Properly harnessing data to create magic moments for customers is the holy grail of the modern marketer.
Data is gold dust, a company’s greatest asset, or so we are constantly told. However, the truth is that data is just numbers until you’ve extracted some meaning and turned it into customer value. Getting to grips with this and doing it well is hugely complex. At our recent event, XChange, we invited Ford of Europe’s Head of Customer Engagement, Claire Hepworth to delve into the topic as we discussed the challenges around making sense of data and keeping customers engaged and loyal.
Plugging into context with thick data
Is your data big or thick? Why should you care? While big data is all about numbers, identifying trends and predicting behaviour; thick data helps us to understand the emotion and human decision making process behind that behaviour. It’s the qualitative plug in to big data’s quantitative approach. It’s the why behind the what and it’s becoming a game changer for Experience Makers and their customers.
What does this mean in practical terms? Ford was experiencing a large number of complaints about vibrating steering wheels. The data suggested a product issue but the reality was the introduction of a new automated safety feature, The Lane Keeping System, alerting drivers if they drifted out of lane. Conversations with customers via Ford’s customer call centres revealed a gap in communication about the new feature at handover in dealerships. Fixing on the ‘why’, Ford could remedy the problem and plug the gap in the experience.
This is a very simple illustration but it clearly demonstrates the need to join up the dots between thick and big data. Sources of thick data are broad and vary from industry to industry. Social media is an obvious source but in the automotive industry we are turning to external sources such as roadside assistance providers, owners groups and even app store reviews. Joining these dots can provide us with rich context that we can use to improve the customer experience; for instance, with outbound health alerts about their vehicle.
The value exchange
Of course all of this assumes that customers are willing to part with their data and that it is a reliable source of truth. However, savvy connected customers expect something in return and will not necessarily provide accurate information. While a 2019 automotive survey from Deloitte suggests that worldwide sales of connected cars will reach 72.5 million units in 2023, customers can be reluctant to turn that connectivity on. Inducements such as a free modem and then free WiFi hotspots can help with conversion but, as with the vibrating steering wheel, it’s often a gap in communication at the point of purchase that means owners are not necessarily aware of the potential benefits.
Younger buyers are more predisposed to share their data, after all, they’ve grown up sharing on social media on a daily basis. However, they are also more likely to drop in something like a fictitious date of birth which can leave a business dealing with a customer that doesn’t exist.
Make it frictionless
It’s not just about getting the value exchange right, brands need to ensure that they get the actual exchange of data right. Clunky, slow interactions and interfaces with unnecessary data fields are deal breakers and might mean that the most willing customer actually struggles to give you data. There’s nothing more irritating than receiving an email asking you if you’d like to register (why? You’ve emailed me, you know who I am!), only to find that when you click through, they want to know more about you than your own mother does.
The connected car
The same 2019 Deloitte survey revealed that customers are unwilling to pay more for a connected vehicle. In Germany, for example, the data revealed that consumers would only pay up to 600 Euros more for a connected vehicle. Whilst many car manufacturers see connected vehicles as a future monetisation opportunity, they’ll need to focus customers’ minds clearly on what’s in it for them to make this happen. To see the data value equation shifting, the expectation is on features such as the provision of better traffic information, geographical alerts, and better alerts on vehicle health, such as oil levels.
Matching the on and offline experience
Despite many automotive manufacturers moving towards ecommerce, the dealership is still primarily where the transaction takes place and can offer a hugely varied experience. It’s also the point at which vital information is either exchanged in the handover or missed. There’s an exciting opportunity as we move towards ecommerce to extend communication around the point of purchase and bring the on and offline experiences closer together. For example, once a vehicle is ordered, why not start to drip feed information through to customers to enable them to get to know their vehicle? Or let them specify some of their favourite settings; seat position, music or temperature. There’s another level of personalisation to be explored that could really improve that new car fuzzy feeling.
Joining the dots
One of the greatest data challenges for large, multi-brand organisations is gaining a single view of the customer. Joining up the dots between the different silos - for instance, in the automotive world, the credit organisation and the motoring organisation - is hard to achieve but really pays dividends for the customer. The gold standard for any business is a single profile that can be updated by the customer across the entire organisation. Once you can offer this to the customer, they’ll start to see the increased value of your interactions and then be far more willing to give you more information via a progressive registration, if you can give them good reason for doing so.
From ownership to relationship
Forbes projects that private car ownership will drop 80% by 2030 in the US. That’s a lot fewer vehicles on the road and vehicle sharing and different finance models are set to be common place. As ownership becomes less important, the relationship between customer and manufacturer becomes crucially important as we continue to vie for loyalty. Service will be a big differentiator with options for things like vehicle switching being built into finance deals. As one XChange guest asked, why wouldn’t it be possible in the future for you to switch your car to a convertible in the summer? Just as Spotify has disrupted the value of ownership in the music industry, is there a subscription model for the future of the automotive industry?
Cognifide and Ford have been working together to stitch together the data that gives them a single view of their customers, by connecting various elements of the Adobe Experience Cloud. To check out that work, click here.
Or for a summary of all our XChange conversations, click here.
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