In a recent article for Automotive World, our CEO Peter Veash shared his view on auto sector innovation and explored some of the key areas auto brands can focus on to entice new and existing customers.
Our recent survey on car buying process showed customers are frustrated with current tactics and demand new changes. There is opportunity for innovation at every step of the customer journey, and it’s auto brands’ ability to adapt to changing customer behaviour that will determine whether they remain relevant.
Peter believes there are four key areas that require urgent attention: physical dealerships, omnichannel delivery, smart manufacturing, and the post-purchase relationship.
Reinventing the traditional showroom and sales experience
The importance we place on a car purchase puts real pressure on the pre-purchase experience. With such big ticket items, we want to know we’re buying the right thing. Despite digital technology changing our expectations of availability of information and the services we receive, a large segment of customers still value physical car dealerships over websites – 33 per cent of our survey respondents chose car dealerships as one of their two most important information sources. Almost half said they would not buy a car online. We expect these figures to change, though, and online car purchases to become the norm within 2-3 years. This won’t happen by itself, however, and there’s a huge amount car brands can do with the initial experience at a car dealership – it’s often a make-or-break moment, with bad experiences having potential to diminish the overall evaluation of the brand.
Our survey showed the majority of auto brands are still some way off delivering a level of service customers want. The brand-customer relationship is hindered by the lack of omnichannel set-up, and traditional selling practices that feel out of place in today’s experience-driven world. 55 per cent of UK customers said feeling under pressure to buy would prevent them from visiting a new dealership, and 1 in 3 customers stated that waiting times and ability to self-serve during any waiting time are crucial when visiting a new dealership.
Peter suggested potential to extend physical spaces with digitally-enabled solutions such as chatbots or VR/AR test rides, adding another layer of knowledge for those customers who normally avoid hard sale environments. He listed Tesla’s New York showroom as a stellar example of an auto brand that does it right, and reiterated the need to put users in complete control with seamless on- to off-line interactions.
The need for personalisation and an omnichannel approach
While fixing the customer experience in the physical showroom environment is essential, auto brands need to bear in mind that a large portion of their customers will use multiple channels to get themselves to a decision. Peter listed our recent exploratory work for one of the UK’s biggest OEM as an example – three-quarters of their website traffic came from search, showing the importance of this channel in the awareness and the evaluation stages of the car buying process. But to ensure effective digital experiences – personalisation is key. People now expect personalised content and easy access to information on all devices from the get-go.
The auto sector still lacks seamless omnichannel experiences that enable customers to easily switch between knowledge sources. Peter believes this needs to change if auto brands are to remain competitive. We must offer faster, more intuitive ways to carry on a dialogue and deliver a rich brand experience through seamless integration across all customer-facing channels. Utilising customers’ existing modes of communication such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, with AI-powered chatbots, is one way to achieve this.
Delivering meaning through customisation and smart manufacturing
There is a trend for third-party tech developed to augment existing systems – Peter believes this could increase the danger that vehicles are relegated into a utility category. Smart manufacturing has the potential to mitigate this, allowing the ordering process to become more hands-on and personalised.
The post-purchase relationship (or lack of it) is set to change
Traditionally, the actual car sale was the last point of contact customers made with the seller. But building a valuable post-purchase experience is vital – our BIO survey revealed that, if product and service expectations are met, as many as 54 per cent of respondents would be likely to purchase the same brand as their last car. It’s no surprise that for automotive brands who exceed service expectations, customers are likely to stay for more than one cycle. Peter believes that the relationship can be further strengthened with advanced personalisation interfaces based on customer data and preferences.
Automotive is a challenging market – despite predicted strong sales growth, our customer survey indicates that those who fail to adapt to the new omnichannel reality and changing customer behaviour will be left behind.
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You can access the original article on Automotive World here, though you require a subscription.