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Interview with Lissette Gole Head of Automotive Retail at Google on Used Car Sales

October 21, 2021| Zach Klempf

In this episode transcript of the Used Car Dealer Podcast, Zach Klempf interviews Lisette Gole of Google.

Zach Klempf: Well, hello, Zach here, and we have an excellent guest on the podcast today: Lissette Gole, the head of automotive retail at Google Lissette, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast today.

Lissette Gole: I'm thrilled to be here, Zach, thanks for having me. 

Zach Klempf: So let's get started. For those of us listening, talk about your career path into automotive at Google.

Lissette Gole: It's an interesting story. And I'll start at the beginning because that will bring me to the end. But I actually have been in auto for gosh, 17 years or so, on the agency side, and then on the publisher side, but I am the daughter of a boat dealer, a general manager at a boat dealership. So I grew up in this space and ended up working in f&i and the parts and service departments. So when I came into this into the automotive industry, I was a Detroit native. So it's, of course, very prevalent in Michigan. It was just like coming home, it just feels so natural for me to be here. So, like I said, going on for over 17 years now. And I still learn every single day, which is my favorite part of this industry.

Zach Klempf: And for those unfamiliar with Google's offering for dealers talk to me about how Google enables dealerships' digital presence.

Lissette Gole: So you know, at the highest level, what we really do is offer tools, technology and media that enable dealers to interact with the shopping journey. So we know that the shopping journey happens primarily online. And our goal is to make that easy and frictionless for dealers, auto groups or agencies as well as the shopper. So specifically, we partner for dealers within media activation. And our goal is to increase return on ad sales, increased profitability. But then in the US vehicle space. In particular, we have specific products in search, for example, that we call dynamic search, where you can bring in your inventory feeds right into the search page, and really, you know, bring that experience to the forefront so that when they get to your dealership, there are they're pre qualified in some ways, because they know the vehicle they want, they understand the inventory you have. So we're really just trying to make that process easier. But anchor that really in, like I said, return on ad spend and profitability.

Zach Klempf: So 2021 it's been a roller coaster of the year and another roller coaster after 2020. Talk to me about what you've observed from your lens at Google and the way dealers shifted and changed their inventory and brand marketing on your platform?

Lissette Gole: That's a great question. First of all, what I have witnessed is continued resiliency, continued passion, continued innovation from our you know, our dealer partners. And it's all been so inspiring. So I realized, like you said, it's a roller coaster, we're in challenging times. But I, this, you know, dealers in the space never cease to just amaze me and inspire me and their ability to pivot, which is fantastic. What we're seeing in particular, around the way dealers are shifting marketing on our platform, really, we're seeing them leaning into the online shopping journey, which has been present for years, but was really accelerated in 2020, due to COVID. And they're really leaning in to making it easier to find inventory, easier to book, you know, service, and inventory New And Used. And that's been a really exciting one for me to see is the move into the US to market space and then move into fixed operations, where I think it's becoming more prevalent this year with all of the you know, the changes that are happening in the industry that I've seen in the past.

Zach Klempf: Why is customer buying experience so important post 2020?

Lissette Gole: I talked about this a little bit, but the shopping journey has been moving online for years. We put out, you know, research every year and talk about that. But post 2020 what we actually saw was that the shoppers are really now demanding that the interaction with dealers be online, be frictionless, and be customer led. And so this customer buying experience now is really important because the shoppers and the buyers of these vehicles have been in an online first world and every other aspect of their life. In Starbucks, right? You can pre order on the app, you can go in to pick up your order, you can buy mattresses online, so everywhere else they look it's very frictionless. It's very customer led and it's just easy. And that really has accelerated in the automotive space. Customers are getting more used to giving up their personal information on a trusted website, chatting with, you know, a provider through, you know, chat functions or text messages. So all of that is just becoming more comfortable in the space and 2020 was really the year to move that forward.

