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Each year Search Optics not only sends a team of executives to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention & Expo, but also exhibits at the show. We invest in the NADA experience for ourselves and for the benefit of our clients because it sets the pace for the year ahead as far as industry trends and expectations.

This year’s conference—which was held in New Orleans—seemed to signal that 2017 will be a year of change in the automotive industry. From a digital marketing perspective, these five top takeaways from NADA 2017 are something every dealer should pay attention to:

1. Results Still Reign Supreme: Does consolidation of the digital marketing industry benefit today’s automotive dealers? Regardless of the trend toward mergers and acquisitions, dealers need to stay focused on what the end goal is: selling cars. This means that finding the right digital marketing partner to drive results is essential. Bigger is not always better. Results and outcomes still matter more than anything else.

2. All Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Companies Are Not Created Equal: Buying Google AdWordsTM is not like buying table salt. SEM experience is important today, and it’s not always easy to find either. That’s because digital marketing is getting more complicated—not less. Dealers need marketing partners who can help them successfully execute SEM strategies. Most of all, dealers should expect excellent SEM results from their digital marketing service providers in 2017. Anything less is unacceptable.

3. Exercise Cautious Optimism: There was cautious optimism at the show, but the crowd seemed to be sensing a change coming that could radically alter the automotive landscape as the Trump administration advances. In business, change is constant, but when that change is beyond your control, it takes leadership and confidence in your digital expertise to move marketing forward. Also, having a global perspective can bring value to a digital marketing initiative, and that value will grow as global business practices evolve this year.

4. Greater Digitisation Demands Greater Innovation: The automotive industry is beyond a tipping point when it comes to digital penetration. In fact, we are now entering the next wave in the U.S. market—100% digital penetration. This translates into a greater margin squeeze on media along with other factors that will force dealers to turn to more innovative marketing and selling strategies in order to rise above the digital noise.

5. U.S. Leadership Sets the Tone: The U.S. stands at the epicenter of digital marketing innovation and best practices. Global markets will continue to look to digital agencies in the U.S. for direction as they set their strategies for 2017 and beyond. In EMEA, in particular, a new reality has arrived as dealers align with market conditions to compete more effectively in an increasingly digital and rapidly changing world.

With more than 23,000 attendees at NADA 2017, the annual event is a must for those in the automotive industry. If you were there, what trends stood out to you when it comes to digital marketing? If you didn’t make it to New Orleans this year, check out #NADA100 on Twitter and be sure to catch us in Las Vegas next year!


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