offices that I have had the pleasure of visiting, it has wicked food at the main cafeteria, mini cafe’s on all floors, a cyborg moose (what’s more Canadian tech?) a gym with a climbing wall, nap pods and a whole lot more.

Google Waterloo - CafeteriaGoogle Waterloo - Cafeteria                    Google Waterloo - Cafeteria

What did we learn? For this post I am going to focus on two speakers, the individual posts will take care of the rest.  First up was Ben Wood, Director of Channel Sales Americas.  Ben spoke about how Google focuses on the ‘whole problem’ and works from that perspective.  If someone using Google can’t spell, it’s a Google problem.  If the internet is not fast enough, it’s Google’s problem.  This type of thinking has lead to great developments like Google Suggest (you know when Google suggests searches before you are done typing) and Google Chrome, a way faster and way better internet browser than what was available.  Further to looking at the whole problem, he spoke about 10X and moon shots – essentially the big, big wins that will transform your business, maybe even your industry.  Google considers these types or products over small iteration.  This is how we get self-driving cars, contact lenses to measure insulin levels for diabetics, and project Loon (balloon powered internet for the remote parts of the world).

Google WaterlooAfter Ben we heard from Sam Sebastian, Managing Director of Google Canada, or the big boss.  Sam provided us with an unbiased look at what Google is trying to accomplish in Canada – mainly diversify away from search advertising.  He spoke candidly about ad blocking and that one solution will be for Google and Premier Partners like us to build better ads.  One comment that he made was that in 10-15 years every business will be a software business.  He provided examples from big banks and agencies and how software is starting to be at the core of all we do.  Whether he is right or wrong, I am going to learn how to code.  The last concept he shared that really resonated with me was about Yahoo’s sale to Verizon for ~$4.8B.  Yahoo was valued at more than $100B at its peak in 2000.  What happened to the other $95B?  No one knows exactly, but it is this type of event that constantly reminds him (and perhaps it should all of us) that we need to be a little bit paranoid about the next start up.  It is this paranoia that needs to drive us to hit our 10X goals that Ben outlined, to stay in business and not lose 95% of our value.

Overall it was a great day and it is always an honor to be invited to such an exclusive event.  For more information on the day and all the training we received, check out our three other blogs on the event:   Expanded Text Ads, Google My Business, and  What’s New with YouTube.


Duncan Cochrane

Why Conquesting Should be a Fundamental Part of your Dealership Strategy!

brand loyalty strathcom media canadian car dealer website advertising

Every year, Google shares some valuable insights with their automotive partners in the form of their Think Auto study. Sifting through this goldmine of data, it made me realize that not enough dealers focus on conquesting and as a result they are missing out.  To set the stage, here are a few points from Google’s research I found particularly valuable:

  • 75% of the automotive research process is done online
  • The average consumer only visits 1.5 dealerships in person compared to 5 back in 2005
  • 87% of people consider multiple brands during the research and shopping process
  • 71% of people switched brands with a new purchase (was driving a Ford and bought a Chev)
  • 81% of people are using search engines during the shopping process and search leads to brand discovery
  • People are open to influence from the start
    • 63% start with a competitive brand in mind and buy something else
    • 14% start with a brand in mind and buy it
    • 23% have no brand in mind

Okay, so we can all agree that a bunch of stats can be boring, so what does this actually mean?

We know that the research and shopping process is predominantly done online, no surprise.  However, what most dealers and manufacturers don’t want to admit is that brand loyalty is low, VERY low.  Only about 12% of shoppers are brand loyal and about 14% of shoppers buy the brand that they first have in mind.

This is why you need to focus on conquesting!

So how can we do this?

