Blog | Women in Automotive Q&A with Alison Rank

In May, Alison Rank, Director of Enterprise Accounts at Scala, attended the Women in Automotive conference in Colorado. She sat down to discuss with us her overall experience there, what she learned, and what Scala can provide to the automotive industry.


Q: What kinds of conversations were you engaged in with other attendees while attending Women In Automotive?

A: The conversations covered a wide range of topics. Everyone at the conference was genuinely focused on making deep connections and uplifting each other. This atmosphere was set by the board and leaders, who treated each of us as special, unique individuals throughout the three days.

Each session encouraged dialogue rather than just presentations. We openly discussed the opportunities and challenges in the automotive industry, collaborating on ideas for improvement. Our conversations covered the future of automotive and ways to enhance the experiences of customers, employees, OEMs, and the industry as a whole.

We also had the chance to sign up for board dinners, which provided a more intimate setting to connect with board members and other attendees. These smaller gatherings allowed us to share personal insights on our experiences with the car-buying process and being women in the automotive industry. The conference was incredibly cohesive and well-rounded, unlike any other I’ve attended before.

Q: What were your biggest takeaways from the event?

A: I had so many! The first keynote by Subi Ghosh, Executive Vice President of Strategic Partnerships & Marketing at Stream Companies and Partnerships Chair at Women of Color Auto Network, was incredibly impactful. A major takeaway from her session was the power of showing three acts of kindness to everyone you want to connect with. This means helping someone without any agenda, giving a genuine compliment, or celebrating something they did or said that resonated with you. This approach builds strong bonds and fosters organic problem-solving and collaboration.

Another key takeaway was the importance of being guided by data. Tara Rego, Director at Spectrum Reach, emphasized this in her talk. Understanding your clients through data—such as who is coming into your store, what they’re interested in, their TV viewing habits, and their interactions with complementary or competing products and industries—enables you to tailor your approach to resonate with them and drive engagement.

Q: How has the automotive industry evolved technology-wise, and how can our solutions organically fit into the space? How can our solutions be implemented best?

A: The automotive industry has seen significant technological advancements, particularly in enhancing the online car-buying process with advanced personalization. The key opportunity now lies in bridging the gap between online and in-person experiences, ensuring the same level of personalization and excellence.

Studies mentioned during the conference highlight the importance of customer experience: 75% of customers are willing to spend more and buy from companies that provide a great experience, while 76% will stop doing business with a company after just one bad experience. Additionally, 92% of surveyed dealers view client experience success as extremely important. This presents a tremendous opportunity and a critical area of focus to excel in.

To implement our solutions effectively, we need to ensure they integrate seamlessly into both online and in-person interactions, providing a cohesive and personalized customer journey. Scala focuses on delivering outstanding experiences at every touchpoint. We can meet the high expectations of today’s consumers and drive success in the automotive industry by Leveraging the STRATACACHE global family of innovative, complementary technologies. Imagine this: a dealership equipped with sensor technology and integrated with the dealership management system (DMS) can identify specific customers or car make/models the moment they drive onto the lot. This allows the dealership team to offer a personalized welcome and anticipate each customer’s needs right from the start.

The Scala data integration capabilities play a crucial role in this ecosystem, seamlessly linking advertising and consumer data at both macro and granular levels. As this ecosystem evolves, fueled by advancements in machine learning and rich customer insights, the potential to personalize and enhance the experience for both customers and the automotive team becomes limitless.

Q: What would you say dealerships are prioritizing most? 

A: Dealerships are focusing on creating personalized, integrated interactions that seamlessly transition from their websites to the in-person dealership experience. The goal is to meet each customer where they are. Some customers enjoy spending time in the dealership exploring options, while others prefer to do their research online and come in only to test drive a specific car. The priority is to offer a personalized, consultative experience where every individual feels seen, known, and empowered.

Q: What was the most innovative or interesting idea you heard while attending Women in Automotive?

A: The concept of the Science of Storytelling, particularly Neuro Synchronization, discussed by Jake Stacey, Executive Vice President Sales, Effectiveness, and Training, stood out as incredibly interesting. Stories are 22 times more memorable than facts and are highly effective in promoting behavior change. When we share stories effectively, the neural activity of the storyteller and the listener synchronizes. 

In the competitive car-buying process, achieving Neuro Synchronization with customers through meaningful stories can make a significant difference. Sharing stories about how and why your brand, dealership, service center, or auto body shop—and the amazing people who work there—can be trusted and relied upon can foster customer loyalty and influence their purchasing decisions.

Q: What parallels did you find between the automotive industry and other industries? Are there any adjacent industries that overlap?

A: Absolutely, the automotive industry is a key part of the broader retail and service sectors. There are significant parallels, particularly in the use of data and tools to personalize and reach consumers. This approach spans various industries, from Quick Service and Fast Casual restaurants to travel and transportation, manufacturing, logistics, and more.

During the Women in Automotive (WIA) conference, I was often reminded of the NRF 2024 conference I was a part of, “NRF and STRATACACHE Present: What’s In Store For Retail Media Networks.” An entire day was dedicated to the world of in-store RMNs, where we discussed the extensive data we can collect through sensors and other methods. It was exciting to see and confirm that we’re already leveraging these techniques as a foundation of our business and data integration and approach to personalizing experiences.

