RALEIGH – Can artificial intelligence be used to sell cars? That was just one of the questions answered this week at the Automotive Intelligence Summit in Raleigh, where C-suite leaders from the automotive, auto finance and transportation-related industries gathered to discuss how data analytics, artificial intelligence, blockchain and other technologies are impacting their business.

As motor vehicles become more tech-intensive, such as autonomous driving systems, manufacturers and dealers are also exploring how tech can be used to move inventory.

According to Jason Knight, founder and COO of Chicago-based Lotllinx, AI can identify customers with purchase intent, allowing dealerships to target their advertising efforts. In addition, says Knight, mass advertising, even online, is not only costly, but also ineffective.

Jason Knight

“Hoping for the right shoppers in a purchased audience is like hoping to find a needle in a haystack,” said Knight. “You don’t have to touch an online shopper at every site they visit, just on the right sites.”

The bottom line, he added, is that dealerships can no longer rely on purchased bulk advertising to sell cars. Today, he says, dealerships must engage with their customers, and the numbers back this up. According to Knight, for every 20 engaged customers, one to two of them will turn into a sale.

“The goal for all of us is to find better shoppers,” said Knight. “AI helps you reach shoppers when they are ready to be sold to.”

AI Changes Advertising Approach

One question drives advertising strategies, says Knight.  “Where can I get the best buyers?” The answer he says, can help you drive sales.

By using AI and machine learning to track potential customers’ online searches for cars, auto dealers can identify “real shoppers.”

Does it work?

The numbers show that it does.

“An AI optimized target is three times more likely to purchase a car,” said Knight.

But how do dealerships do this?

Companies such as LotLinx will set up an AI program to identify a dealership’s customers. AI will then follow customers and measure their intent to purchase.

“When a customer goes to a website, we use cookies to track them,” said Knight. “From there, we can watch where they go and what cars they are looking at.”

The Danger of Data

As AI becomes a tool that disruptors use to change industries, such as auto sales, it also raises questions related to security.

To answer these questions, the summit assembled a panel of experts to discuss the future of cybersecurity.

“Cloud has enabled machine learning and AI to take off,” said panelist Chris Hart, co-founder and COO of Charlotte-based Levvel. “Machine learning can be used in innovative ways around credit decisions and risks.”

One major area of concern for many companies thinking about using AI are assumed risks related to the use of cloud computing.

“Even if you don’t want to use the cloud, the vendors you are working with are using it,” said Hart “You are probably more exposed than you think, but cloud is probably safer than you think.”

Panelist Alexandra Villarreal O’Rourke, financial regulatory lead at Womble Bond Dickinson, agreed.

“Regulators want you to use the latest technology to decrease risk,” said O’Rourke. “You are supposed to have a reasonable cybersecurity program. We are getting to the point that it is too much of a risk to not adopt AI and machine learning.”