Here are three steps to start a good conquesting strategy:

  1. Brand and model comparison pages on your website. Few dealers actually do this.  You might have heard about this strategy in the past but did you actually go and write why the 2016 Ford F-150 is better than every other truck in the market?
  2.  Incorporate a conquest strategy into your paid search campaigns. People use search engines in the research process and then discover new brands as a result.  If you’re a Chevy dealer trying to compete with the new Tacoma maybe you want to come up in this search:
  3. conquest searchDon’t forget about the 2nd most popular search engine in Canada, YouTube. Leverage the popularity of YouTube and film some comparison videos.  Walk around your Dodge Ram 1500 explaining why it is superior to the Silverado and Sierra.  With some simple editing software you can even loop in some stock footage of competing models.

The reality is people are not brand loyal, they are open to influence and you can take advantage of this.  Why focus on first time buyers when they only make up 17% of the market, focus on the 71% of people who are open to switching.

Get Conquesting, Get More Leads.

Western Canadian Dealer Summit Recap- Banff Sept 13–15 2015

western canadian dealer summit

Another great year in the books for the Western Canadian Dealer Summit that brings three provinces together to educate and entertain car dealers.  So what did we learn? Here is the highlight reel:

  • Claire Thomson from Google Canada gave us an overview of the newly released Think Auto Data. Overall auto shoppers are taking 9 days less to move from the thinking to buying stage and they are still not happy with the timeliness and quality of responses from dealers.  Claire reminded us that people are busy and that as a dealer you need to get it right online with the first interaction.  Mobile experience is still important and dealers need to focus efforts on mobile bid modifiers and location and call extensions.
  • Dealer Principal Tom White Jr. gave a top notch presentation on people, process and culture. At his dealership in Wichita they have flipped the org chart upside down and believe in what Tom has dubbed “servant leadership.”  Tom spends 80% of his time getting to know his people at their activity-based dealership.  (A Subaru dealership that happens to be 4th in the country while being located in a market with less than 500,000 people.)
  • Charlie Vogelheim from Motor Trend Audio gave by far the most animated and perhaps most honest presentation on the internet, 3rd parties and vendors. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are coming and all the big manufacturers have offices in Silicon Valley now.  Disruptive technology is on its way to the auto industry, get ready!
  • Jeff Cryder formerly of Lebanon Ford talked about online reputation management. The best question that he posed in my mind was Are your reviews a reflection of your excellent review process or of your quality service? Do not expect reviews for average service, nobody raves about average!
  • Ed Woiteshek from CarProof Canada talked about the think tank initiative that they have launched called Transparency Advantage. Car shopping has a long way to come and it is time to innovate or get disrupted.  The think tank is working on several initiatives with a lot of promise, go to to learn more.
  • Search Optics did an interesting survey of dealers and how they feel their digital strategies perform versus what they are spending. The insights presented were very enlightening for the dealers and provided some benchmarks for dealers to better understand how their own spend compares.
  • Yours truly was on a panel about data ownership and why it matters to dealers. Don Hansen, Emily Baum and Allan Chell presented very important arguments from different perspectives to create awareness about this topic for dealers.
  • Wrapping up the conference was Alan Bird from SCI Marketview who shared his “Driving Sales 2015 Most Valuable Insight” winning presentation. Alan and his team were able to prove with data that not only is the speed of a response important but that the quality of the response is extremely important at increasing closing rates.  (Auto-responders and weak response won’t cut it.) You need to focus on subject lines and greetings, answering and posing questions, giving prices and availability and your dealership value proposition.

It was a great conference and Jay Radke definitely deserves a shout out for hosting it again.  Looking forward to next year in Vegas!

4 Strategies to Steal Share from Your Competitors

It’s no secret that showroom traffic is declining year over year, and buying a bigger inflatable gorilla is no longer the go-to strategy to woo buyers to your doors. Just being online, taking your marketing efforts “to the next level,” or running an AdWords campaign isn’t enough anymore. The battleground is digital, and it’s time to bring down your competition through intelligent targeting.

