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Apr 5, 2016
Online marketplaces and market dynamics have dramatically diluted brand of the dealership that is essentially a local business. Find out how technology can rescue forward thinking dealers from the brink of chaos to a neighborhood brand.
Copyrights © 2016, Shridhar Lolla, 1
Time to Build Brand of your Dealership!
Keywords: Dealer, Dealership, Branding, Mobile App, Car Dealership, Automobile Dealers
The Power of Technology
As the rolling stone of b2c e-commerce moves from generic goods (Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Flipkart,
etc.) to specialized categories (Cartrade, Uber, Airbnb, Myntra, Magicbricks, Pepperfry, Practo, etc.),
customers are loving it and entrepreneurs are enjoying it! By breaking the walls of information
asymmetry Internet has brought the power of discovery and choice to consumers,
‘Disintermediation’: the killer phenomenon in supply chain is at its best.
While the world rejoices with the benefits of e-commerce, the intermediaries are sulking as they
lose a good part of their importance and power in the supply chain. The rapidly eroding state of our
friendly car dealer is a direct manifestation of the disruptive power of technology.
Agony of being a Dealer
Once upon a time, not too distant in the past, there was only one car dealer in our vicinity. He was a
well known and respected local guy. You remembered him when you thought of a car. The OEM
would behave well with him because ultimately its cars would be sold to us only through him.
Gradually other brands came in, you had dealers of different brands. Our dealer now had
competition. Although, the attention of his neighbourhood was getting divided amongst many
dealers, he was still ok with the emerging situation because the market was big enough. Moreover,
the OEM was regularly investing in its brand building and being the only guy with that brand in the
locality, he was the immediate beneficiary. He was making his money.
Come 2015, there are now more than 40 brands in the market compared to 3-4 then, and there are
not just as many brands in the locality, for the same brand, there are more than 10 dealers directly
competing with him in the locality. It has become clear that OEM marketing campaign is not helping
him as much as it used to be when he was the only guy representing the brand in the locality.
Anyway, however strong the OEM marketing is, it was never meant to focus enough to push ‘your
dealership’ brand in the local market. Actually, creating your own brand is always your responsibility.
For past few years, he had started relying on bill boards at the cross roads, running special discounts,
organizing new year and end of the year sale, running marketing campaign for new launches and
offering freebies on his sales. Soon, realization downed upon him that every other dealer is doing
the same thing and there is no way he could gain competitive edge by doing what everybody else is
doing. Dealership has suddenly become a routine, boring and painful occupation.
With so many choices around, customers’ loyalty is spoiled a lot. While to keep the market share,
the OEMs are under tremendous pressure to roll out models after models; the resulting complexity
has only diluted our neighbourhood dealer’s profit margin while forcing him to keep ballooned
budget for capital expenses. His margins are also diminished as his own say in the locality thinned
down, notwithstanding OEMs further tightening their noose on him.
The overall margins are now meagre in car dealership and he makes less than 1/3 of his margins
from the sales of cars. Uncertainty in the market (global or local) on the one hand, and the more
than unpredictable forecasting of the OEMs on the other hand have been creating repeated strong
bull whip effect forcing him to lock his money in huge inventory, a significant part of which does not
move out even in 3 months. In a desperate attempt, he is forced to negotiate commission from
insurance and financing companies to make his ends meet.
Copyrights © 2016, Shridhar Lolla, 2
Customer is the King (Queen)!
Beaten down from all sides, our friendly dealer is gasping for air as all market forecasts reveal that
the future is bleak. And then, there is this onslaught of e-commerce. The onslaught is so powerful
that now as the neighbourhood thinks of a car, it thinks of our online portals , the cartrade.com,
autotrader.com, truecar.com, car24, car nation, etc. There is not much that customers need to
consult a dealer in order to buy a car than what they get from the portal and their own social circle.
They do not need the dealer anymore for seeking information or even for knowing finer design
details of the car. They will visit the dealer to see the model but in today’s fast moving world
powered by Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter, they do not feel obliged to buy from the same dealer.
After all the discovery process of ecommerce is so strong that you are able to find exactly what you
need and that too at a bargain.
The Dealer’s Brand
With the name of the dealer eroding out of neighbourhood’s mind, his brand is now nowhere visible.
It is beaten down everywhere. For his survival, he wants to recreate his brand.
Al Ries, the branding guru said ‘a brand is something you want to own in customers mind’ because a
brand provides you the entry to customer’s decision making. Brand creation is the first thing a
company needs to consider in its strategy. And if your brand is taking a beating i.e. if there is no
word in the mind of your target customers to recall you consistently then despite heavy ad spend, it
is just a matter of time that you are isolated from the market and your business runs on external
factors than the way you want it to run.
