TADA’s Innovation Series tackles online dating, big data


What can car dealers learn from the trials and tribulations of building a dating service? “Plenty!” was Bruce Croxon’s answer.

In 1987, Croxon and three partners co-founded  Lavalife, a dating service, that sailed the choppy seas of romance and techno-change from telephone to online dating.

Lavalife rose from a basement operation to high-tech giant that fetched a multi-million dollar sales price. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t.

“We went by trial and error,” he recalls. Seeing the potential of romance on the Internet was a coup.

He spoke at the Trillium Automobile Dealers’ Innovation Series held in Ottawa and Toronto on Sept. 13 and 14.

His father, Noel, was a successful GM dealer as is brother Michael, dealer principal of New Roads Automotive Group. So Croxon’s roots are deep in the auto world.

The ex-dragon on the CBC’s Dragon’s Den offered his audience some lessons.

Lesson #1: Because of the competition, you had better love what you’re doing because you will be doing it seven days a week.

Lesson #2 Appeal to the women customers and the men will follow.

Lesson #3: Write down where you want your dealership to be in three years.

Lesson #4: Since doing business is a team effort, see how your job candidates get along with others.

Michael Cirillo moderated a panel of four autoworld retailers, Brent Wees, director of first impressions at Nextup, Kevin Coombs, director market intelligence, Trader, Kristine Fair, dealer principal Mike Fair Chevrolet and Anne Gilligan, corporate liaison manager, Wiens Canada.

The topic was how advancing technology affects dealerships.

Though technology and data may rule, there is no one way to adapt, cautioned Fair, whose dealership is located in Smith Falls, Ont., a town of 9,000 in eastern Ontario.

Fair said her store values its community work and its tech savvy staff.

There is no right or wrong way. It’s trail and error, the panel concluded.

Or as Cirillo put it: “Do what’s right for you.”

The event was anchored by Erin Elofson, director of financial services at Facebook and Mike Badour, Canada Post’s GM business development – direct marketing.

Elofson urged attendees to see Facebook, not as just a place where dealers can showcase their store’s community work, but a service that can personalize data to help turn website visitors into customers.

Badour argued that dealers should take another look at items like coupons and flyers. He argued that Canada Post data shows that they are opened, read and acted upon, especially by Millennials.

TADA director Todd Bourgon said this year’s events drew full houses to both sessions. Bourgon said that understanding data is vital.So the next session in 2017 will see a rep from data-collecting giant Google on stage.

For detailed coverage, see the November issue of Canadian AutoWorld.