Outsmart & Outrank

We recommend trying an innovative outrank strategy. Did you know that you can outbid your store’s competitors on market share by targeting either their brand name or specific keywords? Using Google’s Auction Insights, you can laser-target a specific competitor in town and set your bids to outrank them, every time. Want to be a little more devilish? Exclude your competitor’s IP addresses so that they can’t see your ads, making it more difficult for them to copy your strategy or drive up your auction costs.

Win the Mobile Ad Game

Did you know that roughly 50% of paid traffic clicks come from tablets and other mobile devices? There are generally only two positions up for grabs at the top of the search engine results page for mobile searches. The savviest dealers know that structuring their accounts for mobile search is the best way to capitalize on this. Key strategies include: mobile-specific ads, increasing bids by set percentages to achieve top position, and optimizing for mobile “click to call.” Smartphone searches show a higher than average conversion rate, so winning these customers in the search auction has huge implications for lead generation.

Poach Their Newsletter List

Want to serve your ads to people who already have been in talks with other dealerships about getting pricing info or setting up a test drive? Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP) will let you do this. How does it work? Advertisers get 125 characters to grab the attention of their targeted audience through GSP’s “teaser ad.” The teaser sits on of the user’s email inbox, includes a thumbnail image, a title, and a short description, and is the gatekeeper to a much more interesting and interactive advertisement: the full-page, “expanded” ad. The best part? Keyword targeting! Up to 500 unique keywords can be targeted and GSP will comb through the user’s 300 most recent emails to determine if they have had any correspondence related to the keyword (or keywords) of your choice (like a specific model of which you have overstock, or your competition’s dealership name).

What if you’re determined to win over customers from a specific competitor? Through domain targeting, you can target specific websites from the user’s inbox. This is great if you’re interested in getting the attention of users who may be receiving newsletters as part of a specific mailing list, or who might have a relevant website found somewhere with their email signature; just add the domain that you’re interested in et voilà—you’re now introduced to more potential customers.

Target Their Website Visitors

By now you have probably tried some form of retargeting to reel back in visitors who have left your site. But did you know you can target visitors who have left your competitor’s sites? You can set up a custom infinity audience, composed of people who have visited your competitor’s websites in the past.

targetFor example, as a Dodge dealer, you could list 10 competing Ford stores, target people who have visited those stores, and show them a targeted display ad for your dealership offering to beat any other dealer’s offer by $1,000, a simple way to conquer some of that business. This has great implications for dealers in the competitive Used Vehicle segment as well, as this a far more cost-efficient option than straight up competing in the search auction for used vehicle terms or buying pricey spots on Trader or Kijiji. The users who are won over by a campaign like this are usually further down the sales tunnel as well, so their conversion rate is higher than what you’d be used to seeing through traditional display advertising campaigns.

As the industry continues to evolve, consumers expect transparency in advertising and pricing—you aren’t competing on who has the lowest price anymore. Online advertising goes far beyond standard search and display campaigns, and the most progressive dealers will be making laser-targeting a top priority to gain market traction. Talk to your provider about embracing these techniques now to get more leads today. There are many more ways to pick off valuable leads from the store down the road; we suggest starting with one or two strategies and mastering them before moving on to the rest.

Resist the Robots: Automatically Generated Descriptions and Videos Piss People Off

Merchandising your inventory to suit today’s customer is not just hard, it’s downright painful.

You need to take over twenty great photos of a clean car that just arrived as a trade-in or off the transport truck. It needs to be VIN decoded and have all the equipment and options added. People want a description that highlights the most important features, as well as the things they cannot tell from a picture, like the accident and service histories.

And now, more than ever, they are demanding video footage of every piece of used inventory. (Let’s not forget great video walk-arounds of new models, as well.)

Yellow robot trying to use laptop

So what are the most common strategies?

Some dealers have resorted to hiring full-time merchandisers, and to me that makes good sense. The best department stores and clothing retailers take it for granted that paying for merchandising is just the cost of doing business.

