Don’t settle for the best customer experience in your industry, deliver the best one—period. Carmax

Jim Lyski Oct 2017

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In an environment of rapidly changing customer expectations, if your team isn’t testing and learning daily to improve the customer experience, then you’re likely already behind. Change is no longer happening over months or even years—it’s happening now. Customers expect to be “wowed” from the moment they start shopping on their mobile device to when they step foot in your stores.

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The auto industry, like most other verticals, has seen a drastic change in shopper behavior. Ten years ago, the average used-car buyer visited five to seven dealerships before selecting a car. Now, with online research, the average buyer doesn’t even make it to two. While nine out of 10 CarMax customers start their experience online, almost all of them finish in store.

As an omnichannel retailer, we are focused on interacting with customers whenever and however they want to shop.

Held to new standards

People don’t evaluate their experiences by vertical anymore. It used to be, “I’ll compare CarMax against all other used car dealers,” or “I’ll compare Nordstrom against all other clothing retailers.” Now customers are taking the best experiences from one industry and demanding a similar or better experience in others.

At CarMax, this means we’re not competing against the best experience consumers have ever had buying a car, we’re competing against the best experience they’ve ever had—period. A customer can order a very personalized cup of coffee every morning. Why can’t she have an experience that’s customized for her when she buys a car?

That means everything must be personalized, from the mobile marketing messages to the in-store experience. For us, that requires anticipating customer needs. Is her priority researching the best car for her needs? Is it speed or convenience? Is financing the first step in her car buying process?

Use search to identify needs

Search and user data are great identifiers to discover unique needs. Based on their behavior on CarMax.com, we can use anonymized visitor-level data to determine whether a customer will be more suited for standard messaging related to CarMax’s customer offers, or messaging related to financing. Then we can personalize accordingly.

Connect the online and in-store experience

Customers expect a seamless shopping experience, and we see the mobile device as the bridge between the digital and physical. Synchronized browsing will be an important part of the CarMax shopping experience of the future.

Let’s say a customer is coming into the store to check out a Toyota Camry, but we also know that she did a lot of searching for other Japanese sedans. With that in mind, the Toyota Camry would be ready at her appointment, but the Nissan Altima and a Honda Accord would also be available and ready for test drives. By knowing more about the customer and her pre-purchase research, we believe it’s possible to develop a better informed and seamless car buying experience.

Another way synchronized browsing could come to life is through pairing mobile devices with iBeacon solutions on our lots. If a customer has her mobile device in hand as she’s walking and browsing, it can become her guide to inventory as mobile alerts pop up with guidance.

Test for better results

Providing stellar experiences requires testing and constant iteration.

We conduct experiments incessantly, with discovery and delivery going on concurrently. Having a constant cadence of little discoveries is not only a faster way to deliver new experiences to the consumer, but it’s actually a much lower-risk way to deliver innovation to market.

A few years ago, we realized that we weren’t meeting rising customer expectations for car photos. Google Analytics data showed that fewer than half of the photos for individual cars were being viewed. Our employees often took many photographs of the vehicle, but not necessarily the photographs customers cared most about. To solve this issue, we surveyed customers and began tagging photo types to learn more, then tested and refined a new photo-capture process to improve the images for a consistent experience.

Analytics also help us see which photos customers clicked, in what order, and for how long of a duration. This allows us to tell which pictures are most engaging for the consumer. For example, when people are buying an SUV, they want to look at a photo of the trunk of the vehicle so they can see how much storage space there is. Now we can make sure that SUV listings have clear photos of the storage areas.

As a result of our improvements to our photo capture and display process, 20% more customers now look at a dozen or more photos in a series, making them better informed and more likely to purchase.

Empower your teams

Whatever vertical you’re in, the more you can anticipate customers’ needs every step of the way, the happier they’ll be. To achieve this, it’s critical to empower your teams to analyze and learn as well as test and fail.

