As part of my growing role in the field of digital marketing, our AutoTrader rep invited me down to the Dealer Conference at the bespoke AutoTrader HQ in Manchester. This was the first time I had been to an AutoTrader event and was stunned by the google-esque style work culture embedded within the 6 story office block. Amongst us were huge franchises, independent dealers, and small pitches - the first conference where all these setups were brought together.
The day kicked off with a session in which the dealers got to share with senior management, their frustration with some of the features, or lack of, regarding AutoTrader and its platform. As you can imagine, AutoTrader being the market leader can essentially charge what they want and are by far the most expensive automotive platforms in the UK. This isn't as much of a problem for huge franchises but from what I gauged by the response from small independent dealers, this can have a serious effect on the viability to run a profitable business. After a few discussions back and forth, a question cropped up from a gentleman on my table simply "Why don't you ditch the expensive offices and reduce pricing for us all?" - at this point the room goes quiet.
I have to admit I thought the Speaker was caught out, I wasn't sure if he had the answer. After a brief pause, he simply pointed in the direction of a group of young trendy adults congregated on a spaceship style sofa. He said "that's why". He explained AutoTrader has quickly become a digital infrastructure in which to continue to improving its products and service offerings, it must venture deeper into the data and the science that makes it all work. Now in order to invest in these departments, you need the right people and at the moment, all of those people are queuing at the door of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Unilad etc. To compete with these companies, you need to provide more than just a tasteful salary. These young graduates are used to pool tables, loose dress codes, open space, modern and innovative workstations, and a unique culture in which they feel proud to be a part of and thats why we set up here in Manchester, with offices designed the way they are.
You could almost feel the whole room metaphorically slap their foreheads as if to say of course! At this point we broke for a tea and coffee and spoke amongst ourselves whilst the next set of speakers prepared to come on stage. The next installment was the most interesting. They may as well have said on the first slide, "we know we are expensive, but you're not gonna leave so here's how to get the most bang for your buck". But fortunately the guys know what they're talking about, and the future of the motor industry is changing, so I'm glad I attended. It's time to prepare Acklam Car Centre for a digital marketplace in 2018 and beyond.