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Transportation & Mobility

5 Factors Impacting Automotive Customer Lifetime Value in the Near Future

When a company tries to forecast the future of the automotive industry, trends like electrification and autonomous driving tend to dominate the discussion. While these are crucial factors to consider, they’re far from the only thing that can secure a company’s future. Instead of focusing on the value of their own products, businesses need to look at the value their customers offer.

Maximizing the lifetime value of customers is crucial to ensuring long-term success. But what key factors can businesses leverage to improve customer retention and loyalty? And how can they navigate these emerging trends?
 

New thinking is needed in order to maximize customer lifetime value; with the traditional single-transaction model no longer as viable as it once was, companies within the automotive industry need to refocus on CLV and the long term.

Connectivity

In Publicis Sapient’s 2023 European Car Ownership Report, it was found that 50 percent of car owners never interact with their vehicle’s brand beyond the initial purchase of the vehicle itself. Of those that do, only 7 percent interact via an official brand app.

The remaining 93 percent represent customers that OEMs aren’t making an effort to engage with beyond their initial purchase. Any brand that can capitalize on the use of engagement tools like mobile apps has the opportunity to massively increase the lifetime value of those currently inactive customers.

It’s quite simple to expand on this idea and use it as a stepping stone to build a larger strategy for improving customer lifetime value (CLV), by leveraging the connectivity of apps and in-vehicle infotainment systems to improve the in-vehicle experience and therefore enhance customer satisfaction and build brand loyalty.

However, OEMs first need to uncover what aspect of these applications isn’t being utilized effectively—why are so few customers using them? Common causes for low uptake of mobile apps include unoptimized, user-unfriendly design or a lack of marketing leading to low awareness. Alternatively, it might even be that there aren’t any real benefits to using the app in its current form.

This last point—a lack of app utility—is a great springboard for building a connectivity strategy. Improving the utility of an official brand app can increase the number of customers using it to interact with OEMs, the potential for future transactions and improved customer lifetime value.

It’s important to take the time to discover what customers truly find useful, though, or else this tactic may not result in any significant increase in engagement. Features like predictive maintenance prove popular with most audiences: Publicis Sapient found that 34 percent of car owners feel predictive maintenance is the most valuable digital service, a significantly higher percentage than the next most-popular answer (connected car data at 18 percent).

Companies struggling for ideas should try to focus on a singular overarching goal instead of a specific function. For instance, one goal might be offering applications that leverage people’s time as effectively as possible. In doing so, a development team might consider making maintenance more efficient, as this is a time-consuming task. Leading on from that concept, they might develop a vehicle system that automatically books and schedules maintenance at registered dealers or one that can order replacement parts ahead of time to avoid supply chain issues.

Regardless of the service a company offers, the collection of customer data needs to be a consideration. Leveraging connectivity to create generic in-vehicle experiences can go some way toward improving CLV, but any new services must be personalized to be truly effective in meeting customers where they are, and producing customers for life.
 

Personalization

The key to better in-vehicle experiences is to know the customer in detail.

Modern vehicles offer a wealth of analytics that can help companies understand the driving pattern of an individual—and once companies have that pattern, they can start developing services that provide greater value.

Connectivity is a huge part of data-gathering efforts, as having the functionality to connect a mobile device to the vehicle will assist greatly in building unique driver profiles.

Even something as basic as using phone location data to highlight restaurants or shops near the user is a type of personalization, but the more specific customer data a company can gather, the more personalized and useful the services they offer can be. By offering personalized services, it leads to improved customer value, increased retention rates and, therefore, increased customer lifetime value.

While the benefits of personalization are significant for both customers and businesses alike, data gathering is currently a sensitive topic. Publicis Sapient’s 2023 Customer Data Survey uncovered that 44 percent of consumers are unwilling to share their data with any company, so steps must be taken to make customers more comfortable providing personal data. For example:
 

  • 51 percent of consumers want companies to clearly explain how data is being used
  • 53 percent want the opportunity to opt out at any time
  • 46 percent want companies to comply with privacy laws and regulations


It may be that an OEM has already taken these considerations into account, and in the case of privacy laws, they are legally required to in a number of countries. However, security should also be a major concern for any business seeking to improve CLV through personalization. Although increased connectivity allows for better, more personalized services, it also increases the need to protect the data gathered.
 

Cybersecurity

Modern vehicles are increasingly reliant on software for everything from basic dashboard displays to advanced autonomous driving systems. A greater focus on digital tools creates a greater quantity of important data in a vehicle’s system, which in turn creates a need for more effective cybersecurity.

