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  • Buying a Car Like Shopping in the Fashion E-commerce Website, Why not Possible

    01 December 2016
    S.Point, Member Firm (China)

    01 Question

    Soto Sergio maybe has some worries. He engaged in automobile sales company – Infiniti in New York. Auto-sales industry didn’t seem to have exciting changes for a long time. Regarding the auto industry, technology giant companies like Google and Apple are trying to develop driverless cars or more prospective future of automotive products, which is disruptive to the automotive industry. Compared with the product development of car, the car shopping experience is too backward.

    “When selling cars, it seems that no one cares what we are talking about.” Said Sergio Soto – sales consultant in Infiniti. And it is possible that sales consultant cannot understand the customer needs and provide specific answers immediately. Study shows that average consulting time for a consumer to buy a car is as long as 4.5 hours.

    North Highland is an alliance of S.POINT, with more than 60 offices around the world and a wealth of innovative consulting and hands-on experience.

    North Highland's strategists surveyed and analyzed traditional sales processes. In the traditional 4S store, car buyers need to explain their needs to the sales staff again and again. After that, buyers will try different type cars recommended by the sales staff, and then learn the car performance through the promotion booklet. These processes usually take up to half a day, and may end up unsuccessful.

    Let’s look at what the fashion industry is doing. The appearance of e-commerce - Net-a-porter is disruptive to the entire fashion industry. The luxury goods shopping experience is all transferred to on-line experience by this British fashion e-commerce website. The website is like a fashion magazine, displaying merchandise information with a guide and brand story, through the change and multi-angle picture. There is no rambling shipping guide. You can quickly find the match and single product by various tag on the website. The resistance of technology and social network from the fashion industry, especially luxury brands, seems to be diminished, because the younger generation is indeed more interested in such a sales experience.

    “We need to make the change.” Said Jon Finkel – director of Global Infiniti Client Experience and Training.

    How to improve efficiency is fundamental. Technology may be leveraged as a solution tool. North Highland is also thinking from another point of view as the concerns from luxury brand. If the use of technology replaced the elegant and distinguished sales service, will the high-end brand image be blurred?

    02 Insight

    There are a lot of existing problems. North Highland’s strategists surveyed consumers and sales people and found that each step in the sales process can be optimized and improved. Through research and scenarios planning, the strategists divide the existing car buying process into several steps: prospecting, greeting & welcome, consultation, vehicle presentation, demo drive, Delivery and after-sale follow up, etc. The strategists need to find the improvement opportunities in these steps by understanding the potential needs of customers.

    For example, when meeting with customers, sales consultants don’t have a comprehensive understanding of customer’s information – most likely just know each other’s name. In the consulting session, sales staffs don’t have a clear and visualized understanding of inventory, so they may not be able to answer the question regarding the lead-time, etc. Most important thing is, due to the category, trading volume, personnel changeover, etc., sales staffs do not have a comprehensive understanding of each car.

    In a workshop including both the strategists and Infiniti's stakeholders, they vote on these "pain points" in terms of value and complexity and incorporate these insights into the final product design process.

    In addition, the North Highland strategist has also concluded intensive interviews and personnel portraits in the states. Key stakeholders for example, stakeholder from Infiniti, third party solution provider, sales consultants from Infiniti have been involved in the process. At the same time, Infiniti has also been suggested to examine their expectation for ICAR-X, identify business strategy and core functions, determine the theme direction without deviate from overall strategy brand - this is what the other consulting firms easy to overlook during the project operation.

    Based on these fundamental works, North Highland strategists have defined the "mission" of ICAR-X - creating a superior customer experience, that streamlines the car-buying process and experience, and provide the right information at the right time.

    Technology is the solution. Strategists have increased efficiency of automotive sales process by using electronic devices. Infiniti also supported this point of view "The use of new technology can help us connect with a new generation of consumers," said Ismet Yagci, sales manager for Infiniti. "Leverage the digital experience in everyday life for car sales, such as the use of equipment like iPad.”

    Communicating with younger generation consumers is also a driving force for luxury industry to choose e-shopping experience, as well as in the automotive industry. These insights and improvements, in addition to speeding up the sales process, are also more likely to increase consumer loyalty to the brand. Although large commodities like cars do not have high repeat purchase rate like fashion goods, the brand image spread in social networks, will bring business benefits for the brand.

    03 Solution

    The final product “ICAR-X” is a newly-developed online car sales application software that covers everything from customer greeting to store till after sales service. It can quickly record customer information, and understand user needs. More importantly, it can provide the right information at the right time. For example, during the vehicle presentation process, when customer want to know the performance and data of engine, ICAR-X can show the right information immediately – through pictures and videos.

    All the process including car pick up, demo drive, consulting and inquiry, payment and delivery can be achieved on the same platform by this app to improve the car-buying efficiency. The strategist of North Highland designed this app that streamlines the car buying process, thereby not only improving the efficiency but also optimizing the car-buying experience using cutting-edge mobile technology.

    Strategists added detailed functions in each step for the ICAR-X. For example, in the consultation step, in order to speed up the efficiency, ICAR-X added vehicle search, different product features comparison function. In the vehicle presentation step, customer can directly choose whether or not to participate in demo drive in the display page. Different steps are linked smoothly in ICAR-X. Another example is in the purchase step, when the payment process is complete, you can directly appoint the first time after-sales service in the display page. The entire process is interlocking and gives exactly the right information and services consumers need at the right time - and that's what North Highland strategists have been highlighting for potential customer needs.

    After ICAR-X put into use in the States, 98% of the dealers tried to use it, resulting in 8% increase in the Infiniti’s sales experience satisfaction.

    North Highland’s strategists are also working on the localizing for ICAR-X in China. In the complex Chinese market, S.POINT will take over to complete the more important research work. Together with North Highland, both companies defined ICAR-X's position in the Chinese market - an application that can speed up the car-buying process and increase efficiency, and will be presented as a complete system. ICAR-X will improving customer satisfaction, and also make sales staff happy to use.

    Similarly ICAR-X need to be localized. For example, S.POINT strategists found that consumers in the Chinese market may particularly like a certain type (or color) of the car, so the delivery time will be extended. While the application itself does not have database, it is needed to establish a database for China's domestic market. And the data acquisition and verification may also need to spend a lot of time and effort. At the same time strategists also suggested Infiniti to take mobile trends into account, because in the Chinese market, only the existence of a WeChat application has greatly changed people's lives.

    Any market innovation cannot be separated from the use of design thinking. In the Infiniti ICAR-X project, North Highland created the process innovation model by combining business and technology together and using design thinking model, through research, insight and innovation solution. Coupled with emotional relationship with brand, the integration of the three things is able to bring a new experience model. In the near future, we will see a new Chinese version of ICAR-X, a new achievement by the effort of Guide Innovation Advisory Team with design thinking.

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