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Digital Marketing Assessment for Automotive

The digital marketing operating system assessment measures an automaker’s digital maturity and develops a prioritized roadmap to transform customer engagement.

Every element of the automotive business model is undergoing transformation. Consumers’ evolving preferences are driving next level customer experience, convenience in customer interaction, new ownership models and e-mobility. More than ever, to be distinctive, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) must deepen their customer relationships. Brands must move from merely functional (“my car gets me from A to B”) to indispensable (“my car is an extension of me”) in the eyes of their customers. According to our consumer research, The Digital Life Index, 65 percent of people view their vehicle in a utilitarian way – as a way to get where they need to go or convenient for their family’s needs. Forty-five percent of people view their vehicle as personally fulfilling – as a reward for their success, to enable their hobbies or passions, or express who they are.

Image of family in car

“To deepen customer relationships, we created an assessment to look at how OEMs have created always-on experiences, how they’re using data to personalize and improve those customer experiences, the level of digital tools they are using in their marketing efforts and how they are engaging in an agile mindset to meet consumers’ changing needs,” says Alyssa Altman, transportation and mobility lead for North America.

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Quote: “The assessment provides clients with the levers to know what to work on first to build the right path to digital maturity.”
Graphic of Timing and Output

A digital marketing operating system is often the first step to providing a seamless, personalized and efficient customer experience across the three tiers of automotive sales and marketing: the OEM, national sales companies and dealers. “We often see disconnected and siloed digital activities. This means that the customer journey is also disconnected, which impacts the sales funnel. By connecting these activities, OEMs can ensure higher conversion and customer satisfaction,” says Matthias von Alten, global management consulting lead for the automotive industry at Publicis Sapient.

This assessment looks at four core building blocks consisting of nine dimensions that are ranked on a scale from one (lowest maturity) to four (highest maturity). The first two – always-on connected experiences and data-driven funnels – often have the biggest effect and strategic importance. Always-on connected experiences are defined by an ongoing, non-campaign approach where experiences are created at scale through systemic optimization. Data-driven funnels refer to a complete view of the customer--where they are in the buyer journey and with activities and decisions that could be made to move them further down the sales funnel. Dynamic creative and orchestration (the right messages at the right time on the right channel) and a scalable operating model enable OEMs to scale impact and capabilities across brands and markets. The goal for OEMs is not to achieve a four in all areas but rather to prioritize the efforts needed to compete or make the desired pivot.  

Building blocks of a digital marketing operating system to transform customer engagement

Graphic: Always-On Connected Experiences. Date-Driven Funnels. Dynamic Creative & Orchestration. Scalable Operating Model

Always-On Connected Experiences

A seamless omni-channel experience delivers a cohesive and consistent customer experience regardless of where consumers engage.

  • Lowest maturity (1, 2): Limited focus and scale in terms of digital customer experience, including sales which remain largely owned by the dealer.
  • Highest maturity (3, 4): Customer information and preferences are integrated and seamless across physical and digital channels. Extensive online capabilities and services are underpinned by an end-to-end platform.

For example, Honda’s Shop Simple Program provides customers with a one-stop shop experience online to purchase a Honda or Acura. Customers are able to search for a specific vehicle, locate it in a dealer's inventory, view costs and apply for financing. If the process results in a sale, the Honda dealer in many cases provides a home delivery option. Honda has integrated its customer-relationship management platform and databases with their network of dealers to enable communication and transparency throughout the sales and after-sales process.

Icon for Data Driven Funnels

Data-Driven Funnels

Data intelligence drives a complete view of the customer through connected data.

  • Lowest maturity (1, 2): No comprehensive view of the customer and targeting is based on broad-stroke segmentation.
  • Highest maturity (3, 4): A customer data platform provides the ability to build full customer profiles consisting of first, second and third-party data. Segmentation and targeting is based on individual customer profiles and is predictive and automated.

Analytics and measurement allow the OEM to develop insights to personalize, improve marketing return on investment (ROI) and make data-driven decisions.

