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From Fashion to Automotive, Meet Digital Editor of Dealer Marketing Magazine, Lara Keyes

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Lara Keyes

Lara Keyes is the Digital Editor at Dealer Marketing Magazine. She joined the automotive industry three years ago through the magazine after working in the fashion industry for 10 years. Before joining the team, she studied consumer behavior and retail management and honed her expertise in brand management and growth, specifically when it comes to digital. She is passionate about tracking consumer behavior and how to retain consumers through loyalty.

Lara is the mastermind behind the relaunch of the magazine and the Expert Panel, which has created a big community.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Lara Keyes' background and how she started working in the automotive industry

  • The trending content that’s exciting Lara in the automotive industry

  • The state of the automotive industry in South Africa and the future of electric cars

  • How Dealer Marketing Magazine educates dealers on trends in the automotive industry

  • Lara talks about the concept behind Dealer Marketing Magazine's Expert Panel

  • The innovative projects Dealer Marketing Magazine has been working on

In this episode…

With new trends taking over the automotive industry, it is becoming more important for dealerships to stay up to date with what’s going on. Dealerships have to get a better understanding of what their customers want and meet their market’s needs in order to grow their businesses. They also have to be willing to improve their business models to provide better products to their customers.

However, according to Lara Keyes, in order for dealerships to succeed with this, they have to ensure that they not only have the right team in place, but also that the entire team is committed to the transformation. This is what will drive growth and lead to more sales and customer satisfaction.

Lara Keyes, the Digital Editor at Dealer Marketing Magazine, is Ilana Shabtay's guest in this episode of the InsideAuto Podcast, where she talks about the latest trends in the automotive industry. She also explains how Dealer Marketing Magazine helps dealerships improve their businesses and how the latest trends will impact the future of the industry.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by AutoLeadStar, a company that helps car dealerships engage quality customers on the web and convert them into car buyers.

Co-founded by Aharon Horwitz, Yishai Goldstein, and Eliav Moshe, AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software automates a dealership’s entire marketing funnel and provides around-the-clock service for dealers.

AutoLeadStar’s innovative technology helps dealerships automate ads, connect with customers, and discover ROI and performance metrics

Visit their website at to learn more about their around-the-clock marketing service.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

Welcome to InsideAuto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you'd want to talk to you in and out of the automotive industry.

Ilana Shabtay 0:14

Ilana Shabtay here, am host of InsideAuto Podcast where we interview top dealers, GMs, marketers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. And before we introduce today's guest, this episode is sponsored by The AutoLeadStar platform is built on a technology so powerful it allows you to market, sell, and service cars as you would in the real world and online, making one to one matches between shoppers and inventory. AutoLeadStar is the only platform that is powered by scale, speed, and specificity to change the way dealers do marketing today. Today's guest is Lara Keyes. I was so excited to have Lara here on the call with us today. How are you doing?

Lara Keyes 0:55

Hi, Ilana, I'm great. Thank you. How are you? Thank you for having me.

Ilana Shabtay 1:00

Of course, of course. Before we jump into our content here, I'll give you a quick intro Lara studied consumer behavior and retail management and worked in the fashion industry for 10 years, which is fascinating. Her expertise lies in brand management and growth, specifically, when it comes to digital. Lara is passionate about tracking consumer behavior and changes and how to retain consumers through loyalty. Lara joined automotive three years ago at Dealer Marketing Magazine, where she is now and she is the Digital Editor at the magazine. She is the mastermind behind the relaunch of Dealer Marketing Magazine, and the Expert Panel which has created such a big community. So we're really excited to talk about that today. And I'm excited for the world to know who she is. So thank you again for joining us. Hello, world. Hello World. Well, I know I did. I gave you a brief bio, and I kind of talked about your transition into automotive. But it's an InsideAuto Podcast tradition to ask our guests how they actually fell into automotive. Tell us a little bit more about your background and how you came into automotive. And then of course, how your background applies to your work at Dealer Marketing Magazine.

Lara Keyes 2:16

Yes, so you already gave quite an introduction there. But as you heard, my main passion is behind the consumer behavior slide. And I left the fashion industry because I got tired of designing for other people. And I decided to focus and go more into the digital marketing direction. And an American friend of mine told me one day Hey, I bought a magazine that was rocketing. And I thought he was crazy because he was in a different industry as well. But he comes from the tech side and says, Well, that's really interesting, because it's about marketing and all these things. And as we started talking, one day just said, Hey, do you want to work with me on this? And it was, I was very scared to do this. But I've just loved the change. And I'm super passionate about it. Yeah, I'm honored to be in a position to rebuild the marketing for the future, and to be recognized in automotive. And I'm super passionate about data and AI and marketing and PR and branding. And I love that I'm able to share this with other people.

