In recent years, the automotive industry has been placing their focus not only on the products they are manufacturing, but also on the overall ownership experience. We’ve seen things like nicer showrooms. More involved service and repair agents. Even things like OnStar and onboard Wi-Fi have been introduced to make the ownership exchange more personal.
And while the quality of the product will always take top billing, the peripheral brand experience is becoming more vital in the overall timeline of ownership.
So with one eye continuously on improving their products, manufacturers are strongly focusing the other on the experience of owning a car.
And why the new focus? It truly is about intelligence and anticipation, ultimately leading to a differentiating brand experience.
You see, this is the golden ticket. The baseline of expectation for car buyers has been easily standardized. Entry level cars are no longer boxes on wheels. Those brands have been weeded out as production has become more efficient. Not to mention the influx of foreign manufacturers and their ability to raise the bar, having kicked up the pressure on the local guys.
So how do manufacturers differentiate?
At the recent Adobe Digital Marketing Summit, Ford’s director of enterprise and emerging IT, Rich Strade, told attendees that Ford would be evolving its approach to include an end-to-end ownership experience.
Strade said, “We sold a product, and when we sold it, that was the experience people had with Ford, they drove the vehicle and all the interactions were about consumption of that product. What we now believe is important to consumer experience is something that marries the product experience with a services experience and that end customer need.”
And while all of that is great, the true nugget is the last piece. Finding the “customer need” is what it’s all about. And the only way to find this is to gather data. But how?
One way Ford is doing it is by launching a new app called FordPass. FordPass will introduce four key service areas: FordGuides, a virtual personal assistant; FordHubs, allowing consumers to see the latest Ford innovations; Marketplace, for mobility services; and Appreciation, their customer loyalty program.
But maybe that’s not enough. That requires active participation by their owners. How can manufacturers, like Ford, peak behind-the-scenes and get more personal insights?
Maybe there’s something to be learned from a new exploration that that team at UsTwo has embarked upon. They’re in the midst of re-imaging the in-car instrument cluster. Their goal is to make it more contextually aware, and in doing so, more personal. Here’s an unbranded demo:
So tying the two together is the key. Taking the needs of someone like Ford to get more personal data, and combining it with technology that is adaptive, and practically intelligent, might be the perfect formula.
Maybe the addition of a service like the new cluster from UsTwo, can be the perfect symbiosis between service and information gathering. As Mr. Strade put it, “In many respects, it’s about trying to anticipate the need. We can’t tell today as we have such a low connection with the consumer, what they really want. People will tell you something… but you can’t always rely on what they think they might need as they can’t perceive what their real needs are. But a vast amount of data could help Ford understand what they need.”
What do you think? Is Ford onto something? Is it self-serving for them, or do you envision enough of a trade-off where you won’t mind a car manufacturer having the ability to gather more data from you? And, if the goal is to create a better, more personalized brand experience, is there any harm?
Recommended reading: My FordPass