The connected automotive purchase experience under a new digital paradigm

1. Changing customer expectations towards automotive purchase

A recent consumer survey conducted by Deloitte Consulting has shown that more than 40% of the Chinese consumers are interested in bypassing dealers and consider buying directly from OEMs, in addition, over 40% of Chinese customers regard the seamless integration of O2O touchpoints an important decision factor. Given such trends, auto makers have started to address these new "challenges" and change the way they design their sales models:

  • Traditional auto makers are often subject to heavy organizational structure, business process and information system, which shows the pressure of transformation.
  • New start-ups like NIO and BYTON have a natural advantage to adjust to the dramatic change right from the very beginning. They set up direct sales as the fundament for their business model design to avoid the traditional dealership system to rely on and balance out.
  • Some rely on a direct sales model with a hybrid sales format, meaning that OEMs will own inventories until invoicing to customer, while directly controlling as well as collaborating with franchisees as their sales channel.

2. The game on technology along customer journey

Technology-embedded digital tools

To differentiate and appeal to technology-savvy customers, NEV players have been utilizing digital tools in their physical stores to create a unique shopping experience for customers while collecting valuable data.

  • Facial recognition, VR/AR, APPs are designed to offer a refreshing experience when customers set foot in a store.
  • These in-store digital tools combining hardware sensors and software algorithms are able to collect unique customer data and translate them into indicators of customer preferences which could serve as meaningful input for R&D and marketing teams.
  • Besides serving as a "one-stop platform" to facilitate the entire sales process and vehicle usage, the app can also engage customers beyond the store and constantly collect feedback on products, experience and brand. In addition, Some NEV players add variable social aspects on top of a purely functional tool to improve customer stickiness and higher utilization.


The irreplaceable role of central customer interaction center

The ideas of leveraging digital tools are only half what it takes to succeed in the changing digital world. How to orchestrate moments beyond the physical experience alone has become critical more-than-ever, especially under a direct sales model.

  • OEMs need to consider a Central Customer Interaction Center (CCIC) which can take the role as a central brain behind all touchpoints and enrich the customer experience on a large scale.
  • From the cultivation of leads to online campaigns, contract signing to handover preparation, every interaction is not only digitized but also recorded in an integrated system owned by OEMs.
  • When franchisees are involved to build the offline network, CCIC becomes even more irreplaceable as it ensures offline customer experience and data collection quality. In addition, the franchisees performance can be evaluated by the CCIC which might be directly tied to store commissions.
  • The CCIC is not an isolated online function but adds value to every step along the entire journey by centrally managing leads cultivation and distribution, being able to identify high potential customers forwarded to physical stores and increase offline conversion rate.


3. Key takeaways

There are three points that OEMs have to keep in mind when trying to provide a differentiated brand experience to high – demanding customers:

Digitizing the entire O2O customer journey — Digital tools such as AR/VR and apps should not end up being island solutions but need to be "connected". Every customer interaction with the brand should support the collection of more data and insights for every single customer.

Connecting customer single view — Customer data collected from each touchpoint regardless of the channel including offline stores and online tools should be aggregated under a single traceable customer ID to create a comprehensive customer persona and facilitate an individualized O2O journey.

Orchestrating behind the scene — The concept of a CCIC should be leveraged as the "central brain" to orchestrate every customer interaction along the journey.

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