Digital transformation has revolutionized the automotive industry and the Automotive Customer Journey map. What are the new opportunities that have opened up? And how can you improve the Digital Experience of your customers, both actual and potential? These are just some of the questions we’ll answer in this post.
Automotive is a huge and varied production sector.
It is a sector that was one of the symbols of the second industrial revolution and the economic boom that followed the second World War, and one that, even today, continues to be one of the most important and strategic for the global economy.
In 2018, about 78.6 million cars were sold worldwide. In 2019, the growth trend was consolidating and the goal of 80 million cars seemed very close. Then the unpredictable happened: the pandemic triggered by COVID-19 changed everything. According to the most reliable estimates, the number of cars sold worldwide in 2020 is expected to fall below 62 million. That’s a huge blow. (For more on these numbers, see this report from Statista).
But this is no time to stop. In moments like these, winners will be those who are able to transform the crisis into an opportunity; the big players in the sector know this very well.
The automotive sector was already experiencing great changes, especially with new markets. For example, in September, car sales in China were up 12.8% year-on-year (source: Ansa). This says a lot about the ability of the Asian giant to recover.
Another driver of change is the focus on sustainability issues. Here is another significant piece of data: Between January and June 2020, the European market for cars with alternative fuels totalled 988,550 new registrations with a share of 19.5% of the total market. The previous year, it was 9.8%. This represents a doubling (source: Associazione Nazionale Filiera Industria Automobilistica).
The third driver of change is the one that, after all, underlies everything. We refer to the Digital Transformation, a true paradigm shift that has revolutionized our lives and all areas of production.
We’ll focus on the impact of digital transformation on the automotive sector in the next paragraph, and then we’ll go into even more detail and focus on the new ways that the Automotive Customer Journey is developing today. To put it another way: We’ll see how the path to buying a car has changed with digital technology, and how companies can prepare for it.
Digital Transformation in the Automotive Industry: Key points of this revolution
The advent of digital is one of the most important turning points of the last few centuries. The world has changed, and continues to change with unprecedented speed. Essentially, we’re talking about the current reality in which we’re all immersed.
Within this reality, what has changed in the automotive sector? In a word: everything. Production systems (with the so-called “4.0” factories), company processes, and the technologies underlying this industry. Another major change is the way that companies relate to customers.
Today’s motorists are used to a fully digital world.
So, they expect maximum connectivity in their cars as well, with cutting-edge technologies, and wide margins for personalization.
But even before that, today’s customers expect a fluid, simple, and multi-channel dialog with car companies. They expect an increasingly digital experience, starting from the research phases of the car to buy to the purchase phase with dealers. But that’s not all. Drivers expect not to be “left on their own.” In short, they want Customer Service that is in step with the times, that works 24/7, and that is increasingly personalized. (We’ll come back to the fundamental theme of personalization a little later).
According to estimates by McKinsey, in 2025, about 45% of car buyers will be millennials. It goes without saying that this group of consumers is used to dealing with companies like Amazon, Airbnb, and Uber, which deploy all the best digital strategies and place a focus on the Digital Customer Experience.
The Automotive sector, especially in this period of crisis and possible turnaround, must come to terms with all of this.
All of the opportunities for the future lie in an ancient and very simple concept, which digital technology has brought back into vogue: The real added value is its customers, the individuals.
The first question to ask is this: Which touchpoints do today’s customers use to arrive at the purchase of a car? To put it another way, you have to learn how to trace the Automotive Customer Journey map and then interpret it in the best possible way. We’ll talk about this in the next paragraph.
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Automotive Customer Journey map: How is it developed? How can it be traced?
Let’s start with an enlightening study carried by ACA Research, who analyzed the Customer Journey mapof customers who are about to buy a car, from the initial research to the final purchase.
The study found that the Automotive Customer Journey lasts, on average, from 5 to 12 weeks, and involves these steps:
- In the first stage, the customer researches online to compile a list of vehicles of interest. Up to 95% of journeys begin with an online search.
- Next, customers narrow their selection down to a short list. In this phase, opinions and reviews, always found online, have great weight.
- After this, customers will go to the dealership for a test drive (2/4 weeks before the purchase).
- Finally, they get to their final choice.
On average, this translates into over 20 touch-points (source: Autoxloo), which are both digital and “physical.”
It’s understandable that presiding over such a complex and branched Customer Journey is a complex challenge.
But beware of the other side of the coin. With the right analytical tools, you can have deep knowledge of your target audience.
How? With the most advanced tools for analyzing “Big Data,” the digital footprints that we all leave online.
In the Automotive sector, more so than many others, it is essential to conduct this analysis in an omnichannel manner, then cross-reference this information and interpret it with the help of Artificial Intelligence systems tailored to your purposes.
In this way, you can segment your customer base into increasingly specific and consistent clusters, with the aim of achieving an increasingly tailored Digital Experience, one that is, therefore, more and more effective and satisfying.
The final objective, however, is even more ambitious: To intercept individual people and create communicative and interactive experiences with brands that are truly one-to-one.
This is what is meant by personalization, and this is exactly what specialized companies like Doxee deal with.
Let’s take a look at two solutions in particular. The first is the Doxee Pweb®: It revolutionizes the way that companies can use data to communicate, offering complex information to customers by transforming them into dynamic and interactive sites, built based on the characteristics, behaviors, and needs of each person. It’s a formidable tool for improving Customer Experience, retention, and loyalty, and it also supports up-selling and cross-selling programs. These are all fundamental elements for the Automotive sector.
Think of the possibility of being able to “see,” in detail, the car you are planning to buy through a video that is built based on the characteristics of the recipient. One-to-one and no longer one-to-many.
Then, think about how valuable this tool can be in the other presale phases as well as in the post-sale phases (service, maintenance, and Customer Care in general).
When we talk about personalization, we’re talking about something that is changing the face of the automotive industry forever. And we’re only at the beginning. Those who know how to seize these opportunities before others will acquire a truly valuable competitive advantage in the short and long term.
Now let’s close this article with a focus that we think is fundamental. We talked about the Automotive Customer Journey and we’ve seen how it passes through a large number of digital touchpoints. Finally, the point to make is that these touchpoints are increasingly focused on mobile.
The importance of focusing on mobile
Without getting lost in too many words, let’s get right to the data. According to a study by AutoHook, 51% of people search via smartphone to choose car models, equipment, read reviews, compare prices, and locate dealers.
The research dates back to 2016, and we can easily imagine that this number has further increased in the meantime.
Attention: Mobile is also a force in other pre-sale touchpoints as well. Even when the customer is physically in a store, they continue to browse via mobile, especially to make comparisons and to look for the best bargain. Here’s a telling statistic, in that regard: 72% of people who use a smartphone inside a dealership are more likely to visit another one. Based on those online searches, 33% of that sample will actually visit another dealer the same day or in the next few days (source).
It’s no surprise, then, that back in 2015, the U.S. automotive industry was already investing about 47% of all online marketing investments in mobile (source). Again, these are numbers that, today, have increased further.
Finally, Google itself has released a platform specifically dedicated to improving the Digital Experience related to the purchase of cars (you can reach it by following this link).
And when it’s Google that’s on the move, you always have to raise your antennae!
In conclusion, even this mobile focus brings us back to the heart of Digital Transformation in the Automotive industry. Put the driver at the center, personalize their experience, and always be ready at the right time and in the right place!
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