At the core of each of our product teams is a product manager, a lead UX designer, a business analyst/data scientist, and a lead developer. We never tell these teams how to solve a particular problem—just what to solve, providing them KPIs to work toward and empowering them to solve for customer needs. The teams develop a hypothesis, run an experiment, analyze the results, and identify if their solution will improve the customer experience while delivering business results. They are constantly iterating as they work toward their goal.

We’re willing to try almost anything. If it improves the experience, we’ll implement it, and if it doesn’t improve it, then we move on to the next experiment.

Who cares if you tried and failed? As long as you’ve learned something, then you’re always getting smarter about your customers and how to meet their needs.

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Re-Post, Relevant, Inspiring, Smart CX use of Technology

Audi City

Audi Just Reinvented the Dealership Experience

If there were ever a retail model ripe for disruption, it’s the humble car dealer. And Audi thinks it has the answer with Audi City.

The goal is to bring some of the comfort, convenience and customization you’d get from an online car configurator, but with the added convenience of an informative, low-pressure, carbon-based sales rep and a range of new technologies to bring your ride to life – virtually – before you sign on the dotted line.

Think of it as the Apple Store for Audis; smaller, lighter, more scalable, and infinitely more interactive. And Audi is betting big on the concept, with plans to erect 20 more stores worldwide in the next three years.

The first Audi City opened its doors earlier today in London, right down the way from Piccadilly Circus and a stone’s throw from the Summer Olympics campus. Just like BMW’s new i store in the heart of the United Kingdom, the timing isn’t entirely coincidental. And neither is Audi’s focus beyond traditional products and services.

Similar to Ford and BMW’s recent pronouncements, Audi is looking to evolve its business model beyond the car and into the world of “mobility provider.” The Audi Stores are a way to begin laying out that infrastructure as it shifts its focus.

Unlike traditional dealerships that take up thousands of square feet and acres of land, Audi City is more akin to the high-end retailer you’d find on Main Street or an open-air mall.

There may be a full-size vehicle parked inside, but the real action happens on the capacitive touchscreens mounted ahead of the massive high-res displays. Shoppers can select a vehicle and trim level, and go through tens of millions of possible permutations – from color to interior stitching – all rendered in real time and shown at a 1:1 scale.

“With Audi City,” says Peter Schwarzenbauer, board member for Audi Marketing and Sales, “we are creating a one-stop-shop for experiencing our brand.”

But while the small footprint lends itself well to urban environments, the European market is markedly different from what American consumers expect from a dealer.

The idea of walking into a dealership and driving out with a new car the same day is foreign to buyers outside the United States. Most European consumers spec their vehicles in advance, choosing from a lengthy list of dealer options before delivery weeks or months later. If you’ve ever been bowled over by the granular level of detail on an Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Volkswagen options list, that’s why. The model works in Europe but has never caught on in the States, causing volume sellers like VW to significantly pare down and simplify their spec sheets.

 So what about test drives? According to the automaker, “every Audi City is also connected to an Audi dealership,” so evaluation vehicles should be close by and service would still be handled through traditional dealers.

Audi City outlets will also form the backbone of the automaker’s alternative powertrain retailers, with information and education about its etron line of electric vehicles. The program will encompass both the R8 etron supercar, due out late next year or in early 2014, as well as Audi’s plans to offer a plug-in hybrid alongside its existing diesel and gas-electric models.

More lofty is Audi’s vision of these new retailers as next-generation community centers, playing host to round-table discussions and art exhibits, and rented out after-hours to community groups and local bohemians. Not a bad way to recoup the costs of high-end real-estate in dense and expensive urban areas.

Photos: Audi AG

J.D. Power Automotive Brand Websites Drive Trials

NEW YORK: New car shoppers are significantly more likely to test drive a vehicle if they have had a good experience on an automaker’s website, new research has found.

The 2013 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study, from J.D. Power, the market researcher, measured the usefulness of automotive manufacturer websites for shoppers, based on information and content, navigation, appearance and speed.

It found that, among those car shoppers who said they were ‘delighted’ with a website, 72% said they were more likely to test drive a vehicle as a result. But just 25% of the shoppers left ‘disappointed’ with a website said the same.

