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OEMs: Put Customers in the Center of the Automotive Experience

A Woman's Hand Holding A Car Steering Wheel,represents The Correct Car Steering Wheel. In Order To Prevent Accidents. Show Driving Safe Step.

In the new world of automotive – where advanced technologies like generative AI personalization, connectivity, autonomous driving, subscriptions, electrification, and more are taking over – customers have new preferences and demands that OEMs and dealers must address. Ultimately, success will come when the customer is put at the center and asked what they want. The flip side includes failures like the $18 heated seats subscription.

Involving the customer in brand decisions creates mutually beneficial relationships, builds loyalty, and results in products and services that truly address customer needs. Businesses are in operation for one reason: to serve a customer. Once that happens, we can talk about profits, margins, and all those other things. OEMs must engage in the best possible customer experiences for their brands, including accepting that customer loyalty needs a revamp. Customers don’t just want points any longer – they want to have influence on the brand and to see that their opinions matter when it comes to new models and features.

Personalize At Scale with Teamwork and Tech

Putting the customer at the center necessarily influences how brands look at the customer. Personalization is becoming table stakes for OEMs, and individual preferences must be served not only throughout the shopping process but also throughout the lifetime relationships with the OEMs. This change is one reason why it is so critical for OEMs to develop a closer relationship with consumers – not completely outsource the relationship to dealers as they have in the past.

By 2030, over half of vehicle buyers will be millennials who have different expectations. Automakers need to embrace this shift and address this generation’s needs through all marketing channels. Personalized experiences need to be holistic, and this is done by ensuring the tiers come together, share information with each other, and work to address the actual needs of the consumer. This teamwork would be a major shift in the automotive landscape as the tiers usually stay separate with different funding sources, budgets, and departments. That type of thinking will no longer be effective with the mindset of today’s consumer – buyers don’t want disjointed messages from OEMs that have no value to them. They respond to messages that are personalized and relevant.

The key thing to remember is that shopping is not the only time to engage with consumers. Customers respond much better to a brand relationship that is engaging throughout the whole shop, buy, own, and retain journey. OEMs must now view customers very differently and focus on things like a mutual relationship of lifetime value and loyalty.

This level of journey personalization for a consumer requires a lot of content creation, creating a challenge when it comes to a lack of resources. Thankfully, the rise of generative AI can help create this content at the scale required and ensure that the consumer is getting their specific preferences and needs met instantly.

Customers Are Customers Before and Beyond the Purchase

At the same time, OEMs must remember that marketing messages that don’t tie the whole experience together and address specific customer needs are not relevant or impactful. Today, the automotive industry is being affected by the “Amazon effect,” where automotive customers are expecting to do much more of the shopping and buying process online. Of course, that doesn’t mean they want to or expect to buy a car in just 10 clicks and have a vehicle appear on their doorstep.

Instead, it means that they expect tools like AI virtual assistants and virtual test drives that allow them to take control of their research and shopping experience without needing to leave their homes. They can do as much research as they want online, and offering these capabilities helps OEMs drive KPIs like purchase intent, conversion, brand loyalty, and time on site.

The improvements in these KPIs are great indications that the customer is wanting this level of engagement, but OEMs who choose to evolve in this way require a different lens on metrics such as leads and follow-ups. OEMs must evaluate the value they offer their customers not only during the shopping journey, but also during ownership, maintenance, and future purchasing after changes in the customer’s life like weddings, children, new jobs, relocations, and retirement. Having this new lens demands more than just great dealership service – it requires an engaged OEM brand throughout the customer lifetime journey and connectivity of both the brand and retail location serving the customer.

Perficient is a technology company that partners with the best technology companies of our time, but that is not all. Many of the challenges OEMs face are not technology problems – they are the result of silos within their organizations, different funding sources, and a need for effective change management. In response, we have consulting practices in change management, digital transformation, commerce, and data that all work together to help OEMs gain a sustainable competitive advantage in the industry.

To start putting your customer in the driver’s seat, tap into Perficient’s automotive expertise.

Thoughts on “OEMs: Put Customers in the Center of the Automotive Experience”

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Keith Tomatore

A long-time senior executive in the auto industry who has held the position of SVP, Retail Marketing at Global Team Blue (GTB, a WPP Company) on the Ford Retail Business. In this role, Keith worked with the Ford Dealer Associations across the country to help them with their Precision Marketing and digital efforts. Also, he served as CEO of iFrog Marketing Solutions, which focused on Automotive advertising solutions for Tier 2 and Tier 3.

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