Three Key Yahoo! Takeaways for Automotive Retail

Believe it or not, I still have a Yahoo! email account. I no longer use it for much more than the “secondary” email address on password settings because, well, the contents of the inbox resemble a tangled weed patch of spam and phishing missives. I’d rather not waste my time.

It’s sad. And reflective of how this once ubiquitous portal went from powerhouse to afterthought, and now a part of Verizon. Back in the day, it was different: Yahoo! was the first website/search engine/portal experience for many people – a true conduit to a whole new digital world. Yet as time went by, other digital players caught up, traffic dwindled, and so did revenue. Which was a shame, because the company invested in and produced good content, brought in celebrities, developed quality sports journalism, and had a strong auto channel -- among others. 

But what does the demise of Yahoo! have to do with selling cars more efficiently? Yahoo! missed signs and trends about changes in consumer browsing, shopping and buying behavior, and many of these same shifting habits and expectations have altered the way dealerships market and sell cars. Indeed, the demise of Yahoo! as a company comes with key and relevant reminders that can be applied to how you connect the online to in-store experience: 

#1. Shifting Mobile Expectations

Back in 2014 and 2015, many experts criticized Yahoo! for being late to adapt key mobile innovation into their content and user experience. That’s not just because everyone has a smartphone in their hand, but also because mobile-driven innovation is redefining the way people consume content and make purchase decisions. Even the “brick and mortar” (read: dealership) experience has evolved. Consider, for example, the recent success at Straub Automotive: The Dealertrack eMenu for iPad technology helped the dealership increase F&I key product penetration by 60%. The team also saw an increase in profit per vehicle of $150.* Here's the hint: Consumers may respond better to the mobile experience because they prefer the mobile experience. According to the 2017 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey, in fact, mobile use during the research and shopping phase of the car purchase grew 10%, to 56% of car buyers, and has resulted in a user-mandated experience that includes uber-convenience and a multi-device approach -- all within a continuous and seamless workflow. 

#2. Mind Your Data

By now everyone knows the story: a billion Yahoo! user accounts hacked. According to the New York Times, the “attack involved sensitive user information, including names, telephone numbers, dates of birth, encrypted passwords and unencrypted security questions that could be used to reset a password.”

Granted, you don’t have a billion user accounts. And your dealership operation is not Yahoo!. But that may actually put you at greater risk, because data security and ID fraud is now major issue for dealerships. In fact, Small to Midsize Businesses (SMB) such as auto dealerships are perfect targets. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in a 2015 public statement, found that “60 percent of all targeted cyberattacks last year struck SMBs.” It’s a healthy reminder that while the technology era brings a bounty of workflow advantages, it also brings risk. Mitigate that risk by making security and compliance a part of the deal-by-deal experience.

#3. A Consumer-friendly and Deal-centric Experience

Go to the Yahoo! portal, and you will find yourself inundated with banner ads, video units and “advertorial” content. The experience isn’t great – and it hides some of their high-quality content. The plain truth is that consumers reject a non-friendly experience. They expect a seamless, simple and easy experience, online and in the dealership. If you're managing a website, forcing them down rabbit holes is a good way to lose the visit. But, if you're managing a sales team, those rabbit holes might just cost you the deal -- so make sure you’re offering a connected experience that picks up where the consumer left off and continues the emphasis on trust and convenience. Remember: Consumers do most of their work online, and come to the showroom ready to test drive and deal. Make that experience easy – for an easy sale.  

Say Goodbye, Say Hello

Yahoo! will live on. Nothing really ever goes away on the Internet. That’s good, because there are many lessons that can be pulled from the rise and fall of this audacious, daring and, ultimately, flawed experiment. At the heart of it, perhaps most relevant of all, is this: Keep pace with shifts in consumer behavior in order to always offer a convenient, friendly and connected experience. That applies, whether you’re selling ads and pushing content, or selling cars and aftermarket products.

* Sept 2015-Oct 2016 averages