Collin Davis is the CEO and Founder of Cartender, digital marketing technology company that specializes in scalable, data-driven video content for the automotive industry. Colin has been specializing in the automotive martech space since 2007. He served as a partner and CTO for an automotive media company for a decade before launching Cartender in 2017. His achievements include speaking at trade shows, producing award-winning content for brands like Auto Trader, Chevrolet, Ford, Dealer.com, many more.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- How Collin got started in the automotive space
- The evolution of media platforms and how that has impacted the automotive industry
- The importance of short-form video content on dealership websites
- How dealers can tackle content creation from a strategic standpoint
- How Cartender works to help dealers create video content for various platforms
- The importance of open APIs in forwarding dealership goals
- How Cartender is leveraging AI in their products and their future roadmap.
In this episode…
A dealership business strategy that does not include a content creation strategy is doomed to fail.
The current market demands dealers integrate content creation into their overall marketing strategy in order to amplify their business and win more sales. This entails creating a variety of content consistently and frequently, designed to target each specific platform individually. From content created for organic social positioning, to your dealership’s digital advertising and email strategy, it is critical to feed the right content into the right place in order to achieve your business goals.
In the latest episode of Inside Auto, Collin Davis shares with Ilana Shabtay how dealerships can begin to successfully create a content strategy and the importance of connected data in building and maintaining a content strategy.
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Fullpath (formerly AutoLeadStar).
Fullpath is the automotive industry’s leading customer data and experience platform (CDXP).
Fullpath enables dealers to turn their first-party data into lifelong customers by unifying siloed data sources and leveraging that data to create exceptional, hyper-personalized customer experiences.
To learn more, visit www.fullpath.com
Ilana Shabtay (00:10.006)
Ilana Shabtay here, host of Inside Auto Podcast, where we interview top dealers, GMs, marketers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. Before we introduce today’s guest, this episode is sponsored by Fullpath.com. Fullpath is the automotive industry’s leading customer data and experience platform, CDXP.
Fullpath enables dealers to turn their first party data into lifelong customers by unifying siloed data sources and leveraging that data to create exceptional hyper-personalized customer experiences. To learn more, visit fullpath.com. Today, we’re welcoming Colin Davis, CEO and co-founder at CarTender. Colin, how are you doing?
Collin Davis (00:49.418)
Ilana, doing well, thank you. Nice to see you and chat with you again.
Ilana Shabtay (00:52.549)
Nice to see you. Yeah, and I’ve met you a few times at conferences and in person too, so it’s nice to reconnect on the show.
Collin Davis (00:59.198)
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think we first met via email in 2019, and then yes, soon after that at the conferences when it was Auto Read Star.
Ilana Shabtay (01:03.769)
Yeah. And I know you know some people from our team. Yeah, Auto Lead Starts. That’s really OG. Nice. Colin has been specializing in the automotive martech space since 2007. He served as a partner and CTO for an automotive media company for a decade before launching Cartender in 2017. His achievements include speaking at trade shows, producing award-winning content for brands like Auto Trader, Chevrolet, Ford, dealer.com, many more.
So today he’s going to share some of the automotive expertise with us. Thanks again for joining.
Collin Davis (01:37.895)
Yeah, thank you for having me.
Ilana Shabtay (01:40.837)
So let’s discuss a little bit how I always start here, how you got into automotive. Everyone has a really interesting story and generally the guests that come on are like, it was a complete mistake or I just fell into automotive. I’d love to know how you made your way into the space.
Collin Davis (01:57.098)
Mine was almost like destiny. So my grandfather, my family had a dealership in Vermont through the 30s, the 40s, up until the 70s. And then my grandfather sold the dealership right before the oil embargo. My dad never got into the business, but he loved talking about how they’d get different cars every week, right? Talking about all the different models. He always knew what cars were on the road. So I learned a lot about automotive that way, but I was not necessarily a car guy.
Leaving high school in the early 2000s, I basically decided I’m going to focus on video production and I had a knack for web development, self-taught kind of computer nerd growing up. I also had a band, so I had to learn how to build a website and make videos for our songs and things like that. So I finished college in 2007. I got a job as a video editor at this media company who produced video test drives for the automotive industry.