Some dealers feel like they cannot afford it. Others make their best attempt, and some just leave it be. Most, unfortunately, are the type who get lured in by providers with automated services: automatically generated descriptions and videos that are alleged to boost SEO rankings, engage consumers, and increase leads.
Continue reading “Resist the Robots: Automatically Generated Descriptions and Videos Piss People Off”

5 Data-Driven Insights on Used Car Buyers from’s March Report

Last week, a new white paper hit my desk. These kind of industry reports cross my path all the time, and few are worth sharing. But I felt this is one would be quite useful to some of our dealers, especially those who sell used cars.

CarStory, a U.S.-based company powered by Vast, published “How to Convert Used Car Shoppers to Buyers” this past March. If you are unfamiliar with CarStory, they create market-based analytics that help online shoppers discover and decide on the right used car.  Continue reading “5 Data-Driven Insights on Used Car Buyers from’s March Report”

The Mobile Search Universe Changes on April 21st: Will Your Site Survive or Suffer?

change-noticeLine ’em up. If you haven’t already, it’s time to get your mobile ducks in a row.

You shouldn’t be hearing this for the first time now. If you’ve attended an automotive conference, followed this blog, or tried looking up information on your smartphone over the past few years, you have already been bombarded with this message: you need to deliver a great mobile experience to remain relevant online.

Continue reading “The Mobile Search Universe Changes on April 21st: Will Your Site Survive or Suffer?”

2014 Western Canadian Dealer Summit: Al Awadia's "A Car Buyer's Journey"

“Digital marketing no longer exists; we are marketing in a digital world.” -Clive Sirkin

If you’ve never had the opportunity of seeing Al Awadia from Google speak, you are missing out. Aside from his cool and calm presentation demeanor and his slick slides, he is probably the smartest man in the room. Let’s take you through a highlight reel of Al’s presentation for the 2014 Western Canadian Dealer Summit, entitled “A Car Buyer’s Journey,” first developed for Google’s 2014 Think Auto Conference.

The 3 Phases of Buying

Buyers are spending time in three phases. What we need to understand is what they do in each phase, and how they shift between phases.

So what are the three phases?

  1. Thinking
  2. Researching
  3. Buying

Phase 1: Thinking

Typically, consumers spend 30 days in the thinking stage and consider three brands. But what takes them to the next step? Two of the strongest sources of ad stimuli that help consumers shift into the Researching phase are online video and television. Yes, people are watching video online; if you’re a dealer, or if you follow this blog even semi-regularly, this should not be news to you. This should be your prime area of focus. As for TV, let the OEM take care of that.

Phase 2: Researching

Once out of the Thinking stage, consumers are spending an average of 22 days in the Researching phase, and at this point they’ll still be considering three brands. Here consumers are using 26 research touch points (up from 24 in the previous phase) and 78% of these sources are online. Which are the most important? The OEM website, search, and your dealer site. Video is also used, and it’s on the rise!

Paid Search

Al spoke to the point that 97% of Canadians are using search—and it is a huge catalyst to get people moving—but only 46% of Canadian dealers are using search advertising. My first thought was to wonder how that breaks down between rural and metro dealers. If you’re using paid search as part of your strategy, you are definitely ahead of the curve.

Data with More Depth and Definition

When it comes to data, we know a lot more specifics about individuals now, too. Before we simply knew what it was that people were searching for, and then tried to make backwards inferences from there. Now we know what people are searching for, at what time of day, from what device, and from where! Basically, customers seek information for everything from anywhere and everywhere, including the dealership lot, and they are not always looking at your site. Think about relevancy in your search campaigns. Al used an example of someone searching for an F-150 in two different scenarios.

Scenario 1: Searching on a smartphone, 1 mile from dealership, 3:30pm in the afternoon.

Are you serving this customer the right ad? What does it need? Call now to talk to your local representative, click to call, proper extensions, directions.

Scenario 2: Searching from home, on a laptop, 11:14am in the morning.