Zach Klempf: So one interesting thing some dealers might not know about is Google, they started in 2017, publishing their dealer playbook. And they this year posted a new iteration of that. What are some of the most exciting takeaways in this guide for dealers?

Lissette Gole: So let me touch on what the guidebook is and the intent of it. As you mentioned, we launched our original Google dealer guidebook in 2017. And we have since evolved it in 2020. We updated it, and then we updated it again, in February of this year. The intention of the guidebook really was, you know, dealers were coming to us and saying, How can I use Google's tools and services to further my business? And so we wanted to put something together that was easy and accessible for everybody in the industry to understand how do you work with Google to meet your business objectives. And so we have been evolving that over the last few years. And, you know, we refreshed it in 2020, because the industry in the landscape and technology has changed. But then because of COVID, we refreshed it again this year. And really, it's available on Think with Google, anybody can download it. Well, what we do in this version is we talk about online retailing, you know, and the change there. And my favorite thing about a guidebook is that it really can meet you where you are. So if you're a dealer, that's new to advertising with Google, that's okay. The guidebook will start you at that point, if you've been working with Google, you know, and working with search and YouTube for a long time, and you're really ready for that next level, it will meet you there too. And it brings you along in your advertising journey, I think in a really seamless way.

Zach Klempf: So let's move on to what some of the most successful dealers are doing differently when it comes to marketing their dealership in inventory, any case studies or anecdotes that come to mind? .

Lissette Gole: So actually, in the guidebook, we have several case studies. So I would, maybe in the show notes, we can put a link here to that so they can download that resource. But you can find various case studies across our product portfolio. But what I will talk about today is Crown Automotive Group and how they use our local campaigns. And I think this one's really important, Zach, because this can be the strategy that works for used vehicles, and it works for new vehicles, in advertising across your profit centers. But what they did in particular was they were losing significant foot traffic when COVID-19 hit in March. And they were really struggling to regain that momentum. And then, as we talked about, many consumers are spending more time researching vehicles online, they're starting to adopt test driving vehicles virtually. And they were seeing that trend happen. So they knew they needed to rethink their presence. So what they did was, we partnered with them and their agencies. And we wanted to drive customers into the dealership, because we wanted them to gain market share. Their goal was to gain market share from other competitors in Florida, which was their market. So specifically, we implemented a product that we call local campaigns and local actions. And what that does, it allows them to solve their main business objectives, bringing more foot traffic into the dealership, and specifically their numbers where they saw a 552% month over month increase in local action conversions. And these DAQ are things like driving directions, call to clicks, like, you know, really low funnel actions and store visits, and then they decrease their cost per lead by 59%. So I will say, you know, if you're looking for a strategy that is really meant to drive, you know, how do you take online into offline, local campaigns are a really great approach, you know, for the US vehicle market in particular, as well as the new.

Zach Klempf: So what advice would you have for a used car dealer, they just opened up, and they're just starting to develop a winning Google strategy, how do they get off the ground?

Lissette Gole: So I think there's a few things they can do. I'm going to point back to the guide book, because it's so comprehensive, we actually have two versions. One is for the dealer, what are they what you know, what are the industry trends, where the truth that they should understand another is over 100 pages, and that's a practitioner Guide, which really goes into how do you implement a campaign How do you measure? So I would say that would be step one. The other thing is, you know, when you're starting a new dealership, and you're really starting from zero, you have a really great ability to measure from day one. And I think that is so important, because in this online space measure, you want to know where your money is being spent, and you want to hold that dollar accountable. And so measuring from the first step, I think is one of the most important things you can do. And then that will set you up for future success. The other thing I would say: As a partner closely with your agencies, you know and have regular conversations, at least monthly, on how your advertising budgets are being spent. How are they performing for you, because really, advertising is meant to drive profit, not be an expenditure.

Zach Klempf: Interesting, and two auto trends that have taken mindshare last year in 2021, I wanted to get your thoughts on them. Online dealers like Carvana, and Vroom and that online used car dealer model, and then subscription services for automotive, what are your thoughts on these two trends?

