How to Improve Your Digital Retailing Efforts and Customize the Message You Send to Your Customers – Tim Cox, CarNow

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On today’s show, we’re pleased to welcome back Tim Cox, Senior vice president of Sales and Co-Founder at CarNow, one of the country’s leaders in automotive retailing solutions. In this segment, Jm and Tim discuss the importance of conversational commerce, some of the digital retailing challenges dealers face today, as well as the products CarNow has debuting this year. So stop by and see Tim at CarNow’s booth #6133N at this year’s upcoming NADA Show

Tim CoxVIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hi, everyone. Jim Fitzpatrick with CBT News. Thanks so much for joining me today. Today we’re excited to have with us Mr. Tim Cox, Senior Vice President of Sales and co-founder of CarNow. That is a brand that has been around a little while now and is doing phenomenal work for dealers across the country. Tim, welcome back into CBT News.

Tim Cox:
Thank you for having me. Always a pleasure. Always a pleasure.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. We got NADA right around the corner, so I want to throw some questions at you.

Tim Cox:
Sure.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I know it’s going to be a big show for a lot of people. There’s going to be a lot of dealers. It’s Vegas, so Vegas always brings a lot more dealers out, which we’re excited about.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
We hear a lot about the term conversational commerce. It’s kind of making its way around the retailing or the digital retailing lexicon. What are you hearing, and from your perspective, what does it mean?

Tim Cox:
Always remember, we tell ourselves one thing, and it’s been said for a long time, at least with this phenomenon that is digital retailing. Dealers need to remember that very seldom if ever, I don’t know of any case that a car has ever been sold without at least one conversation.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Tim Cox:
So, creating those conversations … What is digital retailing? Everything on your website is digital retailing. So, understanding that going in, being able to communicate with that customer that is calculating that payment or wanting to know their trade, there has to be a conversation there.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Tim Cox:
So, that is what we get or that’s what we feel the definition of conversational commerce or digital retailing is.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. What do you think are some of the challenges that dealers face? I mean, you’re working with dealers every day, large and small. I know you got some big, big auto groups out there that you work with. What are you seeing that are some of the challenges that dealers are facing with some of the digital retailing tools that are currently out there?

Tim Cox:
Well, including ourselves, we want to be transparent, and I think if other companies are as transparent … Now we’ve gone through last year NADA, the big hype of digital retailing, the buzzword. It’s still out there, but is it working? I’m sure that every company like ours has dealer groups that are doing a phenomenal job. We have dealer groups that are doing a phenomenal job. We have competitors, they’re on everybody’s website, “Hey, we’re crushing it. We’re selling so many cars.”

Tim Cox:
But when we think about it as far as the country, the country consists of ABC Toyota in rural Alabama or Georgia that sells less than a hundred cars a month. And they may not and probably don’t have the budget to put a team together that it requires a lot of times to truly, quote unquote, as we always say loosely, crush it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Tim Cox:
So, that’s the rub. I saw a article, heard a video the other day, now people are going out, “Hey, it’s not working. It’s not working. It’s not working.” And so, what we found to help that along is even when I, and I know your background as well, when I sat behind the desk and managed and was a sales manager of a store for many, many years, I would see a piece of software or an idea, my first thought a lot of times was, “Hey, this is great.” My people aren’t going to use it. “Hey, this is great.” I been selling cars like this for 25 years. It’s not going to change.

Tim Cox:
So, we started thinking about that. Just to unpack that, as you know and hopefully most people know, our first product, our core product is our messaging tool. Obviously our biggest expense, because we have call centers all around the country to make sure that we serve our dealers well.

Tim Cox:
We looked at AI a couple years ago, and we felt that we could not serve our dealers in such a way that we could answer a customer, from “Hello, how may we serve you?” to scheduling appointment, without the customer knowing that it was AI. So, we put it on the shelf.

Tim Cox:
About seven months ago we were told and consulted by some leaders in the space, and then we came together. What if we took over simple actions, like schedule a test drive, unlock price, which for Toyota and others that have MAP pricing, you cannot give a customer a cheaper price until you have created a direct connection. And Jim, what we found was absolute gold.

Tim Cox:
When we showed customers, asked them not open-ended questions but very quickly in the tool to where we just had them push something, Yes or No with their thumb, would you like to schedule, when would you like to come in, some dealer groups … I mean, it went from, we started with one, then another, then another, then another, and we put together 60 stores, and every single one of the aggregate was nearly 130% increase. Now, we-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow. That’s very substantial.

Tim Cox:
It’s unbelievable. And I know everybody thinks this, they’re like, “Yeah, right.” Let me put it in perspective. There was a dealer group in Raleigh, not Charlotte, I’m sorry, North Carolina. But through that schedule a test drive button, when they sourced their CRM and subsourced their CRM, they went from three cars sold in roughly, it was a little over a month, it was about 45, 50 days, three cars sold to 12 cars sold.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

Tim Cox:
So, we understand that we went headstrong with all of it. We started building AI toolkits that dealers could customize depending on the message they wanted to set, re-orchestrate whatever action or reaction they wanted. And now, just going through, we have several hundred and we’re moving through our list of almost 4,000 dealers, and listen. It’s just been absolutely phenomenal.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
My god.

