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Ian Richardson


July 12, 2018

How Leading OEMs Improve Customer Experience & Results With Digital

Ian Richardson

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If you are looking for original go to market (GTM) strategies, start with a review of digital transformation in automotive marketing. There are plenty of exciting concepts and dramatic changes happening in 2018, especially around experiential marketing (XM).

There are clearly some seismic shifts going on in a range of sectors, but a convergence of trends has turned the automotive industry into a wonderland of digital transformation initiatives.

Increased Consumer Expectations And The Role of Data

First of all, cars are personal. These aren’t hair dryers or thermostats. Consumers often define their identity around their relationships with their cars, so the industry is more sensitive to cultural changes in what people value.

For example, in the past, automotive ads had to talk about horsepower by default. Now, car buyers want to know not how fast they can go but how connected they are on during the ride. Rachelle Petusky, Autotrader research analyst, summed it up as, "Technology is becoming the number one driver in making or breaking the purchasing decision," and adding that customers are willing to pay up to $1,400 for the features they want.

Heightened consumer expectations is just one macro-level change transforming marketing for auto manufacturers, dealers, financing and everyone else in the space. They must also keep up with fast-moving tech in terms of how ads are targeted and how customers interact with suppliers.

In order to stay competitive, OEMs have found they have a greater need to measure the effectiveness of their messaging across channels. They need to establish the comparative ROI of each communications channel.

“There is hard data that shows that if you were more engaged with a customer -- even if they never respond back to you – they are 3X more likely to come in and purchase from your store once they're actually ready to buy,” says Krista Mancini, Account Director Shift Digital, an experiential marketing agency for the automotive industry.

At the same time, business leaders need deeper visibility into how programs are performing in real time so they can make adjustments in time to make a difference.

A Better Consumer Buying Process

A study on the future of automotive marketing by E&Y found that nearly three out of four consumers want a better buying process. They expressed that this would motivate them to visit dealerships more often. On the other side of this equation, 70 percent of auto industry leaders said that they believe an increasing emphasis on customer experience will drive business growth strategies.

Consumers are overwhelmed with info, entertainment and offers coming at them from a growing number of channels. TV, online video, email, social media and more are popping up every day.

What forward-looking players have found is that success depends on the facility for thinking differently and breaking with the past.

Louis Falco, Cadillac’s Head of Customer Relationships and Brand Loyalty said on a recent webinar, “The most important thing… is identifying the moments that matter and the pain within the journey. You succeed as a top brand by understanding what consumers value and where you're failing to deliver on the value for those consumers.”

6 Ways Experiential Marketing Plays Into Digital Transformation

A marketing strategy that involves customized metrics across all channels, including digital and XM, can help OEMs:

  • Innovate for internal process optimization
  • Experiment with GTM strategies that harness emerging digital and connected car tech
  • Extend visibility through longer, more complex supply chains
  • Manage risk more intelligently with predictive analytics
  • Use experiential to ease pain points along the consumer journey and facilitate purchase
  • Stay engaged with customers after the sale for stronger retention and upselling

There’s no question that digital transformation in automotive marketing has shaken up the status quo with automakers and dealers. What doesn’t get enough attention, though, is how harnessing digital transformation technologies can standardize data capture across digital, XM and other marketing channels to create a unified consumer journey.

A Closer Look at GTM Strategies: Alternatives to Autoshows

While automakers are using XM to build customer relationships in new ways with more engaging brand experiences, dealers are learning that shedding unnecessary infrastructure opens up resources and brings back better margins.

For example, the autoshow used to be the big event of the year for both customers and suppliers, but costs and market choices have diminished their importance in sales cycles. Former Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen said:

"Auto shows have become very expensive. Just doing press conferences is some staggering cost. I don't know why they're that expensive. Show organizers need to take a long, hard look at this."

Instead, companies throughout the industry are looking at options that deliver a better, more personal experience for the consumer at a lower cost to suppliers. Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, suggested looking to foreign autoshows for fresh ideas, particularly more festival-type events.

Alberts said, "It's still a strong international show that's changing into what the future of shows is going to look like, which has to do with experiential, new brands like GAC that are coming to the market soon and technology.” GAC is a Chinese brand that is making waves with a GTM strategy in North America that relies on building partnerships with dealers while they wow customers with concept cars.

The Road Ahead

In this new global, digital landscape, where fierce competitors seem to suddenly pop up without notice and consumer expectations are always shifting, automakers don’t necessarily need to rely on autoshows for customer engagement. Many are moving away from a model dominated by autoshows and mass advertising because they just can’t provide the best ROI anymore. Instead, industry leaders are looking at more creative ways to put drivers behind the wheel in a test drive, real or virtual.

Digital technology now has the ability to see deeper into buying motivations, predict consumer behavior further into the future, and create a unified view of the consumer across channels.

Experiential marketing, where customers engage all of their senses in the experience of getting to know a new car, is a foundational piece of this new GTM strategy.

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