What does this consumer get? Build and Price, Search Inventory, Promotions.


Relevancy: the right ad at the right time to the right person.

Search used to be about intent, now it is about context.

Phase 3: Buying

So when the consumer shifts to buying, they are spending 18 days and now have it narrowed down to two brands. In 35% of cases, though, a fourth brand that they were not originally considering pops up.  At this phase the Internet still plays the biggest role, but secondary to the internet in this phase is your dealership and the experience you are giving these customers.

Response time and quality of response matter. If you think auto-response emails and getting back to the customer a day later telling them to come on down is a good strategy, we have bad news for you:

  • 34% of people were not satisfied with the timeliness of the response that they received. That’s a full one third of your consumers. In addition to that, of that one third of dissatisfied customers who felt their wait was too long, 80% had heard back within a day.
  • 35% of people were not satisfied with the quality of response, either. So what do people want in a response? They want a faster reply, and they want you to answer their questions properly, without coming across manipulative or pushy.

The cost for a slow or incomplete response at this phase of the buying process is a lost customer. But what are the numbers behind this?

  • One out of three people are going to another dealership
  • One out of five are going to switch brands

What’s Your Number? Visiting Multiple Dealerships

One stat that seems to get thrown around more often than it should is the idea of how many dealerships people are visiting. We have heard anything from 1.2 – 1.9 and everything in between, and while I’m sure that the number lies somewhere in that range, here is what Al and Google had to say about it:

People are going to fewer dealerships:

  • 35% of people only visit one dealership
  • 27% of people visit two dealerships
  • 19% of people visit three dealerships
  • 19% of people visit four or more dealerships

One stat worth noting is that of the people visiting two, three, or four dealerships, 54% of them are visiting the same brand of dealerships.

People Want to Deal with Fewer People

So what are people looking for when they come into the dealership? Do they want you to be their best friend, directing and pushing them towards what you think they need? No.

  • 32% of people want a self-serve style experience. Like the government-controlled liquor stores of a bygone era, they want to hand you a piece of paper with what they want, sign for it, and drive away. Tesla anyone? (In an age where people would rather text than talk on the phone, does a further move away from face-to-face dealings still seem strange?)
  • 54% want you to act as a facilitator
  • Only 14% of people want the hand-holding type of experience

Consider this the age of the introvert. In 86% of the cases, people either want some help or want you to get out of the way. If they’re checking through the till or need something pulled down from a higher shelf, they’ll come find you. If not, just keep eliminating the friction.

What about Mobile?

All this talk and nothing so far about mobile? Well here we go.

It seems like every year for the past half-decade has been the year of mobile. Now 40% of car buyers use mobile for research, up 50% over 2013. Enough said?

And what do they expect on a mobile device? You need to make it easy for them. Can you auto detect their location? Can they click to call? Is the navigation simple, and can they just type in the bare minimum to find the information they’re after? Does your website consistently stay mobile or does it flip flop back to your desk top site?

Looking Ahead

A lot of great data, and a lot of things to consider — but that was 2014.

What does the future look like? Moving forward, people are asking for the ability to book a service appointment time online, test drive cars from home, buy parts online, and one day, maybe, buy their car online.

Cheer and Promoting at the Western Canadian Dealer Summit

Wynn Encore, Las Vegas: November 6–8

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold… No — that was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

We were packed into a business flight to Nevada when the $9-sandwich cart went past… That’s better.


Not long ago, Bill Warren and I left soon-to-be-frost-covered Edmonton to attend the Western Canadian Dealers Summit. But rather than the typical ticket to Toronto, the mecca of Canadian conference destinations, this time we were treated to a first-of-its-kind adventure to Las Vegas.

First off, we need to give a shout out to the MDA, SADA, and New Car Dealers of B.C., who worked together to put on a fantastic event and rolled boxcars in doing so.

