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[NADA Series] Inventory Challenges and Video Marketing for Dealerships With Melissa Cartagena


Melissa Cartagena

Melissa Cartagena is the Senior Director and Head of Digital Advertising at AutoNation, one of America’s largest and most recognized automotive retailers. She is a seasoned digital technology marketing professional, growth marketer, and growth hacker. Melissa has over 19 years of experience managing large-scale programs in paid search, content marketing, display advertising, SEO, paid social media, email, and reputation management.


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

  • AutoNation’s recent developments

  • Melissa's predictions for the automotive space

  • How changes in interest rates and inflation affect car demands

  • Melissa’s future plans for the NADA conference: video marketing


In this episode…


Recent changes in the economy have had a significant impact on demand for cars. According to a study conducted by Google, vehicle demands declined for a short time but soon increased due to rising interest rates and inflation. So how does this affect inventory levels, and what should dealerships expect in the future?


In this episode of the InsideAuto Podcast, Ilana Shabtay interviews Melissa Cartagena, the Senior Director and Head of Digital Advertising at AutoNation, about the challenges dealerships have been facing. They discuss inventory shortages in the automotive space, the use of video marketing, and why car owners have been buying out their car leases.


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 www.autoleadstar.com 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 0:13

This is InsideAuto Podcast, Ilana Shabtay. I'm here with Melissa Cartagena. Very good. Thank you. Good. Head of digital at AutoNation for very excited. So how's the show going?

Melissa Cartagena 0:25

So far? So good. Yeah. Busy as convenient as usual. Yeah, these things

Ilana Shabtay 0:28

getting you from over there to overnight? No, it took a village.

Melissa Cartagena 0:33

I know. We've been just back to back all day. Yeah, you know, these things go and then they go through the night. And yeah, just meeting people one after one. But you know what, it's been good. Because I've been out of the scene for a while. So it's really good to like, get back in and see people haven't seen in like four years.

Ilana Shabtay 0:49

That's nice. It's just fantastic. Yeah. And you're in particular woman. I say so. Oh, no, I had a lot of friends.

Melissa Cartagena 0:54

Maybe a little have been around for a while. I feel like I'm sore. But know that comparatively to some people that have been in the industry for a long time. I haven't been in the industry as long as others.

Ilana Shabtay 1:02

Well, you also, if I remember correctly, you tried to leave automotive and then you came back?

Melissa Cartagena 1:06

Yes. Yes. A few years, right. Yeah, I was gone for like two and a half years, which is why it's like coming back here is it's been nice to like regroup with people that have been in a long time, but and some things have changed. And some things haven't. Yeah, you know, but I like that some things have changed now, especially at AutoNation. We've had a lot of a lot of change in this last couple of years. acquisitions. I have some of my crew here from RepairSmith, which was one of our most recent acquisitions. Yeah, he's actually been great. So yeah, it's been this has been an interesting year, I would say much better than the two previous to that during COVID. And even after COVID. Yeah,

Ilana Shabtay 1:46

for sure. I've been talking to everyone. I love hearing everyone's perspective on what 2023 is going to look like. Do you have any predictions for automotive?

Melissa Cartagena 1:55

Oh, my gosh, I, you know, I've been asking the same question to a lot of other people also, because I want their perspective. Yeah. What I would love to see is that we get inventory levels back. Yeah. So we can really get back to what we were doing before. But that's gonna be you know, here and there. We're gonna have to just see how that goes through there. And then once it does, it's like getting recalibrated. Yeah. From a marketing perspective to do the marketing, we need to with excess inventory. Yeah. So that's going to be interesting. But this year for us, I really it for us. It's all about consolidation. CDP is like the biggest word right now. But it's been that has been something that's been on our radar to automation for the last like five years. Yeah. So it's not new to us. We're trying to figure it out, just like everybody else's. But I think we're in a really good place. And, and a little further ahead than maybe some others are, which is exciting. Yeah. So that's going to be a big session for this year. I think a lot of people who are just trying to figure that out this year, as they move through the year. And then, you know, like I said, the inventory, that's going to be, that's going to be the big thing. Because once we do get inventory levels back, like what's gonna happen, because incentives are not around right now very much. But yeah, they very much will be once inventory comes back.

Ilana Shabtay 3:06

Well, do you do you also, do you see inventory, coming back for some brands over others? Like where, where, which are the leading brands right now that you think are coming back to normal?

Melissa Cartagena 3:15

You know, to be honest, I'm not even sure where

Ilana Shabtay 3:19

I when I look at it, and it's up and down? Well, I

Melissa Cartagena 3:21

also did meetings where I hear you know, Toyota and Honda are still struggling a little bit. And then I hear Mercedes is like, okay, but then I hear it's not okay. So it's just like been a little bit all over the place. And, you know, somebody else mentioned to me earlier, if we can get to a place of like 90 day supply across the board, that will be bet will be 90 day supply will be better. But we're not. We're not there yet. But we watch it every day. Like we get our inventory reports often. And we look at those numbers, and we are better than we were last year or two years ago. But we're still we're still have a lot of work to do.