And in the process of helping them become a video editor, I also helped them with their website. So a lot of my experience was like that perfect blend of video production knowledge, right? Web development knowledge. And at the time YouTube was just becoming big. So I kind of wanted to really drill in on automotive video production for online media specifically. Uh, that job really led me to becoming a CTO building an automotive video platform and understanding the wants and needs of retailers, so dealers and or agencies who needed to create content in a really scalable and cost-effective way.
Ilana Shabtay (03:31.033)
Interesting. And then when you say that, like, since you kind of saw the evolution of YouTube and other media platforms, let’s just focus on YouTube for a moment. Have you seen, like, can you talk a little bit about how that’s influenced the automotive industry since 2017 or whenever you started with that?
Collin Davis (03:48.466)
Yeah. So before YouTube was really positioned as like the second biggest search engine, it was, it was just really about uploading any kind of random content that you were generating or user generated content. That was always the first.
Ilana Shabtay (04:00.489)
Like no real strategy, just a place to upload videos. Okay.
Collin Davis (04:03.442)
Exactly. Like, oh, look, my dog, you know, did something funny or my kid did something funny. So, okay, fine. You can upload that content. Great. And then obviously that caught on. A lot of people were becoming very familiar with it from an automotive perspective. I think it was really about people showing off their cars and talking about, you know, different upgrades or aftermarket parts and just really the how to category exploded in that regard.
For user generated content, you weren’t getting the quality, but we soon realized that the quality didn’t really matter as much in terms of how good the production was. It was just about, was that content you could relate to? Was it kind of speaking to me about how to do something or showing me an interest in a vehicle that I’d never known about? So when we were doing video test drives in the early days, it was really just kind of video reviews. It was about kind of infomercials about the car, educating through promotion and really helping people understand what were the features and the specs and the things about that car that were important and what I learned from that was you can create a lot of long-form content and that can play really well on YouTube or on-demand platforms things like that but there was also a place for that content to live on the dealership website and When you think about that as a strategy, then you look at the data and you say okay, we can’t do as long of content. So the content needs to be like under a minute. We need to know what are people really interested in when they’re interacting with or watching the video. And so we gleaned a lot from that. So we’ve got five minutes of content, but people only really care about like a specific minute of that content. Interior features are really like that first big thing that people care about. At the end of the day, you know, we care about the tech that’s in the car. We want to know that it’s got CarPlay or Android Auto, things like that. So
From a strategic standpoint, the landscape has really shifted. And now when we’re looking at advertising or we’re looking at email as these different marketing channels, we’re thinking about content differently and how it actually plays into that channel specifically. How do we message it correctly?
Ilana Shabtay (06:10.141)
And since dealers have so many, I mean, there are some dealers that have hundreds of cars on their lot. How are you figuring out a way for dealers to actually personalize this content, but also scale it, right? So they have all these cars with inside features that they want to show and or test drive and or talk about, you know, reviews, whatever it might be. How can dealers think about their video marketing strategy and scale it, but also keep it hyper personalized and specific? Is that something that you’re focusing on?
Collin Davis (06:38.39)
Yeah. So for us, we kind of approach it two different ways. One is like your organic kind of social posting strategy where you’re creating content for an audience to really amplify your brand. Talk about why you’re better than the next guy, what your services are, what you offer and also promote some of that inventory. From an advertising perspective, you’re really focusing on merchandising and promoting specific inventory or offers or specials, kind of the usual things we’re used to seeing.
But organically, what makes us unique is that we’re going to allow you to create a lot of different content often. And that’s really the name of the game. When you think about these different platforms that you want to be advertising or promoting on, it’s a, it’s a content machine. It needs to be fed and you need to create different content and you need to post it frequently. That’s really how this succeeds. And when we talk about amplifying the brand, we talk about doing that on a consistent basis. So.
