Do manufacturers, Dealers or service providers know what 60% of new car buyers want?

emarketer recently published a very interesting article on the importance and impact in-media will have on buyers purchase decisions. According to a Harris Interactive poll nearly 60% of car owners said in-car connectivity will have some or a great deal of influence on their next vehicle purchase and 67% for 18 to 35 year olds!

This range of in-car connectivity, also referred to as telematics, ranges from the expected  maps, music and voice communications, to browsing the internet and watching streaming video.  Interestingly, services that read news updates, permit social media interaction or deliver on-demand content already exist. Will this evolution in telematics lead to design innovation.  A single point for plug and play for multiple devices, where one could possibly use their tablet as a dashboard?

As these advanced in-car media options become increasingly important I imagine there will be a foray of new providers in the value chain to deliver these advanced media options.  Owning and managing data will become paramount especially as marketing pathways to influencing customers will evolve.  It will be interesting as to who ‘owns’ the customer relationship as boundaries become blurred; the OEM, the Dealer, the media provider or other Tier 3 service providers.  The question does arise as to whether brands with better relationships with their Dealers will have an advantage because of the assumed sharing of information and data?  Will OEMs become selective in choosing their 3rd party suppliers especially those who work with their Dealernetwork with the additional Tier 1 services they provide their Dealernetwork providing valuable data intelligence and influence?

These changes are not far off but in the short term there is a significant amount that can be done to improve the customer digital experience; from optimised OEM websites with car configurators that provide an enhanced user experience to Dealer Marketing Websites which provide a consistent brand and user experience to the OEM whilst still providing differentiation for the Dealer.  A recent project I was involved in required a review of user experience of luxury OEM manufacturer and dealer websites and the results were shocking with the majority showing they provided average to poor user experience.  Not really acceptable in this post-PC era.  Sadly, most also used responsive design as a band aid to an optimised mobile experience.      A well optimised website is the hub for developing an effective digital experience integrating across all channels.

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Why Dealer websites are crucial for the car buyer!

I was recently going through the Cap Gemini 11/12 report which details Information Sources that a prospective car buyer uses in their decision making.  Technology has impacted our lives from social connections, to education and purchase decisions.  Information is now instantly available and channels of communication are faster, interactive and more engaging.  In 2007 the average purchase cycle for a new car buyer was between 4 – 6 months.  Now in 2012 it’s between 1 – 2 months!  In addition the majority only visiting their dealership of choice 2 weeks before purchase.

A car buyer is 3 to 4 times more likely to purchase (generate a lead) on a Dealer website than a national site and from this report  53% of UK car buyers will use a Dealer website for their research compared to 48% using a manufacturer site!  That’s huge.  Yet sadly, many dealer sites do not have a consistent brand experience, outdated content and dare I say take longer than 4 hours to action leads… Result = competition has won the business.

For those Dealerships with great websites (and there are many) they will be testament to the importance of the online showroom – their website!

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