The technological development of the last decades and, in particular, that complex phenomenon we call digital transformation have produced deep consequences in the automotive sector, influencing the production logic and shaping the system of relationships between brands and customers.
Even if it is still in progress, we have tried to describe this process of change in some of our recent posts, focusing first on the impact of the Internet of Things in the automotive sector, then on brand experience, and finally shifting to the role played by Big Data.
An equally important aspect concerns the new modes of interactivity that digital tools have enabled – from companies to consumers and vice versa – and that have given rise to just as many opportunities for creating value for the company: from the multitude of opportunities to meet with prospects, to the increase in conversion micro-moments, from the possibility of customer loyalty, to greater opportunities for cross-selling and upselling. It’s the automotive mobile experience.
The premise of the automotive mobile experience: pervasive computing
The use of different devices, on multiple channels, at many different online touch points – in short, everything we talk about when we talk about the digitalization of the customer journey – now allows consumers to access a growing amount of information. A fundamental condition of this extremely fluid and animated scenario, in which it is increasingly difficult to draw a clear distinction between computers and different types of devices, is the mass use of mobile devices.
Key to the success of mobile devices, we find three trends that have helped determine the technological context in which most communication takes place today:
- the progressive miniaturization of computers, which has led the category of “portable” (mobile, precisely) to be greatly enriched: laptops, notebooks, tablet PCs, handhelds;
- the increase in the calculation and interconnection capacity of small digital devices created to perform a variety of functions: we’re talking about digital cameras, mp3 players, GPS navigators, and, above all, cell phones;
- the spread of wireless technologies for connecting to the Internet and networking. The emergence of new protocols for transmitting and receiving data has prompted the large-scale production of notebooks and MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices).
We’re living in the era of pervasive computing, which is characterized by easy and immediate access to the internet and to data storage and processing systems, in virtually all contexts and through a variety of devices. Thanks to these technological processes, today, even cars can be connected in a variety of ways. Let’s look at some of these ways.
The 7 types of connection in automotive
At the top of the automotive communication systems we find the V2X (Vehicle to Everything) mode: a sort of mother category of a wider set of communication technologies. V2X includes 7 types of connectivity:
- Vehicle to network (V2N): Connectivity layer that allows vehicles to be considered as a “device” – like smartphones, tablets, and wearables – that can use the dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) standard to interact with other vehicles and the road infrastructure.
- Vehicle to infrastructure (V2I): Vehicle to infrastructure communication is an integral part of intelligent transportation systems and involves the two-way exchange of information between the vehicle and the road infrastructure.
- Vehicle to vehicle (V2V): Allows vehicles to exchange data with each other in real time, wirelessly. With V2V, vehicles can share speed, position, direction, and any other relevant information, providing the system with a 360-degree representation of the surrounding environment.
- Vehicle to cloud (V2C): Vehicle to cloud (V2C) communication leverages V2N access to cellular mobile broadband networks to exchange data through the cloud.
- Vehicle to pedestrian (V2P): Vehicle to pedestrian communication integrates smart sensors on wheelchairs, bicycles, and strollers, which are then able to interface with V2V and V2I technologies to alert drivers of their presence.
- Vehicle to device (V2D): A subset of V2X communication that allows vehicles to exchange information with any smart device, usually via the Bluetooth protocol.
- Vehicle to grid (V2G): Vehicle to grid communication provides a two-way data exchange between plug-in hybrid vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with the smart grid to support the electrification of transportation.
What kind of mobile automotive experience can be designed thanks to the pervasiveness of data processing and access technologies (including via the internet) that decouples users from their physical location? The answer to this question changes depending on whether we’re talking about in-car experience or customer experience. Let’s see how.
1. In-car experience: imitating a winning UX model
Smartphones have a series of features that make them pure service objects that are able to guarantee fluid and immediate responses to concrete and recurring problems: they are updated, fast, and offer the (almost) certainty of a seamless connection.
For years, car manufacturers have been using smartphones as a reference model for their UX, with the aim of reproducing these technological tools inside the car.
Until now, however, this attempt to replicate the operating logic of smartphones has largely led to a rather unrealistic proliferation of screens of various sizes and increasingly touchscreen. Something, however, is changing: car manufacturers are finally experimenting with new interaction paradigms, emerging technologies, and operating models that finally seem to go beyond the simple analogy with smartphones. Starting with interface design.
The evolution of the interface: beyond the touchscreen
While automakers had sought to differentiate themselves by simply adding more touchscreens in their vehicles, making them larger and more prominent, today, it’s beginning to be clear that drivers don’t care about the number of monitors or the size of the display. Instead, drivers prioritize the ease of access to relevant, up-to-date, and seamlessly connected services, and safety and usability.