Our platform is unique in that we can take different data sources like inventory feeds, for example. We can create videos surrounding different rules about that inventory. So if it’s aged inventory or specific body styles, colors, whatever, we’ll create rules that create different types of content based on those rules. And then we will schedule and upload and create that content all in one flow. And what we end up doing for a lot of customers is we create kind of a social media calendar for the whole month with all this different type of video content that’s not only generated natively in the format for each platform, but also is specifically, um, it’s tailored to that platform you’re uploading to. So we know if we’re doing an upload to YouTube versus TikTok, well, one’s going to be in an HD format, one’s going to be vertical. And the vertical one for TikTok is probably going to be about six seconds versus YouTube. We can do 15, maybe even 30 seconds. So it really comes down to like your strategy, where you’re uploading it, and then how often you’re posting to those platforms.
Ilana Shabtay (08:41.686)
And a few follow-up questions. My first is, do the dealers get to approve it, or do they wanna approve it, or you feel like that once the strategy goes, they’d rather just have things automatically uploaded? That’s my first question.
Collin Davis (08:55.114)
Yeah, much more of like a hands off for most dealers. That way they don’t have to worry about, they’ve got a lot of things going on and often we hear like, hey, we’re wearing many hats already. If you guys could just handle this, no problem. We understand a lot of like what they do and how they do it. So we can come in with 80% of what they need with that understanding, given our experience producing content for big brands, dealer groups, so on and so forth. So that setup is kind of where they get to decide what they want to do for the month. And in some cases, you know, they will actually send in specific requests to kind of augment what we’re already doing and then we can kind of switch it up that way as well.
Ilana Shabtay (09:37.875)
Interesting. OK, that was going to be my second question, so glad you answered that. My third follow-up question is data. We’re all talking about data and customer data platforms and feeding in data and making sure that all of our data is integrated. So when you do create all of the different content for every single incentive or inventory, let’s say, how is the platform then informed that vehicle might no longer be available? Right? Because you want to make sure that you’re not putting out content for something that’s no longer available. Is that something that you guys focus on? Is that something that the dealership is responsible for? Either way, I think it’s just something that is important for us to talk about.
Collin Davis (10:19.038)
Yeah, no, that’s a great question. So the way that we look at different data sources is you bring in that data, but then you kind of earmark it to know, okay, if that data changes, we need to know if the video has to change. So in the case of inventory, absolutely every day, something is changing about that inventory feed, either our price is changing on a car or the car is selling and something else gets added. So our system does automatically track that and basically knows, okay, new video because, you know, price changed. And what’s also, yeah. So what’s unique about different platforms. So YouTube, for example, you can’t actually edit an existing video file. You have to like basically. Yeah. I mean, it’s their way of like really cracking down on spam. So people don’t piggyback off of existing views. Um, so what you have to do is basically, like you said, pause it. You can delete the video or what you simply do is make it unlisted. And then the new video is the public basing video. When you think about advertising campaigns, for example, you use what’s called a vast tag if you’re running your ad on like say, you know, CTV. And a vast tag is a really sweet way to post a campaign with a specific piece of content, but if that content changes then you don’t have to change the campaign or do anything, right? The Vastag knows, oh, here’s the latest version of that video file. That’s what’s running for this campaign. So we use techniques like that in order to make sure accuracy is paramount and that you’re never getting old information.
Ilana Shabtay (11:56.386)
That’s amazing. Now on the actual topic of data, just because this is my expertise and what I love talking about, can you talk a little bit about… your focus on integrating with other vendors. I mean, you spoke about it a little bit, but I’d like to know a little bit more. I know you guys are involved with Fortelis. What does that look like for you? What does it look like when you’re sending data back and forth and just in general contributing to the overall mission to give dealers a real control of their data from A to Z?
Collin Davis (12:26.562)
Well, so I think full path has kind of spoken about this, about kind of open APIs, about allowing data to connect. And when I started Cartender, I immediately saw the need to make APIs available for everything that we do. So API first approach was always kind of our mission. We build solutions on top of our API so that dealers and folks who just want a tool to use have that. But if you’re a technology company, like Fullpath. or a dealer.com or anyone, you have that ability to build whatever you want within your platform using our APIs. So what that looks like is we start with creative. What do you want your end video to look like? You are never going to be limited by what it looks like. We believe in creativity above all. So from a traditional production perspective, we want to follow that principle of I want to be able to create whatever I wanted to create. I don’t want to be limited by anything. And then what we do is we connect the data to that creative. And that’s where our platform’s also unique because, you know, some other providers, it will require some programming. It will take a long time to program what you want the video to look like. That’s not the case with us. Um, basically whatever you create, we hook up the data to that. We make it dynamic. And now you have a render engine or a system that will generate as many versions of that for you as you’d like. And it will upload it to all of the different destinations that you require it. So yeah, the creative is everything. And then the data kind of hooks up to that. And we used to say data was King, uh, or sorry, content was King and now data is King, but content is the hand. And that’s really a Game of Thrones reference.
