2011 Google Automotive Shopping Behavior Study

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Google has released below a fascinating study on the rapidly changing online shopping habits of the Automotive Consumer.

Automotive Shopping Behavior Study 2011 

What I took away from this:

With the all the information that this presentation gives, the overwhelming message is that the Automotive Industry and the car must continue to adapt the the needs of the consumer, and continue to be where the consumer goes.

Interestingly enough, an Automatic Service reminder feature ranked high on the requirements of the customer. As technology evolves I can only see the gaps in the service booking process being filled. Hopefully the car will soon be able to see the gaps in my calendar in my smartphone or cloud service, check those gaps with available times at the dealership, suggest those times and book the date and time I would like with the dealer.

As always, if manufacturers want customers to return to their dealerships for a service, the process to get them there must always be as simple and painless as can be.

The ‘Usefulness of research tools used” slide was the most fascinating to me of all.

Of the offline methods displayed; the test drive, peer recommendation and sales people ranked the highest. Flyers and brochures are also still doing well. The most surprising was traditional forms of media such as newspapers and TV. Are consumer numb to ads on TV? Is the typical ‘massive theatrical wow’ car advertisement with special effects showing nothing but a car driving in beautiful scenery giving nothing of use to a potential customer? One of my favorite car ads on TV showed people using all the features of the car in different situations and environments. I could relate to that, if made me want that car and those features. I can’t see myself with the product if it gets put on my TV screen on the back of unicorns in front of a waterfall.

Of the Online methods, professional review websites, forums etc. all rank very well, however dealership websites ranked last. The consumer is telling the industry that websites for car dealerships do not do anything for them and did not add anything of value to the sales experience. This is however in stark contrast to visits to dealership websites going up.

They are finding the website, the website in where they are looking, it is just not useful to them, so chances are the customer will go elsewhere to find what they are looking for.

A website is not a digitised billboard. A website must be a place that answers your customers questions quickly, easily and with a minimum of fuss. A website must also create loyalty. As Mark Cameron of Working 3 points out in this article, one must create an online brand experience that keeps customers coming back for more.

The study also showed that customers were going to inventory based websites to find their. This to me shows that customers want to know exactly what they are up for. Are they hesitant to go through the sales experience? Do they just want to buy a car without the hoopla? The time of the purely online dealership option seems to be getting closer.

I also find it interesting that customers are barely using social networking and video sharing websites to research their potential purchase, despite these websites being the most visited on the web. Is it due to a lack of presence and content? I tried to search for information on these style of sites when I was shopping for a car, and would have liked some. I found some videos of my car on YouTube. All from USA and Canada and from online magazines and dealerships. When I went to the multiple manufacturers YouTube and social media presences, I could not find anything about the vehicle I had in mind. I did however get some videos on track days and other corporate events. I asked on a brands Facebook page and got a website link. Thank you. However I had come from the website to the Facebook page in search of more.

A fantastic study by Google and I can’t wait for the 2012 version.

What did the study highlight for you?

New Facebook App: For your car

Mercedes-Benz - Telematics Evolution Source: Engadget.com

Our friends over at Chit Chat Media sent us a great bit of news to come out of CES.

Yesterday Mercedes-Benz announced the launch of mbrace2.

Featuring a cloud based network that allows users to make updates as they become available, Mbrace2 will feature apps such as Google, Twitter, Yelp and Facebook.

The apps will allow the car to publish pre-defined user information, such as what location that car is en-route to and also display which friends are nearby etc.

Mercedes-Benz states that driver will not be able to enter any text while on the move.

Mercedes-Benz has also refined their mbrace smartphone app and now includes such features as Geo Fence Alerts, which will alert the owner if the car ventures outside of a set geographic perimeter.

As good as in car web applications are, automotive manufacturers will have to tread extremely carefully with privacy, but most of all, safety.

The technology creation  will be easy compared to getting the car to telematics to human integration right.

In the end changing the way the driver interacts with the car and their world will the game changer for the automotive industry, not the brand of the apps.

Ford to create new R&D lab in Silicon Valley

MyFord Touch - Image: fordinthenews.com

Ford has announced the creation of a Research & Development lab in California’s Silicon Valley.

Engadget article here.

This is reflecting Ford’s heavy investing in infotainment systems over the past couple of years and paves the way for an exciting future, making the car more integrated and relevant in our gadget filled, online lives.

Whilst we at millionsofmyles.com think it’s a great step, we are surprised that with Detroit’s economic situation, the R&D lab could not have been built there and the talent hired from Silicon Valley.

Regardless, it’s a great step forward for Automotive Technology.

Mercedes-Benz Augmented Reality Apps – Enhancing the Brochure

Mercedes-Benz has come up with a fascinating way for those with an iPad, iPhone, Androidtablet PC or smartphone, to enhance the experience of looking at the humble car brochure.

While the brochure and automotive advertising have come a long way, they often fail to seamlessly connect the brochure reader to the manufacturers online presence. A website address printed on the back no long cuts it and for the coming generations, nor does the brochure.

This is a great step in bridging the brochure to the digital world.

