Digital Strategy

Tackling Tech in Today’s Dealerships

Our team has spent the past decade developing automotive products. We’ve built about a dozen different platforms for both our clients and ourselves. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot including the unique challenges that come with working in the auto industry. Here’s how we’ve overcome some of these challenges to create products that solve real problems.

Sorting the spaghetti.

No two dealerships operate the same. Each has its own set of processes and systems, often a mix of modern and legacy (old) systems engrained in a dealer’s daily operations – software that typically wasn’t designed to change quickly or integrate smoothly with new technologies. 

Not to mention the fact that each dealership has its own unique approach, whether that’s how they tag inventory in their backend system, manage user permissions, provide a line of sight into sales data, or structure their operations into departments, markets, or regions.  

The industry today is filled with aggregators, both regional and national.  These acquisitions face many difficult challenges to successfully close due to OEM requirements, real estate issues, inventory transfer, and personnel integration. Once closed, there are many more challenges in making disparate systems work together.

For example, one dealership might use 12 different systems while the other uses 10. Between the two, maybe only 5 are the same. Add to this the layer of complexity that comes with the way different departments operate under one roof, and it’s literally like trying to sort a bowl of spaghetti.

To fix this problem, we start by mapping out each dealership's current processes and platforms to understand their specific quirks and nuances, as well as the departments within each store. 

Then, we normalize their data, which means we translate different languages into a common language our software can understand and process efficiently. This way, each platform works like it should. Also, when we roll out new features or updates, we ensure they fit seamlessly into the existing framework. 

‘Unmessing’ VIN decoding.

VIN decoding is essential to get all the details about a car right, but it's usually done differently depending on what system you're using. Most systems tell you basics like year, make, and model, but when it gets into things like trim, special features, or engine info, it’s hit or miss. 

These details really matter when you're trying to manage or sell your inventory. 

Here's the problem: if your dealership uses several different technologies to decode VINs, things get really messy. Inconsistency can make it tough to understand what you own and consistently disclose and price correctly to consumers.  

Working in the auto industry as long as we have, we’re familiar with just about every VIN decode tool out there, as well as the ones that best integrate into a dealership’s operations depending on the specific use case.  

Navigating the manufacturer maze.

Dealing with cars from different manufacturers (OEMs) adds another layer of complexity to our work. Each OEM has its own set of rules and ways of sharing information, and this can get especially tricky with used cars.

For example, if you're a Lexus dealership, you're well-versed in everything Lexus. But what happens when a used Mercedes rolls onto your lot? Suddenly, you're playing by a different set of rules and databases, and you might not have immediate access to all the information you need. This scenario is common in used car sales where a dealership has to handle a variety of brands and models, each with its different requirements and specs.

What’s more, there’s different financing options – not just from brand to brand, but from new to used, too. A new car might come with one set of financing programs, but used cars, especially Certified Pre-Owned, might have entirely different financing plans available. 

Our tech integrates various OEM data, as well as new and used car data within the same brand, into a uniform platform. This way, no matter what car rolls into your dealership, our software manages all the necessary information seamlessly to quickly and correctly handle important tasks such as valuation, sales, and financing.   

There are no workarounds to contextual understanding.

The key to creating the right products for this industry isn’t about your coding skills. It’s the deep contextual understanding you bring.  It's not about creating software; it's about creating solutions that are informed by an intimate understanding of a dealership's daily operations and challenges. 

Without a solid understanding of our industry, you will not be able to ask the right questions to get to the end game, which is a product that works well and helps dealers solve actual problems – nor will you have a network of people who can help you bypass obstacles along the way, to keep the project moving forward.

For insight, we use an agile approach to development. Here are the fundamentals:

  • Ask the necessary questions – Before we start writing code, we begin an in-depth discovery process that continues throughout the entire project. This allows our product designers and product owners to grasp not just what the dealership wants, but why they want it, what their end goal is, and how it fits into their current operations. 

  • Educate and advise – Our role doesn't stop at understanding; it extends to educating our clients on what’s possible and advising them on the best solutions. This means pointing out potential issues they might not have considered, or suggesting alternatives that could save them time and money in the long run.

  • Iteratively develop and get feedback – We use a hands-on approach that includes collaboration with dealers throughout our development process. This ensures that the final product is both technically sound and specifically aligned with their needs and expectations. Discovery in and of itself is progressive, dictating where the conversation goes. In agile development methodology, there are no shortcuts - you have to go through the process to get to the answers. Discovery is ongoing. 

We do more than just make software; we solve real problems. We take complicated systems that aren’t working well and make them smooth and easy to use for our automotive clients. We get to know each dealership specifically by asking the right questions, which helps us create exactly what they need. This is all made easier because we understand the car business. It’s the heart of what we do.