Connected Customer Experiences Define the New Automotive Industry Customer Experience in 2017

Digital Marketing

In a way, auto­mo­tive tech­nol­o­gy has long served many of the same func­tions as today’s mobile-first social media. For a cen­tu­ry or more, cars have con­nect­ed peo­ple across great dis­tances, mak­ing it easy to come togeth­er around local events, and to move quick­ly from one stage of a jour­ney to the next. Per­haps, then, it’s no sur­prise that social media and auto­mo­tive cul­ture have always been close­ly inter­twined.

Still, evolv­ing tech­nol­o­gy has also dis­rupt­ed many tra­di­tion­al aspects of the auto­mo­tive world. Today’s cus­tomers per­form inten­sive online research before pur­chas­ing a vehi­cle, and the fac­tors they base their pur­chas­es on are rapid­ly chang­ing. The clas­sic sell­ing points of speed and han­dling are giv­ing way to an increased empha­sis on fuel econ­o­my, con­nec­tiv­i­ty, and own­er­ship cost.

Mean­while, new com­peti­tors like Uber, which doesn’t man­u­fac­ture vehi­cles at all, have forced many automak­ers to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves not only as man­u­fac­tur­ers, but also as ser­vice and mobil­i­ty providers. In all these ways and more, cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is tak­ing the driver’s seat.

To find out how auto­mo­tive brands are focus­ing on cus­tomer expe­ri­ence in 2017, I caught up with Axel Heyen­ga, Adobe’s indus­try strat­e­gy direc­tor for the auto­mo­tive indus­try in Europe, the Mid­dle East, and Africa (EMEA). An inter­na­tion­al man­age­ment expert, Axel has more than 20 years of sales and mar­ket­ing expe­ri­ence with­in the media, retail, sports, and IT con­sul­tan­cy indus­tries. Pri­or to join­ing Adobe, he served as direc­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing at Val­tech, unit direc­tor at Sapi­ent­Ni­tro, and direc­tor of busi­ness devel­op­ment at BTD New­me­dia.

JB: Axel, how do you define cus­tomer expe­ri­ence in the auto­mo­tive indus­try?

AH: In the auto­mo­tive indus­try, cus­tomer expe­ri­ence involves a lot more than the driver’s expe­ri­ence with his or her vehi­cle, although that’s obvi­ous­ly a cru­cial part of it. All the inter­ac­tions cus­tomers have while shop­ping online, nego­ti­at­ing at the deal­er­ship, and even bring­ing their vehi­cles in for repairs or main­te­nance are equal­ly impor­tant parts of the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence.

JB: Auto­mo­tive cus­tomers have begun tak­ing much more proac­tive roles in shop­ping and research­ing, haven’t they?

AH: Absolute­ly. We call this “the rise of the dig­i­tal auto­mo­tive expert.” Poten­tial buy­ers start research­ing vehi­cles a full six months—sometimes as much as 12 months—before they intend to pur­chase. A full 73 per­cent direct­ly fac­tor social media com­ments into their pur­chase deci­sions. That’s also impact­ed the nego­ti­a­tion process at the deal­er­ship. A few years ago, cus­tomers were tak­ing an aver­age of sev­en deal­er­ship trips before mak­ing a pur­chase. Now they take an aver­age of 1.5. In oth­er words, cus­tomers are doing much more upfront inves­ti­ga­tion, which means they already have a fair­ly pre­cise idea of what they want—and how much they’re will­ing to pay—before they ever show up at the point of sale.

JB: What do these cus­tomers want? How have their expec­ta­tions changed now that they’re doing more of their own inde­pen­dent research?

AH: They’ve become much more inter­est­ed in mobil­i­ty and con­nect­ed ser­vices, and much less inter­est­ed in tra­di­tion­al sell­ing points like looks, per­for­mance, and speed. In that way, the auto­mo­tive indus­try is real­ly turn­ing upside down. What’s more, the tra­di­tion­al assump­tions that every­one wants to own a vehicle—and that every­one aspires to own a high­er-end vehicle—no longer hold true, espe­cial­ly among younger demo­graph­ics. Today’s shop­pers are very con­cerned about how much it’s going to cost in the long run to own and oper­ate a vehi­cle, in terms of fuel econ­o­my, main­te­nance, sched­uled part replace­ments, and so on. They’re also increas­ing­ly inter­est­ed in connectivity—how accu­rate­ly the built-in GPS works, how intel­li­gent the road­side sup­port and assis­tance will be, and what options they’ll have in terms of dig­i­tal radio.