Brainstorm: Cadillac CUE Infotainment System

Cadillac CUE central console

Welcome to the next generation of Automotive Infotainment systems, Cadillac CUE.

Cadillac CUE is one of many of next generation Automotive Infotainment systems just about to enter the market, however what sets Cadillac CUE apart from other systems I’ve witnessed is the fully customisable drivers display and central command unit that operates similarly to a smartphone by using gestures.

Similar systems to hit the market such as GM’s Chevrolet MyLink and Ford’s MyFord Touch are also scratching the surface of device integration and full customized digitized command systems.

Cadillac CUE runs on a Linux based operating system opening up endless system and application development opportunities.

Let’s brainstorm some possibilities.

What can you envisaging a system like this doing to the car. How can it further enhance a car? What apps could be developed to make your life easier.

Autoblog.com has done a great indepth article on Cadillac CUE here.

Another good video from GeekBeat.tv here.

Link: Why Ford just became a software company

Ford MyTouch system courtesy of popularmechanics.com

A fascinating link I came across last night as to why Ford has just become a software company.

Ford will send out USB sticks containing a major upgrade to the MyFord Touch system.

By doing this Ford is breaking an old industry cycle of cars remaining relatively unchanged from production.

In my opinion Ford making a car a ‘device’ that you can upgrade and fit in with your life is showing brave visionary thinking and genius.

Just what is needed to ensure a company is around tomorrow in this day and age.

Click here for the article.

Link: How The Automotive Industry Can Lead Digital Innovation

It's a long road ahead

The below link from blog The Jordan Rules by Digital Strategist, Jordan Julien appeared in my tweet stream today.

Link: How The Automotive Industry Can Lead Digital Innovation

It is a fantastic post with great vision for the Automotive Industry and a view I resonate with.

Jordan has worked with many Automotive clients and brings a unique outside perspective on the Automotive Industry to the table.

Let me know your thoughts.

Australian Internet Statistics 2011

This way to the Internet

Below you’ll find a fascinating and informative link containing some cracking statistics on Internet use in Australia.

Click here

Mobile data subscription have gone from 1,222,000 in Dec ’10 to 3,609,000 in June ’11. Astounding growth.

The report highlights what the market wants and where it wants to head.

Enjoy!

Customer Communication – A Recent Experience Relayed

The keys to your dreams

Recently I have been in the market for a vehicle. The shopping experience has been fascinating and something I will blog about in the future.

We had decided on what car to get and it was just a matter of finding the right dealer. This to me meant my local dealership. It’s better for all involved if I do my best to be a buyer coming from the dealership’s PMA (Primary Marketing Area) and get the best dealer I can.

When we arrived at the local dealership, we spent some time looking at the model we wanted on the dealers lot. We noticed folks inside and there were plenty of customers outside, but not enough sale staff for the people. After about half an hour of looking we decided to go and get someone to help us.

The staff member we asked then went to get a salesperson. The salesperson was pleasant enough and we took the vehicle on a test drive. We were sold, this was definitely the car we wanted.

We arrived back and sat down to talk. The dealing process was ok. As usual it was a bit of a struggle at times but ended up getting $2K below what we wanted to pay and with the options we wanted. Stock was searched and they had nothing in our requirements on site but there was a car coming in. We were informed car would be delivered just under 3 months later. I was a bit miffed and was now a bit reticent, especially since this was the first dealer I had visited for the brand of car we were buying. I decided it was worth the wait.

I was informed they would need a $1000 deposit to reserve the car for myself. The Sales Manager was introduced to us and informed us that we were under no obligation to purchase the car as it was ‘ordered stock’ anyway. If we changed our minds, we would both come out no worse and the $1000 would be refunded whether we purchased the car or not, all we needed to do was confirm the finance.

The dealer printed off the car purchase form and made notes on that form that purchase was ‘subject to finance’ to give us an ‘out.’

I signed, shook hands and left excited to have a new car soon.

That week, a situation arose in our life that made buying a car seem like not something we also needed to deal with at this time. We could afford to wait while things settled down. We weren’t happy with the finance quotes we had started to get or the blasé service we got from the finance companies. The planets weren’t aligning, it felt rushed, wrong and wasn’t worth the possible risk. We went with our gut.

I called the sales person that week to explain the situation and that we would not be proceeding with the purchase of the car. I relayed the situation and that we weren’t happy with the finance options. I assured him that the deal was fine, the sales process was fantastic, it was nothing that they had done. The salesperson got slightly annoyed and stated that they would not be able to refund me the $1000, in “ill play a difficult game” tone. I reminded him of the conversation we had with him and his sales manager. He acknowledged and told me to put it all in and email and send it to him for the refund to be completed. Done.

After a week I checked my account. The money had not been refunded. I emailed the sales person to check the progress and asked him to let me  know if any issue arose, to please contact me.

Two days later, there was still no email reply. I called the dealership. The sales person had left for the day, I left a message for him to call me back.

The phone call was not returned after the weekend. I called again late Monday afternoon. I was informed Monday is the salespersons day off. I asked for the sales manager. If was his day off too.

