With today's fast-paced lifestyle in mind, the automotive industry's need for speed now encompasses both process and product, as constant technological advancement drives consumer demand. But, to consistently meet and exceed customer expectations, automakers must embrace continuous delivery to maintain the level of service and selection necessary to sustain loyalty and retain clients.
Mark Warren, marketing director, Europe for Perforce Software, defines continuous delivery as the process by which manufacturers are able to automate and improve the development process throughout the product lifecycle to achieve production as quickly and reliably as possible. Companies now aim to accelerate the time-to-market process by working to remain competitive in today's economically unstable environment. Software allows makers to automate and carry out processes without the risk of manual error, enabling brands to test and integrate the latest technologies with speed and insight.
Yet, while each brand seeks to quickly and frequently bring service improvements to market, implementation can often be tricky to roll out across the enterprise. Thus, to successfully enable continuous delivery, automotive companies have begun to align their entire organizations around one single focus: the customer experience.
Dan Smith, vice president, product at Outsell notes that, 10 years ago, the average automotive shopper still explored four or more dealerships, collecting information directly from salespeople to influence their decisions. However, as product data began to move online, so did customers, for they discovered they no longer needed to visit the brand's physical location to explore their purchase options. From online research and consumer reviews, to pricing information and video demonstrations, shoppers can access everything they need to know about every vehicle on the lot, with most knowing precisely what they want before they ever arrive at the dealership.
With so many tools at the consumers' fingertips, automakers can no longer depend upon brand loyalty to outshine the latest features and technologies another brand may have to offer. Thus, automotive companies must understand what their customers are looking for and deliver these options in order to retain loyalty and business. Because today's shoppers are increasingly tech-savvy and impatient, automakers are also tasked with the added burden of integrating these features with speed and agility.
Customer experience must also extend beyond the initial "wow" and keep interest alive throughout the entire buyer journey. Just as product data exists ad infinitum, so does customer feedback and behavioral insights. Continuous delivery may primarily focus upon the manufacturing process, but tapping into said consumer data post-purchase allows automotive dealers to perpetuate the relationship by proactively alerting customers to the need for an oil change, or targeting them with relevant content about financing and upgrade options as their current vehicle begins to age. By doing so, automotive companies work to sustain the trust and loyalty necessary to continue the customer relationship and retain business in today's lagging economy.
Overall, continuous delivery introduces three major improvements to the automotive industry that, in turn, allow automakers and car dealers to bring value to the consumer while gaining the competitive advantage:
- Time-to-market: By automating various processes throughout the production cycle, companies can quickly test and integrate in-demand technologies, thereby introducing such features to the general public faster than manual processes would allow.
- Risk reduction: Automation also reduces the risk for manual error, as the appropriate software system enables manufacturers to carry out tasks and maintain compliance standards without jeopardizing the integrity of the operation itself.
- Employee engagement: Because the entire enterprise must buy into continuous delivery, every department must comprehend the overall business objectives and their particular responsibility to the customer, ultimately breaking down silos to sustain communication.
By introducing technological innovations with speed and diligence, automotive companies can then quickly gather customer feedback so they may apply this insight to the design process in an effort to deliver increased value in the shortest time span possible. Customer centricity remains at the heart of continuous delivery, and by generating this two-way dialogue, automakers can ensure that they integrate the features consumers want most, allowing the business to become the primary focus, not the technology driving these industry-wide changes.
Audi Drives Continuous Delivery via Digital Engagement
Known as one of the leading luxury automotive brands in the world, Audi stands at the forefront of innovation by incorporating continuous delivery and digital technologies into its revolutionary, competitive customer strategy. Because Audi recognizes that the company's digital experience offers an opportunity to differentiate the brand, the automaker introduced an interactive, virtual showroom that allows consumers to engage and influence the manufacturing process. Audi City, as its called, enables consumers to work with a high-resolution digital interface on very large screens in the showroom. Through this digital initiative, Audi empowers its customers to build the car of their dreams on a larger than life scale directly within the dealership itself.
Jeff Titus, general manager of digital technology solutions and strategies at Audi USA, understands that, as technology becomes an integral element within the daily lives of consumers across the globe, the automotive industry must also adapt, putting these revolutionary advances directly in the consumers' hands in order to satisfy, acquire, and retain clients at all stages of the buying cycle. By implementing the technology necessary to meet the demand and deliver superior service, Audi also reaps the benefits of customer insight, as each interaction allows executive to process feedback and determine which features receive the greatest response.
"It comes down to shaping the requirements that you have for your business that can be actionable," Titus said at the Adobe Summit in March.. "Continuous delivery is a matter of putting something into place that everyone can get involved in. It's a revolution and we're at the forefront of that revolution. At Audi, we practice it on a daily basis. If your system's set up so you have a series of automated frameworks, and you're ready for those changes-if you have that capability, you can make that reactive change."
From Google Maps navigation to plug-in hybrids, Audi now offers an array of advanced features that entice prospects and satisfy advocates. Millennials, for instance, are of particular interest as automotive companies throughout the industry look for fresh, innovative ways to win over the demographic famous for its waning interest in car ownership. Understanding this generation's tech-savvy, environmentally conscious mindset enables automakers to adopt features and strategies necessary to attract the future car buyers of tomorrow. By tapping into where the publics' interests lie, automakers can begin to revive the industry and rebuild the stability once handicapped by the economic recession.