Video, drones all part of selling vehicles in Silicon Valley

Videographers Josh Gelber and Tanya Dubrul appear in an episode of DGDG’s “Happy Place” YouTube series.

Technology team

At Del Grande Dealer Group in Silicon Valley, a 25-person team generates original video for DGDG TV, the group’s YouTube address, including testimonials, vehicle walkarounds, dealer events and more.

Del Grande Dealer Group in San Jose, Calif., is in the heart of Silicon Valley. So it makes sense the retailer declared technology a cornerstone of its growth strategy.

“Our goal at DGDG was to build a world-class automotive retail organization,” said President Shaun Del Grande.

Del Grande: Tech plays a key role.

“The two primary components to do that,” he said, were “build a great culture” and “technology.”

So in 2009, DGDG hired a videographer to shoot customer testimonials and other footage for YouTube and to email to customers. The videos helped build business and define DGDG’s brand so much that today, DGDG is one of the few privately held groups to have its own in-house technology and marketing team.

Dubbed eSuite, the team has 25 people who generate original video content for DGDG TV, the group’s YouTube address where consumers will find thousands of videos of testimonials, vehicle walkarounds, dealer events and footage shot from one of the group’s three drones.

In 2009, DGDG had five dealerships and sold about 5,500 new and used vehicles a year. Now it has 16 dealerships and sells 33,000 vehicles annually. Unique visitors to DGDG.com have doubled to more than 2.2 million per year. In 2017, its online videos had about 3 million views. In part because acquisitions and a soaring auto market helped, Del Grande stops short of crediting its technology strategy solely for its success.

“It’s a tricky road to say, ‘If you spend money on video, you’re going to get this lift,’ ” Del Grande told Automotive News. “For us, it’s a very comprehensive strategy that works. We know that video has a relevant place in the compilation of our success because we can see that 3 million people viewed our videos. That’s a crazy number, but it can create some relevance.”

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The video strategy was born in mid-2008 when Del Grande and his leadership team were brainstorming ways to reach customers more efficiently. They knew technology was the key.

“When Shaun and I were dreaming this up, [technology] was the one area that we knew the general public would consume in different ways,” said COO Jeremy Beaver. “Video was the future for the next-gen buyers, sellers and people servicing their cars. Video would be the driver.”

So in late 2009, DGDG hired Matt De La Rosa to be a one-man video band. De La Rosa had a passion for video and a family history in the car business, making him a perfect fit, Beaver said.

“It was at a moment when people were taking selfies and Shaun felt if you’re going to create video, make it world class,” said Beaver. “So that was when Matt was brought on.”

DGDG’s slogan is “Be Happy.” So De La Rosa shot 30- to 40-second videos of customers buying cars, shaking hands with staff and raving about their experiences.

“We want to find happy car buyers,” Del Grande said. “So every day we ran from dealership to dealership to capture that. Our primary driver for a year or two was customer testimonials. We flooded the market with them.”

Since its inception, the team has produced about 4,000 customer testimonials on DGDG TV and about 1,000 other videos.

Alex Sales does a video walkaround for Cadillac.

As the size of the team grew, its video content expanded. The eSuite team films, produces and edits all content for social media outlets, the group’s website and YouTube. Its staff shoots virtual test drives and testimonials, produces training videos and covers DGDG’s charitable events.

The eSuite team’s goal is to define DGDG’s brand, keep it connected to the community and drive customer traffic, said Beaver.

“In our marketing strategy today, we run about 70 percent digital,” said Beaver. “All of this drives quality traffic and we have a lot of measurements. The customer is tracked from A to Z. From the moment the customer is online we can track them with phone calls, emails … to showroom visits.”

Del Grande said the overall investment has been “massive” as it built the platform. But he estimates his initial investment was $6,000 for a computer and camera and about $4,000 a month to pay De La Rosa.

Today there are three drones used “for really cool content views above the dealerships or flying around cars or walkarounds,” Beaver said. The first drone cost about $1,000 in 2012, Beaver said. The newest one cost $5,000.

“We have three Canon cameras that are $2,000 each,” Beaver said. “We have 25 iMacs in our eSuite and there are four for our video team. Those are $3,000 to $4,000 each.”

But the highest cost is eSuite team members, who are “very well paid,” given the competition with Silicon Valley companies to hire them, said Del Grande.

“We do joke around here that there’s no private chefs or helicopters like the cool startups have,” said Beaver.

The eSuite team comprises videographers, graphic designers, a social media team, photographers, editors, a creative director and a newly created position of chief technology officer, a job which took DGDG a year to fill because the person had to understand automotive retail as well as have a mastery of technology and marketing.

DGDG filled the job 18 months ago with the goal that the chief technology officer will have a “single-minded focus to run a strategy around” technology and marketing, Beaver said.

“We want to be in a position of strength and flexibility to operate how we want to,” Beaver said. “With the new-car market flattening, dealerships that are hyperefficient will have a competitive advantage through data reporting.”

Technology team

At Del Grande Dealer Group in Silicon Valley, a 25-person team generates original video for DGDG TV, the group’s YouTube address, including testimonials, vehicle walkarounds, dealer events and more.