  • Lowest maturity (1, 2): Measurement and metrics are limited, outdated, inconsistent and lack insight.
  • Highest maturity (3, 4): Algorithms and a decision engine provide real-time measurement, visibility and recommendations for action including timing, messaging and channels. A marketing command center drives orchestration and attribution modeling is done on a micro and macro level.

For example, Nissan’s PACE digital showroom consolidates data assets from 190 markets into a single platform. Using AI and machine learning, PACE analyzes global visitor metrics to identify both positive and negative performance anomalies specific to each market. PACE also employs the latest algorithmic technology to help the automaker prioritize efforts expected to have the greatest customer impact, as well as the highest ROI.

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Dynamic Creative and Orchestration

Engagement activation allows OEMs to efficiently activate the right messages and content across channels.

  • Lowest maturity (1, 2): Outbound campaigns feature little to no personalization or segmentation.
  • Highest maturity (3, 4): Marketing interaction is predictive, based on realtime insights and automated across channels.

Content and creative assets are created and delivered in a personalized, agile way as consumer needs change.

  • Lowest maturity (1, 2): Content and assets lack clear creation and distribution practices, taxonomy and design systems.
  • Highest maturity (3, 4): Structure is in place to produce, manage and publish content and assets within a standardized taxonomy. Delivery is automated and dynamic. Design standards are consistent across all channels and support efficiency and reuse.

For example, Ford is moving towards a more agile, creative and efficient marketing organization by creating more than 100 new in-house global marketing positions that are tied to brand design, digital labs, customer experience and partnerships. The company is using emerging tools and technologies to drive customer-centricity, personalize marketing communications and bolster even greater use of digital platforms.

Icon of Scalable Operating Model

Scalable Operating Model

The right talent and culture will help OEMs realize digital marketing transformation and outcomes.

  • Lowest maturity (1, 2): Lack of modern marketing talent, minimal career development opportunities and performance measurement is not aligned to marketing goals.
  • Highest maturity (3, 4): Best performers are hired, trained and optimally integrated. Talent and skills are positioned ahead of market demands.

A robust governance and partnership model allows OEMs to establish integrated and value-oriented program governance and flexible funding for priority and scope adjustments.

  • Lowest maturity (1, 2): Siloed marketing operations, traditional annual budgeting and missed opportunities with partnerships.
  • Highest maturity (3, 4): Real-time, global communication and collaboration, flexible funding and meaningful strategic partnerships.

An agile operating model consists of self-directed, empowered teams with a test-and-learn mentality and iterative delivery.

  • Lowest maturity (1, 2): Waterfall ways of working, reactive marketing tactics, little testing and marketing goals are not aligned with business objectives.
  • Highest maturity (3, 4): Iterative delivery, rapid decision-making sits within teams, testing is central for all campaigns and global marketing strategy and goals are tied to business objectives.

Technology and tools enable efficient collaboration, access to data and insights, time to market, automation and employee culture and experience.

  • Lowest maturity (1, 2): Legacy system landscape, fragmented data sources and siloes between HQ, regions, markets, dealers and consumers.
  • Highest maturity (3, 4): Central data lake, connected marketing and sales systems, advanced dashboard solutions that drive decisions and are sales funnel-oriented.

For example, GM’s overarching goal is to “optimize everything”. The company uses data and insights to fuel cultural transformation, generate new revenue streams and improve customer experience. Data is democratized so that all employees have access to data and are encouraged to use it to answer questions and make decisions. Customer, corporate and business data are managed as a single strategic asset to increase transparency, break down siloes and help GM successfully digitally transform.

“In many cases, it is less about the comparison to competitors and more about the overall assessment of their digital maturity leading to the prioritization of future investments in digital”, says Altman. Through this strategic process, OEMs can work towards the level of maturity they aspire to across key digital marketing functions and ensure the focus is on how to create the best experience to achieve optimal results for the company.

Quote: "Digitization is not static, it evolves alongside new technologies and changing customer needs. We recommend this type of assessment quarterly to measure progress and consider new trends and solutions”

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