For our parents and grandparents choosing a car was a relatively easy task. There was limited choice in engine sizes and colour range; strong brand loyalty; a long term relationship with a single dealer; and a lack of readily available information about different choices on offer. I recall one of my own father’s most difficult life decisions – and the cause of a family crisis – was moving away from British Leyland to Citröen.
Today, so complex and rich are current offerings that, for example, the Volkswagen Golf has a near unbelievable 128 different steering wheel variations. As we move towards an EV future the complexities for the buyer are ever more manifest, the purchase journey way more convoluted, and the pressure on automotive brands to clarify, simplify and drive real leads ever more pressured.
The average new vehicle buyer currently engages with an average of 24 research touchpoints along their journey of researching a purchase, according to Dealerwebb. And 65 per cent of consumers spend longer than a month researching vehicles, according to Deloitte, with 31 percent spending more than three months doing so.
While manufacturers work towards a genuine online purchase journey for vehicles, one of the key objectives of their websites is to drive leads into dealers, and help the customer progress down the purchase funnel.
So here are five considerations for those looking to deliver better online experiences... and more conversions.
1. Know your customer
Understanding onsite behaviours is a prerequisite for improvement. By tracking user journeys across site, mapping these against media attribution and gaining a thorough understanding of why and where drop off occurs and within which audience cohort will help you improve your customer experience and drive conversion.
At Candyspace we believe tools such as Contentsquare and Mixpanel can deliver valuable understandings derived from close analysis of user flows and thereby optimise customer journeys. The ability to rapidly analyse those journeys using tools which allow visual interpretation of the data drives your ability to hypothesise and build test programmes.
2. Test and test again
A test and learn mindset is going to be at the core of your optimisation programme. Having the ability to build hypotheses based on data will enable a constant programme of improvement. Multivariate testing, A/B and bandit tests can drive both efficiencies and optimise conversions.
Which strategy to deploy and how best to do it will depend upon the flexibility of your platform, the tools available to you, and the expertise of your partners. An interesting and useful discourse of the benefits of each is provided here.
If your platform of choice is Optimizely you will have the option to deploy their testing tools in the Optimizely Intelligence Cloud and use their AI to benefit from faster insights from those complex tests.
Running complex tests across large audiences, and building real actionable learnings from massive data sets requires some powerful fast moving brain power. Add to that the complexity of personalisation at scale and AI clearly becomes a necessary tool in your armoury. AI will help you turn your data into strategic and tactical insights to drive more value in real time.
If you’d like to explore further examples of the uses of AI, Maria Yao writes knowledgeably in Forbes, on personalisation, testing and text generation among others in the long list of practical applications.
One of the clearest benefits of your AI deployment will be the ability to personalise experiences both on site and across all of your digital touchpoints. Consistent and relevance of messaging will also be assisted by the use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine learning (ML).
Targeting the right customers needs to be more about understanding and responding to their needs from the very first interactions, by leveraging predictive technology AI and ML —and setting aside some of the old mass targeting efforts which now seem anachronistic and wasteful.
5. Updated features
There are some clear and quick wins in the latest features and learnings from competitors in the sector.
The pandemic has driven more customers online and away from dealers but they still look for similar direct one-on-one experiences when information gathering.
And there are simple ways of updating your current onsite offerings: Personalised fast and easy to use finance calculators - including value of your trade-in can fast track the customer to the answers they want. Video chat can be a first step to answers right now, interactive product demos can give in depth information for both the customer and brand.
The stakes could not be higher for automotive brands, with the changing requirements of the move to EV, enhanced customer expectations, new mobility offerings, and an anticipated deluge of disruptors coming to market with radical new designs and offerings.
That said, the potential is nonetheless huge. McKinsey project new addressable revenue for the sector of $1.5 Trillion by 2030 - all of it stemming from shared mobility, connectivity services, feature upgrades and other new auto products and services.
So yes it’s time for brands to take a serious look at their digital offerings… but also how they can use digital to bring together all their touchpoints, deliver excellence of CX and provide a springboard for a radically different future.