Mercedes Benz parked

Capitalising on the customer automobile journey

Shifting customer trends

Over the past year, the automobile industry has experienced a sharp decline in car production and sales. This downturn in supply and demand resulted in a 3% drop in vehicle purchases globally. This slump was the result of production adjustments to comply with new emissions standards and a large drop in demand from the Chinese market.

Looking specifically at Europe, new car sales are projected to rise by 34%. This growth will be driven by electrified, autonomous private, and autonomous shared vehicles. By 2030, PWC projects that 55% of global new car sales could be fully electrified. This represents an increase from 18 million to more than 24 million electric vehicles in Europe alone.

With new innovative technologies, environmental standards, and increasing transportation options, there are several opportunities for companies to differentiate themselves in both before- and after-sales services. Creating a coherent, digital experience allows customers to seamlessly and easily access support and services.

Buying a car

Millennials are the largest target group for car sales. However, they are more likely to live in urban spaces with public transportation and to wait before getting married and having kids. They are also more used to using technology in their daily interactions than previous generations. As a result, the way consumers are purchasing cars, and the models they want are changing. 70% of buyers stated they use the Internet rather than brochures, ads, and test reports to gather information on cars according to McKinsey.

This transformation opens up the opportunity for car companies to integrate technologies that can help customers research potential cars via their preferred outlets. Thanks to apps like RelayCars, which combines augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), consumers can get a realistic, 3-d view of cars. This allows them to compare and test vehicles without having to go to the dealership and test them onsite.

Servicing a car

The customer journey is not complete once a car is purchased. While consumers spend around 15 hours buying a new car, they often spend up to 50 hours servicing that car during the time of ownership. This may only increase as car dashboards and entertainment systems become more complex.

Automotive brands like BMW and Hyundai have integrated AR wearables into their engineering teams to improve their car repair services. This technology allows engineers to overlay digital information onto the car during repairs which improves troubleshooting time.

Combining these repair service innovations with external partners not only reduces the repair time, but could also empower customers to resolve minor issues at home. This part of the consumer experience is highly neglected, and yet is more important from the consumer perspective.

Graph illustrating preferences in the automobile customer journey.

This McKinsey Automotive Survey reveals that customers find the service experience to be more influential than the car buying experience. Companies should integrate innovative technologies that make the service experience as painless as possible to ensure customer satisfaction.

In-car media

Providing accessibility to entertainment services, driver-assistance apps, tourism information, and smartphone connections will drive profits and differentiate companies in the future. This is supported by reports that within the next few years, 30% of vehicles will be equipped with Wi-Fi. Investments in the digitalisation and technological advancement of the automotive industry are expected to reach $82 billion in 2020.

Thinking ahead

The consumer journey is a promising area for the automobile industry to boost profits. Complicated digital dashboards will create more opportunities to engage with customers, but also more opportunities for problems and customer confusion. Using foresight to mitigate potential technological barriers will improve customer journeys and continue to drive profits.


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