Ilana Shabtay 3:57

Yeah. And then do you think that demand is going to be hurt at all or different than the previous year just based on like, interest rates? Inflation? Are you seeing that at all?

Melissa Cartagena 4:06

You know, we had a meeting recently with Google, and they're not really seeing much difference interested in the data that they're providing to us? That it's not really I feel like it is an impact. You know, when you see these interest rates rise? Yeah. I mean, I'm in that position right now. I don't want you know, like I have one more year left on my lease, what am I going to do?

Ilana Shabtay 4:26

No, it Yeah, it's crazy thing.

Melissa Cartagena 4:27

But Google's Google's data, which they were showing us most recently, that demand really hasn't changed all that much. Like we saw that huge dip, and new car, and now we're seeing it come back. And even with rising interest rates, people are still interested in buying new cars. And what they thought was, I found that to be odd, but you know, the data is the data. Yeah.

Ilana Shabtay 4:47

I wonder if if people will, I mean, I see that the the demand must still be there. But I wonder if people have more people will just buy out their leases. Like, are you seeing that or?

Melissa Cartagena 4:55

Yes, yeah. I actually just spoke with somebody about that this morning. Yeah, like just has been a topic of conversation. But he had the same issue come up for him. And he bought out his lease because it just was it wasn't right. Right. And, and I'm, I may very well be in that same situation, come you know the time when my lease ends, which is towards the end of this year, but I'm gonna wait it out and we'll we'll see what happens I have this year to wait it out. I don't have a whole lot of mileage on my cars. I work from home for two and a half years. So we'll just see what happens. Okay, matter of time.

Ilana Shabtay 5:24

Yeah. I mean, also that automotive industry, the past three years has been so dynamic and changed so drastically. A year is a long time right now, like I, it could be that by the time your lease is done. Who knows where interest rates are going? I

Melissa Cartagena 5:37

know. I'm like, we'll feel it out in June. We're just really right. Right now. It's like, almost like a day by day or by month it really and then I'll weigh it out. When the time comes. When it's right, then I'll make a move. And I'm sure a lot of people will do the same. You know, I know some people don't even maybe they don't even realize that at some point. When they get to the end of their lease. They could actually extend it. Yeah. So they can hold on a little bit longer than what this gentleman did that he we talked about

Ilana Shabtay 6:00

earlier today. And then are they locked in? They extended on the same terms? Yep, same

Melissa Cartagena 6:04

term, six months, he extended it. And then once the six month mark came market still wasn't right for him. He bought out yep. Yeah. I mean, that's the option. You have that option. Yeah. I happen to be in a good position with it. And yeah, hopefully others are too. But yeah, time will tell.

Ilana Shabtay 6:18

Yeah. Cool. So wait, what's on the agenda for the rest of the show?

Melissa Cartagena 6:22

Oh, my gosh, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings. Right.

Ilana Shabtay 6:25

Yeah. Anything that you're really looking forward to?

Melissa Cartagena 6:28

I don't know if I want to say, okay, you can you can? Do I can you know what? Anybody that knows me will know that the person that needs to hear this should hear it anyway. I am pretty straightforward. So like, I don't hide secrets. But I'm definitely looking at video. For sure. I have a lot of just have some, there's some challenges that I have, from a video perspective as I scaling it, and just really running it the way that I'd like it to run. wasn't really the case so much a couple years ago. But now that is the case for me. So we're just trying to figure that out. So for me, I've been talking with a lot of people about that. To see what my best options

Ilana Shabtay 7:08

are. Meaning you want to do you think it's really important. You want to be able to scale it. Exactly.

Melissa Cartagena 7:13

And when you do it at the store level with as many stores as we have. It's really hard to scale that. Yeah. And offer base type offers are really difficult to scale to. And I know, there's talk about like tick tock and doing video there. But getting videos at scale by store with authentic content on a tick tock platform is really, really hard. Yeah. You can do it when you have like, five stores, three stores. But when you get to over 275 plus, yeah, it's how do you stay authentic? At that point, you just need to figure out what your video concept is and run it and scale it. Yeah. And then it just doesn't resonate with the audience you want it to resonate with? Yeah, I'm not interested in doing that. Yeah. We just need to figure out how to do it in other ways that can maintain what we need to from the perspective of the consumer, just remembering who we are at the recall perspective and building our brand is really important.

Ilana Shabtay 8:03

Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you for joining us in the podcast.

Melissa Cartagena 8:07

Thank you for having me. Yes, always a

Ilana Shabtay 8:09

pleasure. Always pleasure to sit with you. Yes.

Melissa Cartagena 8:13

Then we break bread later.

Outro 8:18

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

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