Winning Strategies in the Age of Evolving Customer Needs

by Axel Heyenga

Posted on 11-23-2017

The dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion has rad­i­cal­ly altered how mar­ket­ing, sales, and deliv­ery are con­duct­ed in most indus­tries today. Nowhere is this more preva­lent than in con­sumer mar­kets and the pur­chase of goods and ser­vices. Brand new ecosys­tems and busi­ness­es like Airbnb and Uber have com­plete­ly altered the way peo­ple gain aware­ness of, research, and pur­chase even tra­di­tion­al ser­vices like trans­porta­tion, lodg­ing, and recreation.

These changes have not been slow to mate­ri­alise. As dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies have evolved at an ever-increas­ing pace, so too have consumer’s expec­ta­tions for their buy­ing expe­ri­ence from these com­pa­nies. Tra­di­tion­al ways of mar­ket­ing and sell­ing are no longer valid, and changes need to hap­pen at fun­da­men­tal lev­els with­in an organ­i­sa­tion if they’re to suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tion into new ways of doing business.

Customers Yearning for Quality Experiences

Accord­ing to the Auto­trad­er Car Buy­er of the Future Study, less than 1 per­cent of auto­mo­tive con­sumers rate the cur­rent exe­cu­tion of the car buy­ing expe­ri­ence as ide­al. Con­sumers are sick and tired of being anony­mous con­sumers. They feel like an under­val­ued nui­sance with no real val­ue to the OEM until they’re pulling out their cred­it card; after which they revert to being anony­mous again, a one-in-a-mil­lion, face­less email address ripe for untar­get­ed and annoy­ing offers with no rel­e­vance to their inter­ests, lifestyle, or needs.

This cycle and cus­tomer sen­ti­ment clear­ly show that few OEMs are deliv­er­ing high-qual­i­ty, mean­ing­ful brand expe­ri­ences. Just a few years ago, con­sumers could not fath­om buy­ing a car online. Today, over 44 per­cent of con­sumers see the online pur­chase of a vehi­cle as a viable alter­na­tive to the tra­di­tion­al deal­er­ship experience.

In many cas­es, buy­ing online is pre­ferred as the stig­ma of the deal­er has grown worse over the years. Yet OEMs seem reluc­tant to admit that these changes are even hap­pen­ing, much less alter their busi­ness­es, sales mod­els, and over­all approach to meet the chang­ing needs of the consumer.

Anoth­er area where the auto­mo­tive indus­try needs to evolve is in the time­li­ness of their con­sumer response. While old­er gen­er­a­tions are accus­tomed to delays in deal­er respons­es due to hours of oper­a­tion or oth­er rea­sons, younger gen­er­a­tions expect feed­back via dig­i­tal chan­nels with­in hours of send­ing an ini­tial con­tact request.

Wait­ing days, or even 24 hours, to receive a response is sim­ply not accept­able any more. Time­li­ness is key, and being slow to respond cre­ates an appear­ance of being out of sync with today’s fast-paced dig­i­tal world.

Digital Is the Future of Automotive

So how can OEMs reverse their industry’s slid­ing rep­u­ta­tion and recap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of the auto­mo­tive con­sumer? The key lies in lever­ag­ing advances in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, data cap­ture, and the extrac­tion of con­sumer insights from dig­i­tal data to deliv­er accu­rate­ly tar­get­ed con­tent and expe­ri­ences at the right time and the right place.

This dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion per­vades all aspects of the auto­mo­tive sales cycles and begins with bet­ter tai­lored web­sites that aim to pro­vide con­sumers with the research tools they need to find exact­ly what they are look­ing for. Infor­ma­tion about the client and their inter­ests as depict­ed by their activ­i­ty on the web­site need to be cap­tured and made avail­able to the deal­er­ships to enable high­er qual­i­ty, more mean­ing­ful inter­ac­tions with the con­sumer, so they feel val­ued as a poten­tial customer.

Deal­ers need to be trained on how to use the info pro­vid­ed to them to become a trust­ed advis­er to the consumer—someone the cus­tomer believes tru­ly has their best inter­est in mind. Sales process­es need to be sim­pli­fied to be less intim­i­dat­ing. Con­sumers com­plain about the pushi­ness of the financ­ing por­tion of the buy­ing process, which often has them leav­ing the deal­er­ship feel­ing that they’ve been tak­en advan­tage of.

After sale, dig­i­tal chan­nels need to be lever­aged to pro­vide con­sumers with time­ly updates about the sta­tus of their vehi­cle deliv­ery. From my own expe­ri­ence, this is one of the most dis­ap­point­ing stages of the car-buy­ing process. Not know­ing where your car is or when it’s going to be deliv­ered is frus­trat­ing, espe­cial­ly while receiv­ing irrel­e­vant offers from the OEM that clear­ly show that it does not know that you’ve already pur­chased a vehicle.

Cur­rent tech­nol­o­gy can turn this stage around and make it one of the most plea­sur­able parts of the car-buy­ing process. Reg­u­lar updates about the car, per­haps with a per­son­al touch, com­bined with rel­e­vant offers that show the OEM knows who you are and what you’ve pur­chased can go a long way in mak­ing you feel more con­fi­dent with the purchase.

In the end, con­sumers will ulti­mate­ly demand and receive the car buy­ing expe­ri­ence they’re look­ing for through their pur­chas­ing deci­sions. Those OEMs that are unwill­ing to adopt new tech­nol­o­gy and adapt to the chang­ing mar­ket­place will be left behind.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Automotive, customer journey, customer satisfaction, Lifecycle, personalisation, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA