The traditional vehicle-buying journey – researching cars, visiting dealerships to view and test-drive vehicles and spending hours at a dealer completing the purchase – was turned upside down by new automakers who have chosen to sell directly to customers.
Those that use a fresh, more efficient direct-to-consumer retail model, new market entrants have created shopping options that give the consumer more control over their purchase and reduce the time it takes to configure, price, finance and complete the purchase of a vehicle.
Virtually all new EV brands have adopted the direct-to-consumer retail model. These new EV brands offer boutiques where customers can view a single vehicle model and have no-pressure conversations about their products with staff who aren’t incentivized to close a sale. The customer then can order a vehicle online when they’re ready.
The growing popularity of this seamless, digital-physical hybrid retail model comes on the heels of a major pandemic-induced pivot in auto sales. The COVID outbreak prompted traditional dealers to offer remote, “no-touch” vehicle purchase and delivery experiences. Although some dealers previously had offered a digital shopping option, home delivery was very rare. Most customers preferred to see and test-drive a new or pre-owned vehicle before completing a purchase.
Now, customer tastes appear to have permanently evolved in favor of a completely digital experience with an option to shop traditionally.
This convergence of new EV entrants that sell directly to consumers and the demand for digital buying experiences forced traditional automotive companies to dramatically improve their omnichannel CX strategies. That’s good news for consumers. Automakers are revamping every aspect of the finance, purchasing, ownership and servicing experiences to best serve buyers.
Connectivity Is Key for Modern Automotive CX
The “connected car” traditionally has encompassed the idea of the automobile as a product that can provide consumers with connected driving experiences including directions, maintenance reminders and emergency services. As more vehicles implement fast 5G connectivity, drivers can access higher bandwidth features such as music streaming, improved maps and weather data, passenger entertainment and other online resources.
Connectivity also changes the way dealers can deliver services and the way auto manufacturers can develop products, features and applications. In turn that creates a radical new feedback loop and interaction channel.
Existing connected-vehicle technology enables manufacturers to alert new-car owners when their vehicles require service or if a tire has low tire pressure – very common features most traditional automakers offer. With 5G and fewer bandwidth constraints, the car’s capabilities are more sophisticated and, like a smartphone, can receive instant software downloads and app updates, as well as unlock software-enabled features that enhance the driving experience. Yet there is still room to expand these offerings.
As autonomous-driving capabilities evolve, we expect to see connectivity transform the vehicle into a “third space” for living and working, to the degree that the driver doesn’t need to actively pilot the vehicle. This evolution has the potential to make transportation more efficient, safer and more sustainable over time.
Creating the New Automotive Customer Journey
Advances in automotive customer experience are built on the “golden record” – a single, consolidated view of the customer. With this unified customer data, manufacturers and retailers can build an ecosystem of services and value that allows them to differentiate their brand and retain customers.
Imagine if a dealership or service center used personalized messages to contact customers to relay messages about specific vehicle services for their vehicles. That beats the fragmented, frustrating experiences some customers experience when they receive service reminders yet must provide information that the dealer should already have in hand.
Unifying data is a goal for companies across industries. The traditional auto industry faces unique challenges to bring their data into 360-degree-view records to satisfy multiple stakeholder groups. Cohesive customer and vehicle data can add resale value because it provides a clear picture of the vehicle history and condition for the next customer.
Auto companies that invest now in unifying customer and vehicle data will be able to differentiate and adapt as customer expectations and automotive technology evolve.
Daniel Davenport (pictured, top left) is senior director of Automotive at Capgemini Americas, where he works closely with clients to understand, implement and manage transformation initiatives, and increase brand value. Mathew Desmond (pictured, above left) is an Automotive Industry Solutions Architect for Capgemini Americas, where he specializes in leveraging connected vehicle data for an improved customer experience.