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Perhaps you remember the old television series Cheers, which nearly always began with a patron walking in and everyone calling out his name, “Norm!” The idea of going to a business where they know you on a personal level is not just an idea on TV anymore. This idealistic scenario is being made possible by newly available data derived, in part, from the Internet of Things. Data transmitted from thousands of embedded sensors and captured by powerful processing platforms are enabling organizations to understand and communicate with consumers at a level never before possible. In the automotive industry, car manufacturers and dealers have begun leveraging what they know about customers to deliver a uniquely personal sales and marketing experience. Knowing a customer’s name is proving to be an important competitive advantage in this ever-changing industry.

Changing Industry Dynamics

To be successful in the automotive industry, manufactures, wholesalers and dealers must be able to adapt to continuously changing customer needs and expectations. Take, for example, the changing relationship Millennials (people born between 1983 and 2000) have with driving. Now the largest generation in the United States, Millennials are waiting longer to get their driver’s licenses and choosing to live in more urban areas, where they can walk or take public transportation. According to a report by the US PIGR Education Fund, “If the Millennial-led decline in per capita driving continues, total vehicle travel in the United States could remain well below its 2007 peak through at least 2040 – despite a 21% increase in population.” However, while Millenniums are estimated to control $1.3 trillion in current consumer spending (The Hartman Group), it is still the Baby Boomer generation that holds the wealth. The 55+ age group is responsible for more than three-fourths of America’s wealth with $2.4 trillion in annual income (Immersion Active). For manufacturers, this highlights the importance of interacting with consumers from both generations in meaningful, customized ways.

Delivering an Extremely Personalized Experience

High end manufacturers are revolutionizing how consumers buy cars by providing a unique purchasing and ownership experience. However, this strategy is also being adopted at lower price threshold because once consumer expectations are set at the high end, they are assumed and expected at the lower ends. The idea is to customize the purchasing and ownership experience every day, at every touch point. To do so involves proactively managing the customer experience at each of the five vehicle buying cycle phases:

1.       Pre-purchase or shopping

2.       Purchase

3.       Ownership

4.       Disposal/ Resale or Trade-in

5.       Re-purchase or brand re-entry

While this may sound relatively straight-forward, the implementation can be nearly impossible without tightly integrated data and processes.

In a recent presentation, Patrick Gartner, Customer Relations Manager for Porsche, shared that Porsche currently manages over 80 million customer touch points per year. Considering Porsche holds less than one percent of the market, you can begin to imagine the amount of data that must be captured, consolidated, analyzed and utilized to provide personal interactions within the entire automotive industry.

Unlike other industries, data is already streaming in from thousands of locations within car manufacturing. Vehicles are already embedded with thousands of transmitters, sending car data to manufactures and dealers. On top of that information, there is customer data, relationship data and transactional data all coming in from different systems and processes throughout the supply chain.  Combining the information available to manufacturers, with that from importers and again with the data from dealers and important third-party sources to form a holistic approach is the ultimate challenge. Fortunately, technology advancements are making true data integration a reality. Using robust, high-speed data platforms as well as cloud technology, predicative analytics and mobile devices, companies now have the fast processing capabilities needed to transform data into personal, customer interactions.

Sales and Marketing Applications

Using data to predict future customer behavior provides a great example of the revenue-generating power of information. By analyzing customer, vehicle and relationship data, sales and marketing can identify purchasing patterns and inventory needs. Taking this real-time segmentation and combining it with real-time predictive analytics, then provides a list of potential buyers with a high purchase affinity who are “in the market” for a new vehicle. Once the target list is compiled, marketing can take over with extremely focused incentives to electronically “nudge” the buyer toward a purchase. This highly targeted, integrated pre-sales approach is proving to yield higher results.

Customized communication is also extremely important after the sale. For example, once a buyer purchases a vehicle, the manufacturer can mail individualized thank you postcards with information such as type of vehicle and exact configurations. In fact, the cards can be sent in the name of the dealer and can be part of lifecycle communication strategy from both dealers and the manufacturer. Over the life span of the vehicle, all relevant data can be continuously gathered, analyzed and applied against aggregated trends to proactively predict maintenance and other future needs.

In today’s electronic world, consumers are constantly bombarded with recommendations for new products or services based on their purchasing behavior.  It has become so common, in fact, many almost expect businesses to anticipate their needs before they ask. With sophisticated technology solutions, automobile manufactures, importers and dealers can provide the same type of predicative, personal service. Turning data into action is a proven strategy that can help strengthen loyalty and increase revenue regardless of your organization’s size.

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    1. Larry Stolle Post author

      Interesting and “weighty” question…

      USA Today (today) quoted Apple as saying…”A few years ago users of Internet Services began to realize that when an on-line service is free, you are not the customer.  You are the product…diffeerent angle but troubling nevertheless.

      Larry

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