I emailed the sales person after the phone call and wrote that I had not received the refund as yet and would like him contact me as soon as possible.

I still had no reply by this weekend(a week after the previous email), so my partner and I decided to go into the dealership to sort it out. Why weren’t they communicating with me? I was getting worried as I certainly didn’t want to be loosing $1000 at this point in time. Seemed very strange.

We saw the Sales Manager in his office as we walked by and checked into reception. We were attended to by the Corporate Sales Manager. We politely introduced ourselves and asked if we could see the Sales Manager. He went to the Sales Manager and came back to ask us what it was regarding. We explained the situation, lack of contact and thought that there must be an issue and we would like to help rectify it today.

The Corporate Sales Manager had a look of disbelief and slight embarrassment and asked if we had filled out a refund form yet. We said we were not aware there was one and we had not.

He sat us down in the cafe and went and got the paper work. It was all completed in five minutes. The Corporate Sales Manager apologised and asked if there was anything else we required. Not at the moment, we thanked him for his help and told he had been a pleasure to work with.

After thinking about the situation all day, I can’t help but think this all could have been a lot better and a lot less stressful if I had just been communicated with.

If the process was to simply fill out a form, that’s fine, put me through to the person who can help me with that if it is not your area to do so. I am happy to come in to do it if that is the requirement. Just communicate with me.

When the time is right to buy in the next few months I would have happily gone straight back to the dealership to buy again. However after this, never again.

I would think that in any case, it might have occurred to the salesperson that I, the customer, might one day be in the market again. Wouldn’t the salesperson want to make sure their dealership is the first positive thought of a dealership in my mind. To leave on a great note, until next time?

I also won’t be recommending anyone go to that dealership after this experience. I don’t expect to be pandered to after getting out of a deal. I also don’t expect to be totally ignored if they not completed there end of the deal.

A lost profitable sale and minimum 3 years of service work, negative experience relayed in conversation; simply due to a poor attitude leading to poor communication, over $1000.

In the end, good communication is a simple necessity in a customer service process. It can go a lot further than is immediately apparent.

What are your thoughts on the situation? What would have you done differently?

8 LinkedIn Tips to get you Started

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a fantastic resourcing and networking tool that can be of great use to your career.

Many people believe LinkedIn is a job hunt website. Whilst it can be used for that purpose, restricting your use of LinkedIn to job search is like going to a seminar or conference with the sole objective of looking for a job. It’s missing the point and shooting yourself in the foot at the same time.

Here are ten tips that I have learnt through experience and seminars to help improve your LinkedIn experience:

  1. Have a profile picture – This is essential as it humanises your profile. It also makes your profile a lot more attractive and approachable. Make sure the picture contains only you (head and is business appropriate. Ie. Not you at BBQ with a beer.
  2. Don’t be a hermit – The whole purpose of LinkedIn is to connect & share with others of similar interests, industries and professions. There is no point to you being on LinkedIn if you are going to only connect with those you work with. Connect with those in your industry, suppliers, competitors etc.
  3. Join Groups – You will see there is a tab called Groups. This is, in my opinion, LinkedIn’s most beneficial feature. There are thousands of groups about a myriad of topics. Groups about Automotive Parts Sales, Automotive Customer Service there is even a group for those who use the NPS (Net Promoter Score) measurement. Groups are a fantastic way to network and to find out useful information about specialised fields.
  4. Use key words – The heart of the Internet is search. LinkedIn allows Google to crawl its site. This means that via LinkedIn you will appear in Google. LinkedIn also has its own powerful search feature. Search engine ‘bots’ crawl your profile and index the content using recognised words for categories. If you are a Parts Manager, using Parts related words such as Parts Sales, Parts Manager, Service & Parts in your profile with help you being found by someone search for Parts For example in your experience field you could type “As Parts Manager I increased Parts Sales for the Service & Parts division”
  5. Put it out there – Found an interesting article on the internet? Learnt something new that can help others? Have a question you need outside expertise on. Put it on LinkedIn. Insert it as your status, ask it in a group. It’s amazing the responses you can get. Keeping confidentiality in mind, of course.
  6. Recommend others – LinkedIn has a recommendation feature that acts as validation and a reference for you. Recommendations add positive weight and expertise reinforcement to your profile. It tends to be a reciprocal thing. You usually have to recommend someone else, before you, yourself get recommended.
  7. Monitor and maintain – As busy as we all are, there is no point having an online profile of any kind if you are let it grow old or never come back to check any messages. People will connect with you and contact you. Not monitoring your profile will result in missed opportunities like new products that can make our lives easier, connections to employees of other companies that can help us save money, other professionals in your field that have learnt things to make your life easier.
  8. Pay attention to detail – Dot your I’s and cross your t’s. Put your profile in Word and run a spell check over it. Elaborate on your passions, achievements and skills. Tone down on the acronyms. Tailor your profile for someone who has come across you for the first time.

With the Internet soon set to become the world’s prime economic driver it is essential for you to be online professionally. LinkedIn is just the first of many possible tools that can help you.

Get on there and give it a go. Do on to others as you would have them do on to you and it will open another world for you.

What are some of your LinkedIn tips?

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