Therefore, you don’t need more touchscreens to create effective interactions. Rather, automotive companies must focus on developing harmonious, simple, and intuitive solutions, also by merging mechanical and digital controls, as in the case of sensors connected to easily understandable interfaces (those for proximity, brightness, or that register the intensity of a touch and thus allow “tactile” feedback) or voice controls (that allow connection to a voice assistant, even enhanced with artificial intelligence applications).
2. Customer experience
The majority of prospective car buyers start their purchase journey from a browser. Research is a crucial phase and one where the user can easily get lost, spending hours probing the endless resources made available on the internet, and then resurfacing to eventually end up at a dealership. Whatever the detours, jumps, and breaks in this journey, consumers almost always start online: as early as 2017, 95% of would-be buyers used digital channels as a source of information, twice as many as those who went to a dealer instead for the same reason (source: Google).
The journey itself is almost never a short or easy one. Consider that potential customers spend an average of almost 14 hours online during their research (Source: Cox), and they may interact with hundreds of digital touchpoints for months before being able to make a decision.
A clarification: when we talk about interactions, we’re referring to a varied set of actions made up of searches and clicks, visits to websites (of manufacturers, retailers, reviews), and video views. Interestingly, many of these interactions (71%, according to Google) now take place on mobile devices. In fact, the average car buyer spends one-third of the total search time with their eyes glued to their cell phone or tablet (Source: JD Power).
In light of this data, it’s clear that the automotive purchasing process has become both richer and more complicated at the same time: to intercept and convince an “always connected” consumer, we have to optimize their experience on all devices.
The automotive mobile experience: from data to personalization
To oversee such a complex and ramified Customer Journey, automotive marketers are adopting a data-driven approach, the only approach that allows them to fully exploit every conversion opportunity. They now have advanced analytics tools in their toolbox, thanks to which they can:
- collect the leads that users disseminate online
- extract value from Big Data
- gain more detailed knowledge of their target audience
- plan omnichannel strategies
- accurately segment their customer base
The goal is to develop an automotive customer experience – with a focus on digital and mobile – that is increasingly tailored. And: personalized.
Bearing in mind the general framework we’ve outlined so far, we’ll now turn to what it takes to build engaging and effective experiences on mobile, the types of experiences that will allow companies to offer potential car buyers and existing customers a frictionless and seamless customer journey.
Tips for a frictionless automotive mobile experience
The quality of the homepage and the navigation path in the case of mobile devices must be very high: small displays and precarious conditions of use (on the move, away from home, while traveling, for many hours a day) can affect the user’s attention level. This is why the content as viewed from smartphones must be clear, understandable, intuitive, and easily operable. According to Think with Google here’s what it takes to achieve this goal:
- place call-to-actions “above the fold”, i.e. at the top of the page where they remain visible without the need to scroll down, regardless of the device used; insert links to relevant, clear, and complete landing pages;
- highlight value propositions and offers (which should be navigable and filterable);
- include information on customer support and after-sales activities in the menu;
- show the different price options in a transparent way;
- make the forms user-friendly, inserting only strictly necessary fields, making data entry easy, and providing real-time validation;
- improve site speed;
- constantly monitor metrics, such as CTA clicks, Conversion Rate, Bounce Rate, Engagement Rate, abandonment rate, and shares;
We would like to add one last piece of advice – it comes at the bottom of the list, but in reality it should be at the top, because it is decisive: equip yourself with the best tools with which to build a personalized, relevant, and truly meaningful relationship with each individual customer.
The tools: Doxee for the automotive mobile experience
When we wrote about digital transformation in the automotive sector a year ago, we already suggested focusing on personalization, which can be achieved on several levels:
- the relationship between consumer and brand and between consumer and dealer,
- onboard connectivity,
- the initiatives designed by the various corporate functions, including marketing, customer service, and sales.
Doxee is the data-driven, customer-focused company that provides companies with the tools to produce and deliver personalized content and create truly one-to-one experiences with their customers. The two solutions, Doxee Pweb® and Doxee Pvideo®, which may be easily and effectively deployed on mobile channels, transform data into relationships for a unique digital customer experience.
Both tools can be invaluable both in the pre-sale phases (for example in preparing the quote, in the comparison of different models, and in the design of your own vehicle, built virtually by choosing among the available features) and in the post-sale phases (such as service, maintenance, and customer care) and along the entire life cycle in general.
In the dynamic and interactive micro-sites built with Doxee Pweb®, all service information, ad hoc commercial proposals, purchase history and any activated premium services that specifically concern the individual user can be found in an organised and transparent manner. Through these sites, which can be navigated with any device, the customer is always updated on the offers designed specifically for him: preferences, contracts, purchase patterns, consumption needs.
Doxee Pvideo® personalised videos, on the other hand, can be integrated at many points in the post-sale process, for instance to provide omnichannel communication on routine and extraordinary maintenance, minimising misunderstandings and opening up opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling.