During my Auto Collabs podcast, I (yes me, Ben Hadley) was asked when I thought that structured and normalized data would start to become a need instead of a want. At the moment of the podcast the value propositions were decent, but not necessarily enough to make every dealer in the country become an adopter.
For example: Structured and normalized data can help you:
It can even substantially increase your website performance across the board (shoutout AutoGenius!) Captivating? Maybe to some. Necessary? Possibly (and more likely depending on your total rooftop count), but universally needed? Not yet.
So what might hint that data lakes, warehouses, fabrics and meshes, might start becoming an inevitability in auto? I'll get to that in a minute.
"It's rare to find companies in automotive that can spell API."
I can't tell you how many times over the last 5 years I've told this joke (I may have stolen that from the CEO of Clarivoy Steve White). And generally speaking it always gets a laugh, but I've noticed the reason for the laughter has started to shift. Initially people would laugh with a "well that's automotive for ya" and chuckle.
Today the laughter isn't fueled by the niche of the vertical. It's fueled by a sort of bewilderment that we still haven't figured it out. Over those 5 years I've seen acquisition after acquisition in software. Companies get bigger, they create a closed sandbox, and that strategy perpetuates the joke!
Why doesn't this happen in other verticals?
In most other major verticals, collaboration wasn't viewed as a weakness, but instead those that could out collaborate with others were the winners. Open api documentation wasn't just a 'nice to have,' but a default. The ease at which you allowed your customers to move data freely separated you from the pack.
SalesForce is one example of a collaborator who designed a good product, but then made it great by making it easy to integrate with other software companies through their marketplace. That collaborative mindset has allowed them to enter nearly every major vertical from Healthcare, to education, to government with a good product that then becomes great with the right integrations. What vertical have they not truly entered yet? You guessed it... Automotive.
Well, that's not entirely true. Most of the OEMs have some relationship with Salesforce already. That might be with their marketing cloud product (previously Pardot) or it might be through one of their subdivisions/agencies. Indirectly, they are sort of supporting tier 3 right now.
Ask any of the major software companies supporting the dealership from your website provider, to the listing site, to the DMS (and yes even the CRM) and it's 90% likely the sales and customer support teams of those companies would tell you they use Salesforce. On the other hand, to this day, I only know of 3 dealerships that use it.
That might all change October 17, 2022 when SalesForce Driver360 goes live globally. Driver360 is an industry specific version of salesforce (one of 13 industry specific versions of SF) that is meant to give Automotive a better view of the lifecycle of the car and of the customer.
From their partnership with Toyota Finance to Jim Farley's “DRIVE with Jim Farley” Podcast being sponsored by SalesForce, there have been rumblings that this day would come. Will it be a success, or will it be Microsoft entering the DMS market again? Time will tell.
You see, in order for it to be successful it can't just be Salesforce that the dealer gets access to, but it has to also be that marketplace that takes their good product and makes it great. In order for that market place to be utilized, dealers are going to need structured and normalized data that has API's, otherwise Salesforce just becomes an expensive bolt on that isn't necessarily any better then their competitors.
What I can tell you, is that the pressure is now on for more and more traditional automotive vendors to re-think their sandbox strategy and as dealerships adopt the same tech stack that those traditional vendors currently use, then the pressure will be on for the rest of the industry to adopt better data practices and data lakes, warehouses, fabrics and meshes will move from a nice to have to a requirement.