Before we get into all the insights we took from the speakers, let’s give you the high-level highlights of the event:

Thursday got things kicked off with a sponsor-supported welcome reception where dealers hit the jackpot with a wicked food and drink spread. You expect everything to be more lavish in Las Vegas, and we weren’t let down.

Friday was Western Dealer Day at SEMA (enough said; SEMA gets its own post, coming soon); Search Optics also hosted a great bash, complete with a slick performance from three electric violin, classic-rock-playing ladies.

Then on to Saturday, where the dealers convened to listen to a world-class lineup of speakers. (Absent: Celine Dion, Blue Man Group, Tony Bennett, Siegfried, Roy.)


So what did we learn?

  • Grant Gooley from the Zanchin Automotive group began the events with an incredible presentation about the eco system that’s helping them to succeed online. No more inflatable gorillas — build some trust and transparency instead.
  • Eric Miltsch reminded us that as long as there are search engines, SEO is not dead; keep your focus on the local aspects of SEO.
  • Joe Webb, always a charismatic and entertaining speaker, explained to us the value of a great brand experience, using insights from Disney.

  • Yours truly, Duncan Cochrane (above), got a little more granular and presented dealers with cold, hard Canadian data on why you need to merchandise your inventory online — yes, you need to take pictures of your new and used inventory, and don’t be negligent over who actually owns the data.
  • Glenn Pasch, a staple in the automotive speaking scene, presented dealers with the How and Why of having a good online reputation.
  • Mitch Gallant shared his experiences and lessons learned from all the crazy things they have tried over at the Capital Auto Group. He might have had the best line of the conference: “They call me the chemist: not because of how I experiment, but because I can turn money into s%#t!”
  • Aleksandra Banas from Lexus of Edmonton showed us the must-use Google tools for your dealership, including a guided tour through Google Trends, Google My Business, and YouTube.
  • Social media marketer and master of props, Ryan Holtz, got everybody energized and then proceeded to have a dealer hold up a huge pair of tighty whities for a creative campaign he ran for a dealer: #dropyourgonch. If you’re a dealer and you don’t like free media coverage, then this was not for you.
  • Search Optics followed with their presentation — we missed out, unfortunately — and judging by the applause, the content strategies they shared were very well received.
  • Then finally the star of the show: Al Awadia from Google. I am going to write an entirely separate post on this because he shared way too much great information about 2014 and what happened.

Like TED talks for dealers, the presentations didn’t stop there.

Breaking up the set list at lunch, we had the chance to hear from both reality TV star Danny Koker from Count’s Kustoms and Steve Chipman, Chairman of the CADA, the latter providing an update on what the CADA is doing on behalf of dealers.

Saturday evening was concluded with a dinner gala where Cameron Chell shared his inspirational story and challenged us to ask ourselves us “What if?”

We had two carry-on bags, seventy-five business cards, five sheets of contracts, a bag of airline pretzels, a whole galaxy of multicoloured dealer pens, water bottles, and letter openers, and some psychedelic memories of an electric string trio playing “Kashmir”…

A 7:45am Sunday flight back to snow-covered Edmonton really makes us hope that what happened over three receptions in Vegas will stay in Vegas again next year.

Stay Ahead of the Curve with These 2 New Google Marketing Strategies

Prior to heading off on vacation—and in between rolling his Rs and hitting the fake ‘n bake—our il presidente contributed an article to Auto Remarketing Canada. In it Duncan Cochrane outlined the two newest Google advertising methods you can use to funnel clicks and conversions to your website. Continue reading “Stay Ahead of the Curve with These 2 New Google Marketing Strategies”

5 Key Findings in Google's Digital Drives Auto Shopping Study

In November 2013, Google Think Insights released Digital Drives Auto Shopping, a new research study for the auto industry made to answer the following question: “How does digital drive auto research and purchasing decisions?” (See the original PDF of the study here.)

As a side note, if you’ve never explored Google Think Insights, then you’ve been missing out. (The site has an entire section of studies and articles dedicated to the auto industry.)