Ilana Shabtay 3:34

Well, your friend is super happy that he decided to make that move, or he or she decided to make that move, because you've really made an impact on the magazine. Were you in the States at this time?

Lara Keyes 3:45

Yes, I was in Florida at the time. Oh, yeah. Yeah. We don't

Ilana Shabtay 3:49

know if we're ever going to get you back though. Are we gonna get?

Lara Keyes 3:53

What's the pandemic is over? I really? Yeah, I came back and they just got stuck. And here I am now. But I'm excited to go back to the way things were back to normal whatever that will be.

Ilana Shabtay 4:07

I know, I hope soon it feels like by 2022 will be like maybe 80% of the way there. So maybe back in the new year, we'll see. Yeah. But you see, I mean, again, you built this amazing expert panel, which I'm really honored to participate in. And I feel so grateful that I get to be on this panel of so many other experts in the industry. And you see a lot of content that we put out and you review that content, you edit the content. What are some of the trends in automotive that you see that are most exciting to you, whether that's from the content or not I just kind of put it in that context because I know you live and breathe that at Dealer Marketing Magazine.

Lara Keyes 4:48

It definitely does come from the content because our expert panel which I'll talk about more soon. Those are the masters behind our content, but, you know, there's been so many exciting changes that are happening in the automotive industry right now, which is being catapulted by this pandemic we face. And for me, the most exciting has to be the digital retailing trend. And all the new emerging markets that we've seen coming from this, and research shows that more and more of the car buying customer journeys are spent online with nearly 95% of car buyers using digital as a source of information. So, and these buyers are put into research spending 61% of their time online when shopping for a vehicle, which significantly shortens the purchase partisan car, over two thirds of us customers now spend less than three months to research the vehicle purchase and with car shoppers have easier access to the information they need. You can naturally expect that they would need less time before putting pen to paper, right? So, so many aspects to selling a car create an online experience to match this changing buying process. And a traditional showroom is a true challenge for dealers, especially when customers already get a seamless online shopping experience with other businesses like banking and groceries and things. So there's definitely very, very, very high expectations and dealers, you know, they've had to implement home delivery programs and build better sites and find ways to help customers with insurance virtually which we all knew was coming probably but I don't think they expected to get it up and running. Now, I recently listened to a very interesting podcast with Ron Paul, the real vision CEO and co-founder and their latest campaign Welcome to the exponential age. Hmm. The fact is that costs are about to go exponential and anybody who advances in technology in autonomous vehicles and other parts of the Evie revolution will be on the front foot. VW Global Head of innovation also confirmed that the rate of change that's being forced on the car industry right now is unbelievable. And the scary fact is that the vehicle fleet is now willing to be replaced over the next 20 years. And I actually want to speed that up. So at every level, the cuy industry is reinventing itself as always, and they will be winners, and they will be losers during this transformation. And the digital retail tools and AI that's available to support this change and customer expectations is really, really interesting. There was also a global automotive consumer study done by Deloitte Global, which showed results that a high number of consumers felt that the overall purchase experience took too long, and that there's too much paperwork. This was before the pandemic. So these main issues, I think, could certainly be solved with pivot technology to create a more seamless experience. The upside to the online buying experience is that there's so much data that can be collected and leveraged to develop new business models. It's clear that dealers need to really focus on integrating that data and channels available to deliver more enhanced customer experience. And designing new service models will require more insight and analytics than ever before. The other interesting trend is the future of mobility, which will be more dynamic as other forms of transportation, such as autonomous and electric shuttles ebikes, become in demand. And dealers will need to find ways to have more personalized and inclusive options to support these transformations. There's also a duality concept of what the future is, which entails both autonomous and sharing vehicles. But the issue that needs the greatest attention right now that we are seeing is how dealers can get to know their customers well, so that they can meet the needs and expectations and deliver a great customer experience.

Through the adoption of a digital and sponsored approach, they will certainly increase their competitive advantage and create a path for long term customer loyalty which is the ultimate goal which shouldn't be the ultimate goal. I also really like the put it in perspective, the example of Amazon who are the absolute experts at leveraging customer behavior data and creating personalized offers and recommendations and dealers and OEMs need to follow that route and start thinking beyond the transaction and consider all the customers behaviors to improve This digital journey that we find ourselves on and ultimately get closer to the customer through data and insights.

