Automotive purchasing journeys: Three steps to keeping customers on board

Automotive purchasing journeys: Three steps to keeping customers on board

5th March 2024 · Arvato · Blog

Mike Orlic, Business Development Director, ArvatoConnect

At our second annual mobility forum, held in partnership with changemaker, Stephen Ryde-Lloyd, Global head of eCommerce at Nissan, pointed out that today’s automotive purchasing journey is rarely linear. He compared it to mapping a route through the grid of Manhattan: “…there are a dozen different ways of getting to that coffee shop you like in SoHo, depending on where you are starting from…”

The challenge for mobility brands is delivering a consistent level of service and an effortless, joined-up experience, whatever path to purchase drivers choose to take.

Done well, this will keep them engaged throughout the sales process, and increase the likelihood that they recommend the product or service, and are willing to engage with the brand again. Here are three key steps to achieving it.

1. Build a data strategy

Why have automotive purchasing journeys become so varied? Two key factors are the ever-increasing digitalisation of automotive customer experience and the continued rise of the agency model.

No longer do drivers buy a car solely through a dealer, in person. Instead, there are now critical sales touchpoints that sit with both the dealer and the OEM.  Drivers are likely to engage, and re-engage with multiple online and offline contact channels – from website, to phone and even social media – and a range of separate organisations before they walk away with the keys.

In this landscape, the ability to deliver seamless, consistent service hinges on close integration between each organisation involved in the vehicle ecosystem, and the full range of channels they use.

And central to this is developing robust data strategy – something that our recent Digital Deficit report, which surveyed 100 UK customer experience, transformation and IT decision makers in UK automotive businesses – found that 70% of brands don’t have.

With a clear strategy for what information to gather and how to apply it across the customer journey, brands can avoid common, frustration-inducing issues, such as drivers having to re-enter information like name, date of birth or customer number again and again at different touchpoints.

A strategy also unlocks the ability to deliver personalisation. This could take the form of offering products and services throughout the sales journey that meet a customers’ specific needs, but also brands proactively engaging drivers on channels that they know the driver prefers, at the right time in the purchasing journey.

For example, from past experiences with a customer, an OEM may know that the individual is happy to browse and gather information on a vehicle on its website right up to the point of purchase, but beyond this they prefer to speak directly to a human agent.

If this can be reflected in the journey the brand delivers, it is likely to only boost their engagement and satisfaction, and increase the chances of completing a sale.

Whatever a brand’s data strategy looks like, it must be founded on data security.

Nearly four-fifths (79%) of automotive firms that we spoke to say they’re not confident they can protect data once they have.

This is concerning not only from a simple perspective of privacy and security, but because it risks the trust that is so fundamental to any form of brand-customer relationship.

Getting this right is a must-have, not an optional extra.

2. Harness automation to unlock efficiencies

Even if brands have an effective data strategy that applies across customer journeys, they need the ability to gather and deploy data quickly and efficiently in order to be able to use it effectively.  

Here, they’ll face the challenges of having to bridge across disparate systems and touchpoints – in and outside their organisations – and the hurdle of integrating with legacy systems.

Intelligent automation can offer a powerful solution.   

The technology continually gathers, cleans and inputs information from across touchpoints, IT infrastructure and contact channels into a unified customer relationship management (CRM) system, working quickly and error-free.

This reduces the risk of data gaps and complexities that could mean disjoined or inconsistent service quality, and helps ensure continuity between drivers’ online and offline experiences.

It means that employees working in an OEM’s contact centre, staff on a dealership forecourt or anyone else involved in the end-to-end customer journey can access near real-time information on a customer at a click of a button – from buying intentions, to previous inquiries.

And, because it works automatically, it also frees up valuable human resources to focus on the parts of the sales journey that may require complex, emotive reasoning.

3. Develop journeys around real-life habits, not ideas

In designing customer journeys, there’s always the risk that we put ideas before reality – this was a message that came out strongly from our discussions at the forum.

For example, a brand might assume that all customers demand the option to speak to a human agent for initial inquiries. But, in reality, its drivers may be more than happy to self-serve this part of the customer journey through an intelligent chatbot.

Conversely, it may think that there’s no need for any form of human support, and that drivers are – in a digital world – comfortable using only automated, digital solutions. While this may be true for parts of the journey and certain customers, it certainly won’t be true for all.

Mobility brands must keep their channel mix, and range of customer experience solutions, under constant review, and be ready to adapt what they offer so that it reflects their customer base’s current preferences and real-life habits – not ideas of how drivers should, or could, behave.

Gathering feedback from customers on how well current solutions, channels, and touchpoints are working can be invaluable here.

It sounds simple, but – again – it’s something that our research shows is so often missed.

Nearly nine in ten (86%) UK automotive brands we spoke to for our Digital Deficit report admitted it wasn’t something they currently did.

The road ahead

Delivering a consistently high quality of service is about meeting – and even anticipating – customer needs at every stage of the journey, however a customer chooses to engage.

The right approach in terms of data, technology and design will help achieve this.

At ArvatoConnect, we have more than 50 years of experience helping global mobility brands reimagine, shape and deliver their customer experience processes to help keep drivers on board and deliver customer journeys that delight.  

For more information about how we can help you, please contact enquiries@arvatoconnect.co.uk.

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