The connected consumer
The retail sector is undergoing massive transformations in response to the shift in customer expectations of what a shopping experience should be like. Retailers like Amazon have taken the world by storm, as they have successfully engaged with their digitally connected customers. Through innovative supply chain practices, they have begun to provide services that have caused paradigm shifts in customer expectations.
Today’s customers are constantly connected to the internet and actively using it to shop, primarily on their smartphones. They are present on multiple channels and expect their retailers to do the same. As a result, businesses have now begun to embrace marketing through Omni-channels, which means that they are establishing their presence on the internet – be it through social media, or by enabling direct customer interaction on their websites, or by creating smartphone apps.
This expectation also includes customers that shop for cars. The automotive retail sector, however, has not stepped up completely and as a result, has been unable to engage with the connected consumer.
The industry must catch up and deliver a customer experience that spans all the channels that a customer frequents in the world today.
The retail sector must keep up
How can automotive retailers develop cutting-edge retail models and update a distribution channel that hasn’t changed significantly in the past century?
Some retailers are in the process of making the change but, if the OEMs don’t dismantle their internal silos and truly accept the vast changes that are taking over the retail sector, they will be left behind.
To create a shift in the retail model followed by the automotive industry, OEMs, and automotive dealers need to align more closely to share customer and sales data. This will enable them to acquire an in-depth understanding of the customers’ needs and become relevant.
Where do customers get their information?
It is interesting to note that, on an average, consumers are “channel agnostic”. They switch between multiple channels (web, mobile, in-store) and expect interactions with the retailer to be consistent and extremely relevant.
They expect their retailers to know exactly what they want with minimal effort, and to be able to guide them to what they really want. They don’t know what “omni-channel” means but their behaviour demands it.
Source: Bain Global Automotive Consumer Survey, 2017 (n=1,000 per country: UK, Germany, US, China, India)
Retailers now know that purchases are no longer transactions that happen just once
Retailers have realized that purchases are no longer one-time transactions. They represent a point on the journey that the average customer goes on as they shift between multiple channels. According to the Bain Global Automotive Consumer Survey 2017, customers usually switch up to four times between offline and online channels and prefer moving seamlessly between them. Businesses now need to establish relationships with customers.
Hence, retailers that are pursuing omni-channel marketing are successfully creating customer-centric retail models in which they are being able to successfully engage customers. Digital platforms now successfully compliment their physical shopping avenues by creating a seamless experience for the customer.
Apart from creating a seamless experience for the customers, omni-channel marketing yields data about the customer that can be mined for a wealth of information. For example, there may be a global shift towards digital and omni-channel marketing, but there are differences in customer behaviours across regions that have begun to emerge. The figure given below shows some of the differences in overall buying behaviour and the availability of customer touchpoints. The differences in behaviour are between customers in India and China and those in America.
Source: The future of car sales is Omnichannel by Bain and Company
Evolving the automotive retail ecosystem
Automotive retailers need to focus on the following avenues and subsequently establish a direction for their investments in upgrading and transforming their presence in the automotive market to meet the requirements of the new customer.
1. Engaging customers during their research phase
2. Managing cross-channel customer touchpoints
3. Maintaining efficiency during transactions
4. Aligning store formats with digital experiences
5. Managing competition
6. Engaging customers throughout the lifecycle
If they do is – half the battle is won even before it begins.
Contact me or my team if you have any questions or are interested to learn more about how we at Enprecis Group are helping our customer address this omni-channel challenge.
Enprecis Group Communication Team