Tim Cox:
Absolutely phenomenal that we … I don’t want to say we found it by mistake. We were just so surprised that the results were what they were.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That sounds very exciting. So, what can or should dealers be doing to improve consumer adaptation and results?

Tim Cox:
They need to first cast the vision that this is something that they’re going to do. Okay? And understand that, quote unquote, I think we cast such a wide net with that word, digital retailing, because it’s come such a buzzword. Right? But number one, they have to cast a wide net, but understand even that unlock or schedule a test drive, that needs to be treated just like a digital retailing process. And you need to partner with a company that gives you the ability to customize your message that you want to give to your customers.

Tim Cox:
When we do that by using things like AI trees, not necessarily all AI but AI trees, we are seeing that we push them from one flow to another flow. And at the end of the day, look. I know you’re a car guy. I’ve been a car guy my whole life. At the end of the day, it’s not about leads, it’s just about selling cars.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Tim Cox:
So, when we do that, when we give customers what they want, when we put somebody over the process, it changes everything and we sell more automobiles. But at the end of the day, that’s all it matters.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. The consumer is driving digital retailing. Would you agree?

Tim Cox:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And it’s a-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
They’re the ones that are really demanding us to be in this space and know how to work it properly. Right?

Tim Cox:
It is, but there again, it’s the digital retailing phenomena. Again, I’ve been on your show before and we’ve talked about Carvana. I mean, look what Carvana … almost I think 200,000 cars last year.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Tim Cox:
But they’re no more a digital retailing company than Atlanta Braves is a football team.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, yeah.

Tim Cox:
They’re not because there’s still chats. There’s still phone calls. When that truck pulls up, there’s still paperwork.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Tim Cox:
But we need to treat dealers … But if you ask all couple hundred thousand, “Did you buy your car online?” “Absolutely, I did.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yep, that’s right.

Tim Cox:
That’s what we’re trying to tell and educate and serve our dealers that yes, we need a few tools on our website, but don’t expect just because you throw a tool on your website, if it’s my tool or anybody else’s, that it’s going to be successful. There has to be some buy-in.

Tim Cox:
Again, that’s why we … Any company or any product that’s not willing to unpack it and repack it and rebuild it, that’s what we’ve done. We saw that, oh my gosh, a lot of people are saying, “Well this isn’t working,” but once we’ve added these AI toolkits and these AI trees, listen. The sold cars, which again it’s all that matters, has just been off the chart. It’s been phenomenal.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s fantastic. You guys are always working on some latest and greatest, as you just talked about. What do you got coming up in the CarNow product line?

Tim Cox:
Other than the toolkit, so obviously I’ve already announced and let the cat out of the bag. Obviously our close dealers know about it, but creating toolkits that we can give a CMO or we can give an internet manager. We’ve got that working.

Tim Cox:
Jim, we have a monster announcement that I can’t share with you here. Trust me, I’m busting at the seams. Hopefully we can get together and connect at NADA with just a monster announcement. Any dealers, friends that we have the privilege of partnering with already, if we don’t have the privilege of partnering with you, please stay tuned to your local media and maybe come by the booth at NADA, because our close network of advisors and dealers, based on some of the bases that I was just talking about, we’ve partnered with a very, very large company.

Tim Cox:
I know people say it all the time preparing for NADA, “Hey, we’re [inaudible 00:09:44].” It literally is going to change the landscape. I have no doubt. Every single of one of our close advisors, include a particular company and the talking they’ve been doing on their end, saying it’s going to absolutely be a game changer. We’re absolutely fired up about that.

Tim Cox:
You’re going to have to wait a couple weeks to get that out of me, my friend. But hopefully we’ll talk soon in a couple weeks.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That is fantastic. Talk to us a little bit about anymore plans at NADA? I mean, obviously that announcement that you’ve got pending there, and I caught a little bit of it and I’m not really sure if I’m onto the right information here, but it sounds very big. I mean, there’s a lot of players out there that are going to look to you and say, “Wow, how did you get that deal done?”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So, for dealers that are watching us have this conversation right now, if you’re going to NADA, you’re going to want to stop by CarNow’s booth to get the full story. Don’t be late on this. Don’t have it that your competitor gets it before you do, because this is the real deal. And obviously, Tim, you’ll be out there, right? At the booth?

Tim Cox:
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So, go by, see Tim Cox. Get the full story on CarNow and what they’re pushing out for their dealers in 2020. I’m telling you, you’re not going to be sorry that you took 15 minutes or 30 minutes and spent some time at their booth because it’s the real deal. These guys are doing some really exciting things in this area.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And it’s an area that we all need more information on. Right? We’d all like to be in digital retailing to take care of our customers, but we need the tools. We need the help. We need the professionalism, like a company like CarNow, to kind of hold our hand through the whole process and do it right. That’s really the name of the game. Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Tim Cox, Senior Vice President of Sales and co-founder of CarNow, thanks so much for once again joining us on CBT Mews. This has been great.

Tim Cox:
Thank you, sir. I’ll see you soon.

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