The advancement of vehicle technology creates something of a loop: to stay competitive, OEMs must implement more digital tools within their vehicles. Adding new features and functions comes with increased security risks for personal data sharing. Even if a company isn’t explicitly focusing on personalization or improved connectivity, providing comprehensive data protection measures should be a priority. Additionally, it’s a significant competitive differentiator when going to market.

Cybersecurity can seem like it’s simply another factor to account for while working on projects that more directly affect CLV (such as personalization and connectivity projects). However, data protection and cybersecurity can go a long way toward improving and maintaining customer trust in a company. By demonstrating a strong commitment to privacy and security, automotive companies can foster long-term customer relationships and maximize CLV.

Health and well-being

Prioritizing customers' mental health and well-being is a great tactic for improving CLV, as—much like implementing measures to improve privacy and security—it demonstrates that a company cares about their customers beyond the initial transaction. It’s also a highly topical factor to feature in your strategies, as mental health in particular is a subject that’s gaining increasing attention in multiple industries.

Be aware that there may not be a “standard practice” to follow for transport and automotive companies implementing features to improve customer well-being; this niche is fairly uncharted territory as far as in-vehicle functionality goes. However, the lack of investment from most other OEMs presents an attractive opportunity for an innovative company to set itself apart.

As with other CLV optimization strategies, the more a company knows about the individual drivers, the more value the features can offer. In the case of health and well-being features, personal customer data could offer the ability to create a personalized environment inside the vehicle. This might include adjustable ambient lighting, noise reduction technology, or wellness-focused in-vehicle services.

OEMs unsure about focusing their efforts entirely on improving mental health might find that focusing on physical well-being (or at least health and safety features) is a more concrete and actionable plan. For example, OEMs can implement features in a vehicle that can recognize drivers in distress, such as heartbeat sensors, which then alert emergency services to help resolve the situation or warn other drivers of the incident to prevent further road accidents.
 

The circular economy

While the concepts listed above are reasonably unconventional, they still rely on in-vehicle services and traditional single transactions to add value. To truly shift their focus to servicing customer relationships and providing long-lasting value instead of individual transactions, OEMs need to look at maximizing the vehicle usage period. Joining the circular economy is their best way of achieving this.

The circular economy refers to the sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling of existing materials and products (in this case, vehicles) for as long as possible. Some OEMs may think of this idea as costly—if they reduce their focus on individual transactions, isn’t a loss of income inevitable? This isn’t necessarily true; by diversifying their offerings into in-vehicle services and subscriptions, OEMs can maintain their revenue and drive growth by refocusing on long-term customer value.

One potential subscription to offer is a city-wide mobility service. As an alternative to a singular purchase, companies might allow the option to pick up specific vehicles as necessary. Vehicle sharing works especially well in urban center settings, where users have a wide variety of vehicles and locations to pick up from.

On top of the value these services offer, joining the circular economy can improve customer loyalty by appealing to customer preferences. The circular economy particularly advocates sustainability, and consumers right now are more conscious of their environmental impact and resource consumption than ever.

Note that joining the circular economy will require cooperation with other industries. Offering vehicle recycling programs or utilizing remanufactured components are also ways to embrace collaborative consumption, appeal to eco-conscious customers, and improve CLV. However, they may require the use of resources not readily available to the OEM at this time.

Automakers need new ways of thinking to drive customer lifetime value in the future

In many other industries, consumers no longer see personalized experiences and digital services as additional benefits but as necessities—such behavioral changes increasingly impact the automotive industry as well. From a volume perspective, new car sales are stagnating, and customers want more digital convenience and flexibility. These changes require a reinvention of how OEMs perceive value in their customers and their services.

These five factors are just a few ways a business can maximize customer lifetime value. However, the key takeaway is that new thinking is needed in order to maximize customer lifetime value; with the traditional single-transaction model no longer as viable as it once was, companies within the automotive industry need to refocus on CLV and the long term.

Delivering value at speed, and doing so without compromising on any promises made to customers, is vital for success. Building on those successes with data-based insights is also crucial if ideas are to deliver value for the customer and the business in the future.

Industry players must stay attuned to emerging trends that may not yet be in the spotlight if they are to stay competitive into 2024 and beyond.

Nelson Pereira
Nelson Pereira
Group Vice President and Managing Partner, Publicis Sapient
Markus Zahn
Markus Zahn
Associate Managing Director, Management Consulting

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