“Finding the right balance of content, ease of navigation and site speed is what ultimately drives new-vehicle shopper satisfaction with the website,” said Arianne Walker, senior director of media & marketing solutions at J.D. Power.

“While there are some common elements across all websites, each site should have a unique look and feel and align with the brand’s image.”

A website that works well across all platforms is another important factor, as consumers were found to be using a variety of devices to look at sites. A large majority (92%) of new-vehicle shoppers who own a tablet, or own both a tablet and a smartphone, expect to have the same content available on a desktop website on all devices.

“The industry has generally chosen to maintain two sites, rather than a third one for tablet shoppers, reducing the burden of maintaining and keeping information updated and consistent across three separate sites,” Walker added.
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Elsewhere in the J.D. Power report, Daimler’s Smart brand website was the online property ranked highest in overall satisfaction, with sites from Jeep, Lincoln and Acura rounding out the top four.

Data sourced from J.D. Power and Associates; additional content by Warc staff, 31 January 2013

Automotive brand websites drive trials

NEW YORK: New car shoppers are significantly more likely to test drive a vehicle if they have had a good experience on an automaker’s website, new research has found.

The 2013 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study, from J.D. Power, the market researcher, measured the usefulness of automotive manufacturer websites for shoppers, based on information and content, navigation, appearance and speed.

It found that, among those car shoppers who said they were ‘delighted’ with a website, 72% said they were more likely to test drive a vehicle as a result. But just 25% of the shoppers left ‘disappointed’ with a website said the same.

“Finding the right balance of content, ease of navigation and site speed is what ultimately drives new-vehicle shopper satisfaction with the website,” said Arianne Walker, senior director of media & marketing solutions at J.D. Power.

“While there are some common elements across all websites, each site should have a unique look and feel and align with the brand’s image.”

A website that works well across all platforms is another important factor, as consumers were found to be using a variety of devices to look at sites. A large majority (92%) of new-vehicle shoppers who own a tablet, or own both a tablet and a smartphone, expect to have the same content available on a desktop website on all devices.

“The industry has generally chosen to maintain two sites, rather than a third one for tablet shoppers, reducing the burden of maintaining and keeping information updated and consistent across three separate sites,” Walker added.
8201f3760a0d02b701fce2f2482239c0
Elsewhere in the J.D. Power report, Daimler’s Smart brand website was the online property ranked highest in overall satisfaction, with sites from Jeep, Lincoln and Acura rounding out the top four.

Data sourced from J.D. Power and Associates; additional content by Warc staff, 31 January 2013

Scion Surface Auto Show Engagement. Awesome!

Check out the Vimeo Demo. Microsoft Table Computing Demo. AKA Iron Man, slide, view and engage!

In the UK, Volvo crowdso…

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Volvo crowdsources content via interactive outdoor ads

Wed, 5 Sep 2012 | By Rosie Baker

Volvo is launching an interactive digital outdoor campaign that invites consumers to design a personalised version of its V40 car.

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Consumers can choose from a range of colours, alloys, interior using a digital outdoor screen. They will then be shown an interpretation of their personality based on the design choices they made.

Content created by users will then be featured on digital outdoor screens at train stations around the UK.

The outdoor campaign, created by EHS4D and Grand Visual, uses interactive digital outdoor screens placed at sites such as bus stops where there is a long dwell time.

Drivers are also offered the opportunity to win a test drive in return for their email information.

Kylee Rush head of brand engagement at Volvo Car UK, says: “Volvo’s Scandinavian origins provide a unique opportunity to explore the simplicity in design and to create vehicles that are designed around people – and this campaign is a brilliantly engaging example of how we’re bringing that to life.

“It allows people to easily interact with the All-New Volvo V40, and personalise the car to their own taste. It clearly communicates the capacity for consumers to individualise and hone their Volvo V40 to make it their own.”

The campaign is in line with Volvo’s “Designed around You” global marketing strategy that aims to build on the brand Scandinavian heritage by designing vehicles around people and personalities.