Ilana Shabtay (14:08.201)
I love that. I was gonna say, I think it’s really special that sometimes it kind of feels like one or the other and you’re giving dealers the opportunity to stay creative and stay connected. And I think that’s really important. I’m sure that’s part of your main mission. Can you talk about a little bit what we can expect from you guys in the next like six to 12 months, anything on your roadmap that you’re willing to share?
Collin Davis (14:31.338)
Yeah, so we’ve looked at AI, we understand chat GBT is all the hype, but we don’t want AI to replace what we do. We do want it to assist what we do. So we’ve created a tool called AI Assist, and essentially what that’s gonna do is it’s gonna help you write your voiceover script or write your metadata for your social media posting. That includes your hashtags and your descriptions and your titles, right? From a voiceover perspective, it’s really cool because we’re going to write an ad that uses the very data that you’re using to promote that vehicle. So if we know it’s a Toyota Camry lease for 399 a month, 36 months, and it’s for, you know, call in motors, the system will write a script that’s very, very specific to that type of content. So we use the data to inform the AI about what to write about. And then we use like really positive, you know, sentiment and, prompts that basically allow you to write that script. And we have a whole formula for this that we’ve built out to kind of make the perfect voiceover script. And then what’s really cool is the system actually will make sure it’s timed correctly to fit the length of the video. And the last piece of this that’s been really important for us is we have multiple voices and styles. And by the way, this is like AI voiceover, it’s fully automated, it’s human-like. We are able to…
Ilana Shabtay (15:40.993)
Yeah, I’ve heard them before and it’s incredible.
Collin Davis (15:55.91)
Yeah, it’s in, and you know, we can clone voices for dealers who have like their own guy who they want on camera, but the long short of it is that we now can support multilingual. So when we talk about, you know, different markets with different audiences, I know Spanish speaking is very popular. Well, you can write that one script, translate it and have it voiced in that native tongue with that same voice style. And your workflow is that simple. So now what we have is folks that are doing the translation from their English version and doing all these other versions specific to those different multilingual audiences that they want to reach.
Ilana Shabtay (16:32.165)
Yeah, wow. OK, so looking forward to that. And I love that you’re also getting on the AI train because it’s obvious that there’s really no other way in the next six to 12 months. I also want to point out that I very much agree with this statement. AI is not replacing anyone. It’s assisting us. It’s making us more efficient. It’s making us more strategy focused so that we don’t have to do the things that a machine can do. So I appreciate that distinction. Awesome. This was extremely informative. And in general, I don’t know of many companies that are really helping dealers scale a personalized content strategy that includes video. So looking forward to watching Cartender and what else you guys have up your sleeve. Anything else you want to share before we sign off?
Collin Davis (17:17.678)
Well, I was just going to say a lot of dealers create their own content. They do it really well. Our goal is to never replace that. We really want to compliment any existing strategies and give them the ability to utilize that content and more places because that’s often the only thing that needs to be done. You’re making that walk around video. You’re posting that video. Well, where else can it be used? You’ve got a lot of opportunity to amplify and get more out of that content. So we want to help folks do that.
Ilana Shabtay (17:44.729)
Yeah, I love that. So it’s creating content, it’s repurposing content, it’s complimenting the very specific content that they’re already creating. So again, thank you so much, Colin, for telling us all about what you’ve been doing in automotive and how you’re helping dealers, specifically through Car Tender and beyond. So thank you again for joining. And if you liked this episode, please tune in inside autopodcast.com. Thank you again, Colin.
Collin Davis (18:09.518)
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