18 Aug 2020

Reimagining automotive customer experience in the post-COVID world

reimagining-automotive-customer-experience-in-the-post-covid-world

Automotive Customer Experience is undergoing a paradigm shift at all stages from information and brand discovery to purchasing and after-sales. Traditionally, Customer Experience had been primarily driven by core product and features of the vehicle, but the rise of digital technologies provide new avenues for OEMs and auto dealers to address pain points, increase personalization, deepen customer engagement and win on the competitive battlefield. Penetration of digital technologies are increasing at a rapid pace due to COVID-19 related movement restriction and purchase behavior change.

The typical Automobile customer journey can be broken in four broad phases. First is information and product discovery, second is a contact that includes dealership visit and test drive, third is a purchase, and fourth is post-purchase including repair and maintenance. The duration and involvement of the customer across each of these phases depend on an individual’s affinity for cars, ticket size, and available medium to engage digital media. In the exhibit below by PGA Labs Research, we can see the various customer pain points across touchpoints and how digital technologies are helping solve these.

Exhibit 1: How digital reduced pain across customer touchpointsPhase 1: Information and discovery


Phase 1: Information and discovery

Vehicle purchase is one of the large financial purchases for most individuals and customers often research deeply while shortlisting. A recent survey indicated that over half of car purchases are digitally influenced, meaning the buyers browse for information over the internet, on platforms such as social media, car comparison platforms, and company websites.

The quantity and quality of information on automotive products is not a challenge in today’s digitalized world, rather the problem is the abundance of unstructured information and the lack of personalization and expert guidance in vehicle discovery. Platforms are evolving to provide a one-stop tailored solution and concise information personalized to individual needs.Such platforms can also connect potential customers to existing buyers of the model to address specific queries and get feedback on products via reviews and contacts. Under such a system, users can have feedback on what is most relevant to them from customers that have similar expectations and match their behavior. Further, these platforms can be integrated with the dealer network and the OEMs to generate leads.

OEMs can engage customers on interactive mobile applications and websites that allow customers to explore products using VR and AR technologies and customers can provide their preferences. OEMs need to deploy targeted marketing activities to identify potential customers and need to have strong visibility on social media and search. Personalization can further be increased by understanding mobility preferences deriving from the digital footprint from other apps such as navigation and ride-hailing services.

Phase 2: Contact

Most dealerships today limit their outreach activities to traditional methods such as bulk SMS, print and banner ads, database calls, etc. which have little to no personalization. The majority of customer walk-ins are cold in the sense that dealers do not have information regarding the preferences of the customer in advance and this often leads to friction for customers. Customers often fear sales pushiness and worry that they are being sold that might not be best for them.

Digital provides promising solutions to dealerships to address these pain points. It can help identify the right customers at the right time and provide them with the right information that is tailored for them. Apart from vehicle platforms mentioned earlier that can provide relevant information on customers’ preferences, dealerships can leverage targeted social media advertising based on demographics, online behavior, etc. Taking customers from seeing ads on the web to the manufacturer’s website to confirming appointments with a local dealer can be achieved in minutes. Information regarding customer preference can enable sales staff to become customer experts as they would be aware of customer’s preferences and can provide customers with products that suit them the best.

Dealerships can better interact with their customers even before they visit the dealership and understand their needs and build trust, they can offer virtual reality or 3D projections of a personalized catalog of select models rather than sharing brochures with a long list of all cars. Customers can be given the option to explore and interact with various features and configurations. The catalogs can be made live to reflect the configurations selected by the customer at the dealership. Thus, digital provides a great opportunity for dealerships and OEMs to identify and connect with customers, knowing their specific needs, and building strong relationships with them. As per the exhibit below by our market research wing, PGA Labs, digital and on-ground mediums generate maximum leads for car dealers and shows trends for all mediums used.

Exhibit 2: Digital and on-ground media generate maximum leads for car dealers