Why should you care? Digital Drives Auto Shopping brings forward five key findings that can help you understand what your customers will be doing in 2014:

  1. Today’s auto shoppers are open to influence.
    72% of search sessions involve cross shopping. For you, that is an opportunity to steal leads straight from the competition’s mouth.
  2. In-market shoppers are researching more than ever before.
    Today’s car shoppers access 24 research touch points on average including things like:

    • Dealer websites
    • OEM websites
    • Comparing models
    • Watching a video
    • Search Engines
    • Social Media Sharing
    • Consumer Review Websites

  3. Connected devices are driving greater research activity.
    Over 35% of purchasers are looking for information on their mobile devices. No surprise here. Mobile usage is increasing, so you need to be sure you’re giving your consumer a great mobile experience when they’re searching on the go. Check out Our Mobile Website Service
  4. Video influences auto brand discovery and consideration.
    Like mobile, video is on the rise. Over 34% of customers were prompted to start researching by a video ad. How are you taking advantage of video and using it to engage your consumers? Here at Strathcom, we take video seriously. Check out how we made the Dodge Caravan even cooler for one dealer.
  5. Dealer interaction and post-purchase experiences matter.
    62% of vehicle owners said customer service could influence future purchases.

Cool Stats You Can Use

Time is of the essence:
• 82% of purchasers are in-market for three months or less.

Online presence is essential:
When asked what online resources and devices they used to look for information on cars and trucks, responses indicated customers used the following:



  • Consumers have a ton of information at their disposal online. You need to be giving them what they want right away, or they will be forming relationships with the competition.
  • Of all the online influences, a car dealership’s individual website has the biggest impact – more than manufacturer’s websites or even search engines.
  • This is all happening on your lot. The next time you see a potential buyer on your lot and he or she is on their phone, they’re probably not texting. They could be looking at reviews or checking the price elsewhere.

Consumers are researching more. They’re doing it quicker, in more places and from a larger variety of devices. As a dealer, you need to provide consumers with the information they’re looking for: that includes great pictures, descriptions and up-to-date pricing and offers.

Can they access all this information from their phone or tablet? Are you filming engaging videos? Do you offer free Wi-Fi? Do you have a plan for a great post-purchase experience?
If you’re not asking yourself these questions, start right now—or start thinking about retirement.

Strathcom Media Lights up PanEx 2013

Last night, the Strathcom team – led by rock star presenter Cindy Eisman – presented the Market Platform (our new back-end set of dealer tools) to a panel of leading user experience experts in Edmonton’s PanEx event. strathcomPanEx We already build our tools based on direct input from dealers and we welcomed additional input and validation from some of the most badass third-party experts in the industry. What did the panel of experts say?

  • “This is a great design; it feels like I have been using it for a while now.”

  • “I had to be hyper nitpicky to find anything to improve.”

  • “It’s great. [It has a] very, very sophisticated design and [is] user-friendly.”

Market Platform Demo

User experience is important. When we set out to build a vehicle management system for Canadian car dealers, we knew it had to be as easy to use as it was functional. The Market Platform is far more than a simple vehicle management system. It already incorporates the following features (and there is much more on the way):

  • Market Pricing Tool (Market Fresh)
  • Appraisals Tool
  • Lead Management
  • Group Inventory Tools
  • Negative equity Tool
  • Reconditioning Tool
  • Loyalty Tool

The Market Platform system is powered by one user name and password and integrates with all major DMS providers. That means it can communicate with other systems that you are using in your dealership. Simply put, it reduces time and effort spent managing inventory at your dealership and eliminates many unnecessary errors.

Market Platform Demo

What is PanEx?

PanEx (Panel of Experts) is a night where local developers and designers are given an opportunity to showcase their talents and present their websites, applications or products to a handpicked team of Edmonton’s leading User Experience experts. These experts will critique, praise, analyze and assess, providing invaluable insight into how products can be taken to the next level.