What can automotive businesses learn from the retail industry?

There are no two ways about it: we’re on the verge of an autonomous revolution, with traditional vehicle manufacturers and disruptive tech businesses turning self-driving cars into a reality. Just last month, a self-driving van was unveiled at Wired 2016, alongside the prediction that such vehicles could be on the road as soon as next year.

Much as the technology behind autonomy may be in the final stages of production in some cases, the industry as a whole has a long way to go to deliver on customer expectation. As with any new product, consumers will embrace the initial wow factor, but this will be followed quickly by apathy if automotive businesses don’t offer users the truly seamless experience found in other industries, such as retail.

The retail sector is a perfect example of the change of attitude and approach towards personalising customer experience. The gap between the online and in-store channels is rapidly shrinking, with retailers utilising big data to tailor the shopping experience for each and every customer.

So where’s the gap

As the number of vehicles connected to the internet increases, so does the amount of data generated by automotive businesses. The industry now has the tools at its fingertips to create a personalised customer experience, but right now many businesses are failing to do so. Currently, if a customer buys a car at the showroom and drives it away, this is often the last contact they will have with the dealer until a malfunction occurs or the service is due. This lack of customer relationship management is missing a trick in terms of nurturing brand loyalty.

Automotive businesses must close the gap between the company and the consumer to stop potential customers falling through the cracks. Like in the retail industry, the journey doesn’t end once a product has been purchased. Take Amazon for example; if someone buys the first book or movie in a trilogy, after an appropriate amount of time they will receive a personalised email including purchasing details for the other two installments. This may include personalised discount offers to increase the likelihood of more orders being placed.

Christmas jumpers are another good example. If a consumer buys a Christmas jumper at the start of December every year, Amazon will utilise this data and share exclusive offers on similar products towards the end of November the following year to continue the trend. It’s a win-win situation - retail businesses increase brand loyalty through data analytics while the shopping experience is simplified for the consumer.

It is surprising so few automotive businesses aren’t following suit, especially when you consider a functioning car is a necessity for most and the scope for issues is vast due to the complexity of the technology at play.

Personalise or fail

Just think what could be achieved if the data created by cars currently on the road were used to its full potential. Information on fuel consumption could be utilised to send tailored offers when drivers are running low and approaching a garage. If drivers are speeding, a notification to their personal device once the journey ends could warn them of the dangers and ramifications of dangerous driving. Data could even be used to prolong the lifecycle of the vehicle; telling the driver when an issue is likely to occur by utilising data on other drivers in the same model. A garage could then contact the consumer and arrange a convenient time for the car to be taken in to prevent the problem, rather than having to pay through the nose and suffer the inconvenience once the worst happens.

So how is this achievable? Many automotive businesses don’t yet have the expertise in-house to create a fully personalised customer experience, but outsourcing will allow experts to both simplify data analytics and build systems which close the gap between the company and the consumer. Once this happens, automotive businesses will be able to offer a truly engaging and empowering customer journey and thus differentiate against their competitors in many more exciting ways than simply price. Being able to connect with the consumer and provoke a real brand loyalty will, for these businesses, surely be the holy grail.

If you’re interested in finding out more about digital transformation in the automotive sector, sign-up for our webinar here.

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