Ilana Shabtay 10:11

So you mentioned and I think the overall theme is that dealers need to be ready for whatever the future of mobility is. And I think like, again, you shared a lot of different trends. But I think the overall theme between all of them is that consumers have changed, and they're going to change, and dealers absolutely need to equip themselves for that change in response, and technology is the way that they can respond to it. And I think that's

Lara Keyes 10:39

on the money. Absolutely. And it's such a competitive industry. And if you are not ahead on what's happening right now, you're gonna fall behind. Yeah. Now, I'm just for my own curiosity, is the automotive industry similar in South Africa? Or is it totally behind so far behind? And I think that's also what's quite interesting is they don't have all this technology, and they still do things very traditionally.

Ilana Shabtay 11:11

And working for now.

Lara Keyes 11:15

Yeah, it's working for now. I don't know how long. They should really probably start looking at leading countries like dates, in terms of how they are changing their retail practices and processes.

Ilana Shabtay 11:34

Yeah, it's gonna be really interesting to see what happens in automotive in like, a totally post COVID world, but also, with it. I know, you mentioned EBS with the emerging Evie models, I think, I think, um, I think I heard from Google yesterday, that was something like 10%, if not more, I don't remember them out. But there was a very high percentage of new models coming out in 2022, War II V's and so eventually, we're just going to be seeing a totally different world of transportation. And it's gonna be crazy. Like how I can't imagine a world without gas stations, like, yeah, it's nuts. But I guess you want to replace that concept with charging stations? I don't know, I guess it's the same thing, right? It's like, Oh, I got to get gas, I got to charge my car. I don't know what it's going to be like,

Lara Keyes 12:25

yeah, it's gonna, I think one of the whole dealership parking lot, and the whole setup is gonna change a lot, because you're gonna have to have these charging stations, your servicing is gonna have to be completely different. Yeah. And I'll be honest, I don't know if dealers are really thinking about all of that as much as they should. Yeah, I think it's gonna come faster than what they think. Yeah.

Ilana Shabtay 12:50

So that's a good, that's a good tip here for our listeners. If you're not prepared for everything that Lara just mentioned, please prepare yourself for the change in the market that's to come in the next couple of years. But I know, I know, we mentioned this already, that a lot of these trends that you learn come from the magazine. So I mean, just tell us a little bit about how the magazine supports these trends or talks about these trends and how you're kind of setting that up to educate dealers, they know that's something that's very important to you.

Lara Keyes 13:21

Yes, so, as we already mentioned, the industry has been going through all these changes from a technical and a consumer behavior point. And our goal is really to help dealers understand these changes better. And the pace and the impact of these changes call for dealers to gear up and embrace the future of automotive features now. Yeah, and with so many options that cost shoppers fingertips, customer experience, professionals face increased pressure to design, positive, informative and memorable experience that's going to drive the shoppers into their dealerships and turn them into loyal, longtime brand advocates. The big question you're very passionate about, right?

Ilana Shabtay 14:06

You said, I know. You mentioned that you're really passionate about like, the customer journey, specifically how to Yeah, the loyalty and how to retain

Lara Keyes 14:13

Yes, you know, there's so much work that goes into building a brand. And sometimes people don't put strategies in place to build those loyal brand advocates, because then every, all the work you put in just goes away. Right? So how that gets done is tricky. And that's the question is, what is the key to designing these experiences and no one has the answers, which is exciting. But people need to be on top of what's going on and they need to be willing to improve their business models and processes through this digital transformation. Whether it's mobility or f&i or digital retailing, the list goes on but he loves me to know the customers inside out wherever they are in the customer journey. There has to be a very strong commitment from everyone in the whole dealership to embrace the transformation. And to maintain that journey. I think the big challenge here lies in identifying the right tools and partners, which will have a positive impact on the customer journey, which is always changing. And this is where we come in. So our online publication speaks to a large online audience of dealers and vendors in the automotive industry. And we aim to give dealers a lens between the consumer and the dealer through providing useful best practices, commentary, and insights. As well as the latest research, we focus on editorial content that's written by automotive professionals to educate and enlighten dealers using hard to end thought leadership articles. And our biggest shift as the magazine has been to transform, to fully digital to provide dealers with expert knowledge at their fingertips, wherever they are.