As we continue to develop our solutions, advancements in one industry can benefit others. For example, self-serve kiosks and personalization features developed for Quick Service and Fast Casual Restaurants to suggest side dishes or specials can similarly be used in dealerships. Service and sales professionals can guide customers through their options to find exactly what they need for their cars. By advancing these solutions, we are building a foundation that benefits multiple industries, creating a versatile and extendable platform.

Q: As a consumer who is also a digital signage expert, what technology would you want to see when visiting a dealership?

A: I have two recent real-life examples that highlight the kind of technology I’d like to see:

  1. Guided Purchase Assistance: When I bought my last car, I initially wanted a convertible sports car. However, considering my lifestyle and previous cars, an SUV was a better fit. A good friend who is a GM for an auto group asked me the right questions, guiding me to choose an SUV with a panoramic sunroof instead. This decision ultimately provided me with greater value and led to a $10K upsell. I love to see intelligent digital solutions that replicate this experience. Such technology guides customers through a series of questions to help them identify their ideal vehicle. This can be implemented as a tool for salespeople or service technicians during customer consultations, or as a self-service option for customers to use independently.
  2. Enhanced Service Experience: I had a frustrating experience with my daughter’s car during a 75K mile service. Multiple mistakes were made, requiring three trips to the dealership and resulting in unauthorized services that the dealership had to cover. Additionally, we faced a 20-minute wait upon arrival to pick up the car. This could have been avoided with simple dashboards for the service team, ensuring accurate service and efficient customer interactions. Such technology would empower the dealership to provide a seamless and welcoming experience, enhancing overall customer satisfaction.

Q: Do you think with a high end purchase, consumers are more open to personalization? If so, to what extent?

A: Absolutely,with high-end purchases like cars, consumers are often more open to personalization to a significant extent. Personalization in this context goes beyond just customizing the features of the vehicle; it extends to the entire buying experience. High-end consumers expect tailored recommendations, exclusive offerings, and personalized services that cater to their specific preferences and needs. This level of personalization not only enhances the buying process but also strengthens the relationship between the consumer and the dealership or brand. It can influence decisions, build loyalty, and justify higher price points based on the perceived value and individualized attention received. Therefore, personalization plays a crucial role in satisfying the expectations and preferences of consumers making high-end purchases.

Q: What was your favorite aspect of the event?

A: My favorite aspect of the event was how deeply I got to know so many people. I started by quoting Subi Ghosh, and I’ll end by quoting her again. Subi talked about a group of friends and associates that she calls her “brain trust.” These are the people who set your brain on fire—who inspire and excite you in ways that make you the best you can be. That’s truly what I feel we all developed at this conference. I came knowing no one and left with what has become a “brain trust” tribe of many great friends and allies.

Blog | Generating Great Experiences and More at Shoptalk Europe

Shoptalk Europe is proving itself a hub of interesting conversations, enthusiastic questions and innovative potential answers.  The momentum for the in-store experience is clear with many recognizing the opportunities presented by a shopper offer that includes bricks and mortar. Over 80 per cent of grocery sales are still made in-store so the potential benefits of assisting shoppers well in the aisles are immense. It’s no wonder that brands and retailers are keen to get the in-store elements just right.

User generated experiences (UGE) is a topic that has risen a few times in conversations and meetings already — customers engaging with an in-store experience to create a solution or find products that are truly personalized based on the information provided at the point of interaction and possibly also including loyalty data.

Pardon the awkward word play but this could be ‘UGE for brands. For one, it seems to signal a move away from brands acting as a mix of Psychic/Genie – granting the wishes of customers before they even knew what they desire. Convenience is still a priority but with UGE the experience is far more collaborative, with the data shared done so deliberately with a clear goal in mind. Secondly, the data that a brand can get from an effective UGE is valuable. Potentially more detailed than what can be gathered from sales data alone, UGE responses can better inform personalized promotions and loyalty rewards (more on loyalty in a later blog) as well as, when collated, potentially identify new market gaps and opportunities.

At Scala we pride ourselves on captivating in-store experiences that work hard for brands, retailers and the customers they serve. We’ve helped brands create compelling in-store user generated experiences for years. What’s especially exciting for me is the way that these experiences play a role as part of a retail media network. I think they demonstrate why in-store retail media is far more than just an out of home offering. I touched on the differences between a DOOH and a retail media network in my presentation yesterday (thank you to the 300 odd of you that came along). If you’d like to learn more and are fortunate enough to be in Barcelona, then swing by G30 or contact us.

NRF 2023 Wrap Up

NRF is back in full swing and was busier than ever this year. Let’s hear what the Scala team members had to…

Blog | Applying Customer Insights to Stores

Recent customer insights around online shopping have revealed problems with the eCommerce journey… problems that brick-and-mortars can address. In this blog, Andrea Poley discusses a few simple tools retailers can use to attract online shoppers.

