Can digital drive consumer loyalty in the automotive market?

Posted on 31 Jan 2014 by The Manufacturer

Deborah Dermouk from Paragon UK, the automotive marketing support experts, explains why manufacturers need to be aware of the simpler advancements that could generate customer engagement, brand loyalty and in turn increased sales.

Deborah Dermouk, Paragon UK

Technology has been a key driver of change within the automotive industry, arguably leading to some of the biggest innovations since the launch of the first motorcar. Not only are cars able to self-park but they also have inter-car iPod connectivity, creating a driver experience that is tailored to each individual through the dashboard.

With brands including Apple and Google working with car manufacturers, it begs the question where will these relationships lead and what more can be done to make driving all the more engaging and exciting. For many the next big thing has to focus on another technological advancement, no longer are people happy with A to B, unless of course it passes beyond QR, AR and into the realms of ‘the next big thing’.

Buying the experience

People no longer want to buy a car, they want to buy an experience. It’s not only about colour, interior or wheel size, it’s also about the gadgets. Customers want to know what added extras are available and how this will give them access to all of the latest technology that in turn will deliver a driver experience like no other.

All of these digital innovations are impressive to look at and even to trial but when it comes down to it what value are they actually adding to the customer experience? Pushing the boundaries is exciting but if we take a step back there is a bigger picture and it starts and ends with the customer –we cannot forget that.

Jules Tilstone, Citroën’s marketing director, recently commented that ‘the key challenge is to bring something useful to the market’ and reinforced this by saying ‘We’ve always been about technology that people will use because there is a need, rather than producing technology just because we can’. I agree with this.

There is rarely a week goes by when another innovation or updated dashboard gadget isn’t hitting the market but what we really need to think about is what the customer wants and what they need.

In some instances brands have skipped a stage and are focusing heavily on the dashboard without thinking about the pre and post-sale interaction that they could and should have with the customer. While technology turns heads, conversation creates relationship and loyalty.

Going interactive

Interactive print is a hugely underestimated marketing tool that goes beyond the QR code and is more than the pretty pictures that can be delivered by AR. Engaging the consumer and interacting with them, offering something new and rewarding their loyalty keeps them interested.

With interactive print you can take the customer on a journey that allows them to access content which can be regularly updated, in turn encouraging them to visit time and time again. It is no secret that mobile technology is accessible and an increasing part of the consumer lifestyle – so it makes sense for them to use it.

With the principles of interactive print working in a similar way to QR codes, the consumer simply scans a small image that they can find on a key ring, marketing brochure or advertising campaign which then takes them to a web suite of content which can include video, imagery, promotions and copy.

The beauty of interactive print is that the opportunities are endless.  Not only could interactive print support with the launch of a new innovation, it can be used to make difficult everyday situations simple, such as finding out why a light has come on or what a noise could mean. These little things support the customer and make them feel valued – it shows them that the manufacturer cares about them beyond the sale.

Marketing intelligently

With reported figures showing positive sales over the past year within the sector, competition is fierce and announcements of new models are not uncommon with brands including Citroen proposing 4 new products in 2014. As a result the need for clever, attractive and engaging marketing is becoming increasingly necessary.

Customers are making more informed choices based on their access to information. In order for brands to stay front of mind this needs to go beyond the next big thing – they need to consider the everyday customer. Interactive print can take a good marketing campaign and make it truly great, bringing it to life and driving engagement.

Of course the real winners this year will be those brands that can do the sexy stuff without forgetting the things that are simple and add value to the customer experience. That way they will be communicating with the widest possible target market; encouraging new customers, interest and greater brand loyalty. There is no doubt that this year will be littered with new gadgets and gizmos but the brands that get their marketing right and maintain a genuine customer focus that goes beyond the dashboard will be those that report the biggest profits.