Customer trends have changed dramatically over the last two years as the pandemic reshaped the ways in which shoppers could — and would — interact with retailers. While these changes were most obvious at stores where customers shopped every day, other industries, including the automotive dealers and OEMs were also experiencing change. In this piece, originally published on Retail Technology Insider, we explore how customer trends are shaping the automotive industry and how the industry is responding.
Customer trends are continually evolving in the automotive industry, but in the last two years during the pandemic customer-led change has evolved even more quickly. With advancements in technology and changes in customer demands, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and dealerships need to adapt to improve their digital customer experience quickly.
Sitecore, Microsoft, and Publicis Sapient joined forces to conduct an in-depth global survey of automotive customers to gain a greater understanding of customer needs. The Automotive Customer Report 2021 details challenges and opportunities for the automotive industry. From the factory floor to showroom dealerships, digital transformation raises questions on how best to reimagine the industry to focus on customer centricity.
The authors of the report, Aswin Mannepalli, Global Director of Industry Strategy and Marketing for Automotive at Sitecore, Stefan André Raschke, Global Industry Lead and Sales Director for Automotive, at Microsoft, and Matthias von Alten, Vice President of Management Consulting at Publicis Sapient, met to discuss the report’s key findings and takeaways. The main finding is that experience is everything. For customer acquisition and loyalty in the industry, OEMs and dealerships need to focus on the impact of their relationships, whether this means physical quality and usability of the product or the online experience of purchasing.Watch the Webinar
According to the report, the emergence of Gen Z is going to shape the mobility of the future. While baby boomers defined car culture as we know it today, the digital-natives of Gen Z are creating an entirely new mobility culture driven by experience and personalization. “We see how important it is to serve the mobility demands of our customers, the planet, and how we serve solutions for staying mobile … We see a significant change in our customer demand from owning, renting, or using a car for mobility scenarios,” said Raschke.
As innovations, such as electric vehicles, come to market OEMs will need to modify their marketing, sales, and after-sales activities to drive customer loyalty. With more electric cars on the road, there’s a critical need for “service infrastructure for these cars. There’s the idea of electrifying existing cars for an additional business idea for existing dealers to enrich their portfolio of offerings,” commented Raschke. For OEM dealers, there is a distinct need to digitalize their services in order to serve future customers better. The reimaging of services also includes digital purchasing. More and more consumers are comfortable with the idea of buying their car online without a prior test drive. In the near future, dealerships could offer virtual test drives as a replacement.
The pandemic stimulated the transformation of the automotive industry, and the pace of change will only continue to increase in response to customer demand. By placing customers at the center of their mission dealerships and OEMs will be successful as the new generation of car buyers arrive on the lot – or the website – ready to buy the vehicle of their dreams.
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