Lissette Gole: I mean, it's in the context of what we were just talking about, around changing consumer expectations, and what has happened in 20, and 2021. You know, the customers do want a frictionless experience that meets their needs, wherever they are, and however they want to interact with you. And I think that's what Carvana and Vroom are offering. And so I think it's, you know, a trend to watch, and, you know, companies that we definitely should be watching. But I think from the dealer perspective, you know, I would challenge you to think about how you can make your process, you know, easy and frictionless and online, like Carvana and Vroom are doing. So I think this is an opportunity to really do what the dealers do best, which is continue to innovate. And, you know, keep your customers, they want to be loyal, and keep them loyal to your brand. And then on subscription, I think this one in particular, what we see in our data is that customers are less loyal today than they have ever been. And we've also seen what we call a new car buyer emerge. And those are car shoppers that maybe we're taking mass transportation or relied mostly on an Uber or Lyft, they are now moving into vehicle ownership for the first time. And so they don't necessarily have you know, know, as much as those of us who have been driving a vehicle for 15 years, might know about brands might know about vehicles. And so I think subscription services are an interesting way to reach those that might be less loyal and like to change their vehicles often. And those that are new to the industry and want to really experience what it's like to be part of your brand.

Zach Klempf: Interesting. And can you share some areas Google's focused on in the future in terms of automotive?

Lissette Gole: So as we all know, the industry is changing, you know, the landscape is shifting. And what we're really focused on right now is how do we help our dealer partners navigate through that? And so areas that are included in that, you know, we're really kind of putting it under the umbrella of the future of automotive. And what I see in the future of automotive is online retailing and omni channel retailing, the focus on EV's, you know, and used vehicle acquisition. And that's happening right now with the US vehicle space. So we're really focused on how do we help give the tools, the guidance, the insight so that dealers have everything they need at their fingertips to make business decisions that matter for them quickly? And then, you know, and then adjust their strategies when needed. And I would say out of all of those right now, today, we're really focused on used vehicle acquisition, knowing the current state of, you know, used vehicles and the need to get those on the lot.

Zach Klempf: Lastly, was there anything I didn't mention that you'd like to discuss?

Lissette Gole: Oh, that's a great question. I think we hit on a lot of the key trends. What I'd like to close with, you know, is that if you, you know, you have a Google team here to help you, as I mentioned, our goal is really to help and provide these insights, the tools and the technology to further your business. So you can always reach out to me, or reach out to your Google team members. We also work really closely with the dealers and agency partners. And so they can also if they're not, they don't want to reach out to their Google partner knowing that we work with your agencies. And you know, we can have conversations through the agencies as well.

Zach Klempf: One thing I wanted to bring up and a lot of dealers might not be aware of this, you have a large team that specifically caters to automotive. It's not like they're calling up and getting like a random ad support specialist, tell the audience about the team and the investment that Google's made into the automotive industry.

Lissette Gole: We do have a very robust team that works across the different segments of automotive, so automotive groups, OEM programs, and then all of the agency partners that help enable, you know, this ecosystem. And so we do have teams dedicated to all of those. And so yes, so if you're a dealer, know that we are working with your agency partners on these best practices on your behalf. And then we also have like you mentioned, have teams that work directly with dealers as well. So, the first step is always, you know, I would say the guidebook is meant to be the tool that is on your time, you know, so that you can read through that. But yeah, we are really heavily invested in resources in order to make sure that all the 16,000 plus dealership rooftops out there really have access to Google and and really understand what we're doing on behalf of their business.

Zach Klempf: Awesome. And I thought this was a great episode. Really appreciate your time Lissette for coming on. And we'll include in the show notes, the dealer playbook as well by Google.

Lissette Gole: Thank you, Zach, thank you. Thank you. It was great to be here with you today.

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Tags: used car marketing google for dealers Digital Marketing Google My Business google Lissette Gole Automotive SEO google dealer playbook

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