Blog | Top Addition to Drive Thru: Digital Preview Menu Boards

In 2022, we saw digital solutions and digital restaurant technology continue to become the customer satisfaction benchmark for Top 10 quick service restaurants and beyond. In terms of priming the purchase, one feature has been a standout: digital preview menu boards.

According to a 2021 study by QSR Magazine surveying 313 drive thru locations that were geographically balanced, 67.7% of Taco Bells, 60% of Burger Kings, and 65.6% of McDonald’s had a pre-sell menu board. These numbers have only continued to rise, despite the fact that preview menu boards are not absolutely necessary in a digital drive thru project. (“The 2021 QSR magazine Drive-Thru Study: Pre-sell Menuboard”, QSR Magazine). Digital preview menu boards are an investment in customer experience, allowing you to greet and inform customers, getting them ready as they approach the ordering point.

Top brands are implementing preview digital menu boards at scale because of the results. How do you predict and measure the results of a preview digital menu board? And how do we implement these solutions?

What is a Preview Menu Board?

A preview menu board is a tool used in the restaurant industry to showcase menu items in a place where they cannot be purchased immediately. The preview menu board is usually displayed in a prominent location, such as the front of the restaurant or as the first digital sign in a drive thru.

They are used to attract new customers, generate interest and encourage behaviors or modes of behavior, like trying new or high margin menu items, seasonal offerings or LTOs.

The preview menu board has always been a powerful way for quick service restaurants to influence customers. But to understand how they work, we need a psychological “primer.”

What it Means to Prime the Purchase

Indeed, it is all about priming. The preview menu board is the first point of contact in the drive thru. It’s not there to sell a sandwich; it is there to prime customers so that they are better prepared to engage with your business productively. This can lead to high margins, greater satisfaction and improved speed of the drive thru trip.

Priming is a powerful tool for influencing consumers in their purchasing decisions. By creating content that speaks to emotional needs and states, companies can prime attitudes toward particular products or services. Consumers primed with these attitudes and expectations make different purchase decisions than they do without priming. (“Enhancing consumer behavior with implementation intentions”, Gollwitzer, Bieleke and Sheeran).

Let’s say you want customers to buy the new seasonal meal deal — the soup, cookie and hot beverage bundle — that day. It’s relatively easy for your crew to make, it’s appealing to your customer base, and corporate wants to push sales of this deal. Priming customers with content that reminds them of the value of being economical, even tying that value directly to your brand, will increase the disposition of a customer. They will not only understand your brand as economical, but it also emphasizes economic choices.

Why are Digital Menu Boards so Good at Priming?

Without a digital menu board, priming is possible, but it is impossible to get right. You could set up a static board, but by the time you designed, printed, shipped and installed that content to your stores, it would be obsolete. Digital menu boards are key in the ability to take messages, promotions and ads and swap, test and swap again. Also, geographic disparities would also confound your efforts with complexity and lackluster results.

The Advantages of a Content Management System (CMS) for Digital Menu Board Optimization

Digital menu boards with a tech-forward Content Management System allow digital preview menu boards to deploy content according to any factor that you deem important. One common example is dayparting — promoting content according to the time of day. Coffee and breakfast connect more in the morning than in the afternoon and evening. Another example is weather. Why show the icy cold lemonade when it’s morning and 20 degrees F outside? The same is true of other emotional changes that occur due to circadian rhythms, customer segments and other externalities.

Reaching consumers on an emotional level requires content to meet them where they are. Your customers are also your audience throughout the entire ordering and pickup journey. Content that seems depersonalized and generic does not influence; it alienates. Digital menu boards give brands the technical means to deliver the right content at the right time, so that it has the desired impact near the point of sale.

Digital also allows brands to test the efficacy of their preview boards across the network. With the right data science team, you can deliver iterative tests that teach your organization how to prime customers with increasing efficacy. This is part of what makes digital menu boards so powerful. The flexibility to adapt images and messaging quickly and easily, based on real data, drives more customer centricity and strategic goals.

Why is Drive Thru an Ideal Location for Preview Menu Boards?

The drive thru is one of the most significant points in customer journeys where priming makes sense for the business and the customer.

  1. The drive thru is cleanly segmented, allowing digital menu boards to fulfill discrete positions of the experience, while focusing attention on the preview.
  2. The addition of a digital preview menu board adds Marketing real estate and delivers a larger overall presence. Flashy video and high definition imagery attract the attention of passersby, leading to greater brand awareness for existing customers, and when seen at the right moment, new customers.
  3. Greet and welcome the customer while reducing perceived wait time, using the digital preview board to extend the service experience.

These three reasons ensure that preview menu boards will continue to rise in popularity with digital drive thru in the fastest growing quick service restaurants.

Exploring Preview Menu Boards for Your Business

A technology proud partner of 8 out of the top 10 quick service restaurants, STRATACACHE can help your business at any stage in your digital journey. No matter the scope or scale, we come with experience gained by the best, most iconic, innovative brands in the world, and we would love to help you jumpstart your next project.

Blog | A Matter of Convenience

In the wake of the recent takeover of UK convenience chain McColls by grocer Morrisons, there has been a lot of media coverage on the pressures faced by convenience retailers, as well as the potential opportunities for smaller retailers serving local shoppers.