A wistfully reminiscent conversation recently triggered the comment that buying a new vehicle isn’t as fun as it used to be, as new vehicles come with more standard equipment than ever and the opportunity to personalise a new vehicle isn’t what it once was. That may be the case, however personalisation in the automotive industry is still something to get excited about.
Personalisation has long been an integral part of the automotive industry as consumers personalise their new vehicle in a myriad of ways: trim; engine; colour; wheels; option packs; roof flags, fluffy dice and headlight eyelashes; the list goes on.
Recent years have seen a decline in the variety of options offered by manufacturers as they look to reduce complexity, and associated costs, but does this mark the end of personalisation in automotive?
Not at all. Only these days the onus is on manufacturers and dealers to find new ways to differentiate themselves from the competition and offer a personalised customer service above and beyond the vehicle.
Consumers have long been targeted with TV adverts, radio promotions and flyers offering “Great Deals on New Stock”; something to entice them through the showroom door at which point a salesperson would earn their commission by doing the hard sell.
Manufacturers now have access to a wealth of data, and this brings with it the opportunity of ultra-personalised marketing offers. By harnessing big data and AI, OEMs can not only accurately forecast sales, they can analyse individual customers and predict which marketing offers they are most likely to respond to. This takes away the need for the customer to haggle with salespeople, everyone’s least favourite pastime, and streamlines the sales process leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The consumer experience in the dealership could be enhanced in the future through AI Transformation, and the Showroom of the Future might not be that far away. But away from the horizon there are opportunities to personalise the dealership experience here and now.
Of course, COVID-19 has dramatically altered dealership operations in the short term, but consumers will be looking for personalised services beyond hand sanitiser and the unveiling of their new vehicle from behind a giant face mask.
This should be a key get-right for dealers to focus their attention on particularly as the industry starts to see the increased adoption of agency sales models, where the vehicle is sold direct to the consumer by the manufacturer, but handed over to the customer by the dealer, in return for a fixed bonus. In this scenario it will be up to the dealer to differentiate themselves from their competition on more than price alone, especially if they think about the long-term value that customer relationship can bring to the service department.
Purchasing a new vehicle is only a small part of the customer journey. Consumers are more aware than ever of the importance of servicing and maintaining their vehicle both for safety as well as resale value, and over the ownership cycle of a vehicle the consumer will have the most contact with the service department. As highlighted in Capgemini’s Connected Vehicle Trend Radar 2 report, “OEMs have yet to exploit the full potential of connectivity”, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be thinking about how best to serve their connected customers.
Predictive service and maintenance is a great way to offer a personalised service. The OEM can identify any potential vehicle needs using the onboard modem and can send the suggested course of repair to the customer through their mobile app. By syncing this with the dealer booking system and parts department, a customer can receive a preventative repair with minimal input and downtime, a quality that is particularly attractive to fleet managers and agricultural customers.
Personalisation of tomorrow
Customers still want and expect personalisation and it’s up to manufacturers and dealers to offer a unique customer experience where possible. Data and technology have both ensured there are lots of opportunities throughout the customer journey where they can be given a tailored, special experience that the customer recognises as unique to them. Be it during the consideration phase, purchase or aftersales, as long as the future focus is on personalisation not involving headlight eyelashes, that can only be a good thing.