JB: It sounds like cars are trans­form­ing into deliv­ery sys­tems for dig­i­tal offer­ings.

AH: In many ways that’s true. The expe­ri­ence of the brand is mov­ing beyond the vehi­cle, the deal­er and the ser­vice cen­tre, and is focus­ing much more on the dig­i­tal side of the expe­ri­ence. In fact, as we start to see dri­ver­less cars become more com­mon in some cities, we’re ask­ing our­selves whether the future of auto­mo­tive may be the “car as con­tent deliv­ery sys­tem.” When car own­ers no longer have to dri­ve, their atten­tion is freed up to answer phone calls, browse for near­by des­ti­na­tions they’d like to vis­it, and even check in on the con­di­tion of the vehi­cle. In the near future, cars may become much more like self-dri­ving com­put­ers, in which the user sim­ply taps the action they’d like to take—messaging a friend, dri­ving to a restau­rant, or pulling in for an oil change—and the car han­dles the actu­al exe­cu­tion of those com­mands.

JB: That could open up whole new fields of dig­i­tal inter­ac­tion! But for the moment, let’s focus a bit more on the here and now: What are auto­mo­tive com­pa­nies doing cur­rent­ly to deliv­er more con­nect­ed expe­ri­ences to their cus­tomers?

AH: One good exam­ple of a for­ward-think­ing automak­er is Renault, who recog­nised the need to keep cus­tomers around the world engaged with per­son­alised, tar­get­ed, one-to-one com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The com­pa­ny adopt­ed a stan­dard­ised plat­form to make sure its inter­na­tion­al, region­al, and local cam­paigns were all using con­sis­tent mes­sag­ing and brand­ing, and to help for­mu­late more per­son­al, tar­get­ed mes­sages across web, mobile, and oth­er chan­nels. The result of this stan­dard­ised cam­paign­ing was a 20 per­cent boost in con­ver­sions on its own­er por­tal, which has already giv­en Renault a lot of new oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­nect with those cus­tomers.

JB: So, rather than dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing them­selves on the basis of vehi­cle fea­tures, as auto­mo­tive com­pa­nies might have done in the past, more automak­ers are recog­nis­ing that con­sis­tent cus­tomer expe­ri­ences need to be at the cen­tre of their mar­ket­ing.

AH: That’s def­i­nite­ly the case. In fact, the vehi­cle man­u­fac­tur­er Lin­coln recent­ly dis­cov­ered that its web­site vis­i­tors were actu­al­ly turned off by vehi­cle fea­tures they per­ceived as “gim­micky.” The com­pa­ny adopt­ed an entire­ly new mar­ket­ing plat­form to col­lect more pre­cise data on cus­tomers’ loca­tions, brand famil­iar­i­ty, and pref­er­ences; and to deliv­er per­son­alised web­site con­tent to each vis­i­tor, adapt­ing in real-time to empha­sise the aspects of the vehi­cle that most inter­est­ed that cus­tomer. This raised vis­i­tor engage­ment by a stun­ning 99 per­cent, and gallery inter­ac­tions on their web­site by 27 per­cent, with­in just 10 weeks.

JB: I hope that as more automak­ers realise those kinds of quan­ti­ta­tive ben­e­fits, they’ll con­tin­ue to push for the kinds of con­nect­ed expe­ri­ences their cus­tomers clear­ly want. I appre­ci­ate you tak­ing the time to share these insights with me today, Axel.

Thanks for join­ing me for this five-part inter­view series on cus­tomer expe­ri­ence in 2017. In case you missed them, here are the pre­vi­ous inter­views on tele­com, media, and enter­tain­ment; retail; finan­cial ser­vices; and trav­el and hos­pi­tal­i­ty. And when you’re ready to upgrade your organisation’s cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, we at Adobe are here to help.

Digital Marketing
Jamie Brighton

Posted on 02-06-2017


  • By Sepidz - 7:41 AM on January 12, 2018   Reply

    The poten­tial of using dri­ver-less car reach­ing to spe­cif­ic des­ti­na­tion is already estab­lished. They can inte­grate with restau­rants soft­ware, not only to find the des­ti­na­tion, but also pre-order­ing the desired meal.
    استفاده از نرم افزار رستوران نه تنها امکان استفاده از این ماشین ها بریای دستیابی به مقصد را فراهم آورده، بلکه با یکپارجه سازی آنها با با ماشین های هوشمند می توان از داخل ماشین و در مسیر رستوران غذا را سفارش داد.

Join the discussion