Ilana Shabtay 16:00

I think that's great. And I know this is actually a good transition to the next thing that I wanted to talk about, which is the expert panel. I know we've mentioned that a couple of times. But I'd love for you to speak a little bit about the concept behind it, because you really did build it from scratch, and you and you did a phenomenal job. And there really is a sense of community. And you haven't even met each other. But we always you know, I'll get LinkedIn messages from someone who says like, hey, so you're an expert panel with me excited to connect, which is just such a good feeling. And you should feel really good about that. So tell us a little bit about the concept behind it. And if you have any experts, any efforts for expansion?

Lara Keyes 16:36

Yes, so we were super proud that even in the printed magazine version, we've always featured some of the brightest minds in the industry to share their thoughts and leadership. And starting dealer marketing's new journey, we decided to establish a 30 seat expert panel, which was our first major change when taking over and it's been received, as you say, really, really well. We started with a list of 800 industry professionals. And from then we founded the first members, and we basically do boring of all of their company, for the experience. We are very strict though that we only allow people who are our automotive industry professionals to provide our content. And when a seat becomes available now we just put a request out for nomination, which is always exciting to see. Yeah, that was great. Yeah. And at this point, we're not really looking to increase the number of available seats, but you never know what's gonna happen. And we don't want to have too many because we want to be able to give every piece the right exposure that it deserves. Because, yeah, the greatest quality work that we get. And we believe that partnering with industry experts, who are professionals on these topics, is the best way to provide dealers with value. And that's what we have for you. So it's been an amazing bonus with all the new connections and relationships that have been created amongst the panel. To be honest, I don't think it is required. We didn't build it for that reason, but we always wanted to, they've always had a vision to have this expert community. And it's really becoming alive now with a whole podcast channel, or podcast partnerships, and everyone's speaking to each other. And we definitely want to work on having webinar series in the future to put more focus on AI experts and have them co host and talk about all sorts of fun things. That's awesome.

Ilana Shabtay 18:48

Yeah, I'm learning new things about what's to come to. So I know. So you are working on a lot of exciting things for the magazine, not just within the expert panel, but there's some other stuff that you're working on. Anything you could share with us.

Lara Keyes 19:01

Yes, so over the last year, we've been focused on beefing up our content and giving more value to dealers. We've reorganized our content to be focused on the customer journey in the dealership business, specifically. And as I said, we've partnered mostly with automotive marketing, Spear Marketing, and we also feature the InsideAuto Podcast where our experts feature to discuss the latest article in more depth. We built a new website, which is very exciting and will be up in no time, which

Ilana Shabtay 19:41

I can share. I'll share the secret that I saw a little sneak peek before we started this podcast episode and it looks amazing. It really does. So I'm super excited about that. Obviously, I didn't get to see it all just so that there's like a fair there's no unfair advantage here. I just saw. It does look great. It really does.

Lara Keyes 19:58

Thank you. We're very, very excited. We bolted from scratch. Our expert panel also gets value out of it through a portal for them and are connected to each other. And thereafter, we are going to just rev up the opportunities for vendors and event organizers to reach our audience. And we launched our industry awards section.

Ilana Shabtay 20:22

I remember that, I remember that we won an award. I think it was like the first award we ever won. So Dealer Marketing has a, well AutoLeadstar was a very young company at the time, but yes, we won our product which we rebranded since then. We did win. And we even still have this beautiful glass award. Oh, I'm so excited you're bringing that back.

Lara Keyes 20:45

Yeah, that's gonna take some time, but it's definitely on the cards. We started working on it or at creating some new awards. Yeah, so we're very excited about that, you know, we're always looking to get better and and we really look forward to improving this digital platform to be a knowledge hub for everyone in the industry and to connect everyone and share ideas and knowledge.

Ilana Shabtay 21:10

I love it. Lara, thank you so much for joining us and for coming out to tell us all of the work that you do usually behind the scenes, so I'm so happy that we can get out in the world like we said in the beginning of the episode. So thanks so much for joining. It was great to have you learn from you. For anyone who is not subscribed to Dealer Marketing Magazine, please go to We'll also link it out in the show notes. And for our listeners. If you'd like this episode, please tune in InsideAuto Podcast, You can also find us on all mainstream apps, I HRadio, Apple, Spotify. We'll catch you next time. Thank you so much Lara.

Outro 21:56

Thanks for listening to the InsideAuto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

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