A few weeks back I went shopping for a new car. The experience left me wondering why many dealerships—perhaps the stereotypical small or mid-size US business—were so far behind in use of technology. I was surprised at how little use of tech was in place.
At about the same time my work as a SAS media relations rep brought me into contact with a large car dealer in the suburbs of a Midwestern city. These guys were no slouch when it came to technology and in fact were investing in SAS Visual Analytics, our highly regarded data visualization software. My faith in American small business was restored.
When I started the car shopping experience I allotted a day for schlepping around to new car lots to find a vehicle that suited my needs at a fair price. The night before, I got on the web and made a list of the dealerships in Raleigh-Durham I would visit.
I called a local lot to ask about an in-stock vehicle they had listed online. Part of a larger chain of dealerships, the salesman said he wasn’t sure which lot had the car; it could be three hours away. I asked him to look it up and he said he had already done so, but the only way he could tell the location was by the photos which hadn’t been posted yet.
So I asked him to tell me what he had in stock that matched my criteria. The salesman replied, “Let me call you back, I need to walk around our lot.” Excuse me? You can’t even query your inventory? Yet, despite the dealership's Stone Age level of technology, they had what I wanted and I bought it the same day. But it could have easily gone the other way and been a lost sale.
Back at SAS, I started to hear about a dealer some distance away from Cary, NC, that had bought SAS Visual Analytics. They had purchased this powerful software “in the cloud,” where the data and application will be hosted on remote SAS servers.
This forward-thinking dealership is in an auto mall, one of those suburban congregations of car lots as far as the eye can see. It’s a very competitive environment.
To compete, they will roll customer, manufacturer and public data into their Visual Analytics application, analyzing the numbers, displaying them in many graphic formats and finding insight in the data. The goal is greater customer satisfaction, which of course leads to improved sales.
For decades, the big corporations have known the power of analytics and data visualization. Now, some small businesses are looking to technology to gain an edge over their laggard competitors too. The Midwest dealership is clearly one of those, taking advantage of hosted applications to hold the line on cost with no need for in-house servers and systems administrators.
For an example of how another small business finds value in analytics, check out the story of this Outer Banks beach vacation rental firm, Twiddy & Co. Or, to see how SAS Visual Analytics makes it easy to visually sift value from large volumes of data, try an interactive online demo of Visual Analytics.