DETROIT – Calling it the last frontier for shopping, General Motors launches Marketplace, an in-car platform for owners of ’17 model-year vehicles and beyond to shop merchants such as Starbucks and make dinner reservations or book a hotel room from behind the wheel.
“We think we are offering a better experience to our core customers,” says Santiago Chamorro, vice president-Global Connected Customer Experience at GM.
The Detroit automaker says the technology, which is rolling out to 4 million cars and trucks in the U.S. through the end of the year via over-the-air updates, adheres to federal distracted driving guidelines and only works with customer consent because personal data is transferred between the vehicle and merchants to complete sales.
Machine learning from GM technology partner IBM crunches the data to personalize some shopping, too, such as whether the owner prefers their Starbucks caffé latte extra hot or with an extra shot of expresso. Payment for items such as food and drink is made through accounts owners have previously set up with popular merchants on the platform.
The technology comes at no cost to the vehicle’s owner. No data plan is necessary, either. Although it varies by individual merchants, GM earns money off the platform through revenue sharing, platform-placement fees and the exchange of marketing support. Owners also can purchase GM services such as OnStar 4G Wi-Fi and satellite radio.
The Marketplace icon on the vehicle’s infotainment screen used to launch the service is accompanied by a GM-brand-specific sales, service and accessories portal, where owners can learn about GM specials and have the offers sent to their e-mail accounts for reading and perhaps purchases at their destination.
But the automaker hopes the bigger payoff will come through increased loyalty to its Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands.
Chamorro says the intent is not to bombard the driver with advertising. For example, the technology can alert drivesr when they are running low on fuel and direct them through location services to the nearest Shell or Exxon filling station – two of the early fuel stores on the platform – but does not pitch specials or coupons as they drive past a site.
“It is not a billboard,” Chamorro says.
GM hopes to add more vendors soon, although the automaker says it is unclear how many the platform may ultimately host. However, Chamarro says GM sees a big opportunity to cash in on what is expected to be a $57 billion on-demand economy by the end of the year.
During a brief demonstration here, a GM technology expert launches Marketplace by touching the infotainment screen icon. It takes about 10 seconds before the app opens and reveals icons for leading brands in retail, fuel, hospitality, food, hotel and transportation that also include in the early stages Dunkin’ Donuts, Applebee’s, Wing Stop, TGI Friday’s, IHOP, Parkopedia, Priceline.com and Delivery.com.
“We will be adding more vendors,” Chamorro says, “and we will be continuously improving the experience.”
Marketplace is an evolution of AtYourService, which used OnStar to provide drivers with information from merchants along their route. But usage was low and it focused mostly on pitching specials and coupons, which Chamorro admits did not resonate with owners.
“Engagement was low,” he says. “Marketplace will be much different. Our expectation is it will grow much faster.”