A key first step in the creation of your brand is building brand visibility. Brand creators therefore look
for what they call as the ‘real estate’ for brand placement (call it the Wall or the media). Bill boards,
news paper, television, airports, online websites, all are considered the real estate for brand
Your media agency will always look out for the ‘prime’ real estate for the target audience. Dealers
have been using local hoardings, news paper ads and local events as the real estate for their brand
visibility. Till recently, online advertisement was considered a prime real estate for branding; and if
you could come first in a Google search, you get the eyeballs. But in a local market, customers do not
need to google to search for a car dealer. With all the buyers getting into e-commerce sites, it seems
to be an attractive real estate for brand placement, however, the e-marketplaces have now become
Technology is the Answer for Technology
That internet technology has beaten our dealer into despair, perhaps, in this case, technology may
itself solve his current problem. This isn’t a paradox but reality. If branding is about finding a place in
consumer’s mind by association or otherwise, our dealer must place his brand in their vicinity, not
just for 10 seconds but may be 24x7. It seems difficult to think so, but technology has the answer!
The most powerful real estate that is available is the ubiquitous Smart Phone. How about having
your logo placed on the home screen of your consumer’s smart phone. Yes, may be as an icon of an
elegant interactive app that relates to your offerings. With Smart Phone becoming ‘the’ platform for
interaction, we are going to spend more and more time to fulfil our information, relationship as well
as transaction needs. Moreover, in excess of 2/3 of the time spent on Smart Phones is through Apps.
So, if a logo icon is on your customers’ mobile screen, it guarantees a visibility as many times as the
user turns to use the phone. Repeated visibility of your brand logo in the line of sight of your
customer as she uses it time and again, ensures that whenever she thinks of a product or service you
offer, your customer will recall your brand first than anybody’s.
Copyrights © 2016, Shridhar Lolla, 3
THE Prime Real Estate for Branding
Indeed, the screen of your customer’s smart phone is THE Prime Real Estate for making your brand
more visible. The placement wall is so personal and so close to your customer, it is ubiquitous and
always available. Once you have found a way to place your brand on the smart phone of your
customer, the only thing you then need to do is continue to follow the best practices of customer
communication and engagement as customers come to you tapping via your icon on the phone. The
icon on the phone must be linked to a small app that provides the right information and one to one
communication between individual customer and the folks at your dealership. A simple and elegant
mobile App will fulfil your need aptly.
Making a branded mobile App?
Yes, all of us know how cumbersome and costly it is to have a mobile app made. And there are a lot
of stories making round of being too ambitious about mobile Apps, and how businesses not only lost
money in getting their App made but also started hating custom software development. Looks like
the time has changed!
Mobile apps have real power! Massive attempts are being made to simplify the process of making
mobile Apps so that business people and individuals could quickly have the app made without fuss.
Technologists are trying to make app making as simple as preparing a word document or a power
point. There is an emergence of the DIY (Do It Yourself) platforms for making mobile apps. Perhaps,
that is the direction our dealer is looking towards to have his app made quickly and placed on the
smart phones of his customers before anybody else does. It is necessary for him to be there first!
Last week, when we reviewed the market for mobile app platforms, it threw up an amazing number
of DIY platforms for mobile apps. Being promoted by geeks, most of them are trying to sell you the
app as a technology than something that solves ‘your’ real problem. However, some of them offer
very exciting value propositions. Creating your App now requires no coding and no fuss. You do not
have to deal with any software developer. Having your branded App is now as simple in experience
as creating a new Google account and sending your emails with attachments.
In fact, there are DIY platforms dedicated to car dealership that provide niche content creation for
the segment. Worth giving a try amongst them is HelloDealerApp.com, which has positioned itself to
take the problem of ‘brand dilution in car dealership’ head-on. By targeting to place your brand in
the pocket of your customer, it is obsessively focused on ensuring that you improve visibility of your
brand. It helps you create a branded app in a day and start digitally communicating with your
At its current stage, HelloDealerApp.com provides car listing, a feature for announcing offers to your
customers and multiple communication channels to interact with customers, one on one basis. The
back end is a CMS (Content Management System) that takes you through step by step process of
creating your app in a jiffy and uploading it into Apple iStore and Google Play Store. Interestingly,
you do not have to create the app separately for iOS and Android, one build takes care of both
The folks at HelloDealerApp based out of Germany and India, tell me that they have cut down the
app making time through their simple DIY tool to hours compared to months. The only time now
between you and the app is the time Apple and Google take to review and approve your app, which
is just a few days (in case of Google, it is just a few hrs). By democratizing the app making, it does
seem that the likes of HelloDealerApps are going to make business people operate their business
using the mobile app than on desperately chasing software developers for a mobile app.
Wow! That’s stunning, what takes you months of follow up with developers, and burning huge
amount of money, effort and time, can now be done in hrs and days at a fraction of the cost!
So, when are you occupying THE prime real estate?