August 8, 2018

Read time: 5min

Disruptors: the automotive challenge

Market Logic Team

In our ‘Disruptors’ webinar series, we look at industries undergoing major changes, inviting experts to explain key trends and what insights and intelligence professionals can do to tackle them. Here, we concentrate on the automotive industry. From self-driving technology, electric cars, and huge emerging markets to car sharing and strict regulations, the automotive world is facing never-before-seen challenges. The webinar on disruption in the automotive sector brought together industry experts Dr. Kai Geertsema (Director, Automotive Research, Ipsos), Eric Totaro (Senior Automotive Analyst, Euromonitor), and Martin Rückert (Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer, Market Logic). Elizabeth P. Morgan, Cofounder and SVP Marketing at Market Logic, moderated the session. Kai kicked things off with a photo of simpler times: New York City in 1903. Lines of horse-drawn carriages filled the street. The next photo, taken on another New York street in 1913, showed a radical difference—just 10 years later, the carriages were replaced by cars. Sometimes, great change happens extremely fast.

Three key trends in the automotive industry

Kai presented three key trends, starting with the electrification of automobiles. The first trend consumers are hoping for, are more environmentally friendly cars that are cheaper to run and chargeable at home. However, fear of hidden costs and a lack of predictability in terms of range and battery life are widespread. Consideration of 100% electric vehicles is still fairly low, globally, though Brazil and China are leading in terms of acceptance. The second trend is the rise of shared mobility through car sharing. Consumers like the idea of no ownership and maintenance costs. But these benefits sometimes end up as barriers: for example, when drivers worry that they don’t know who else has been in the car, or for how long. The third trend, autonomous vehicles, is one of great interest, especially among young urban customers. But it’s not just generational—there are apparent cultural gaps: once again, Chinese and Brazilian customers are the most interested in using autonomous cars, while French, British and German customers still prefer to drive.

Internet-enabled cars

Eric Notaro talked about cars as a mobile unit of consumption, leading with some statistics. According to a 2017 study, US consumers spend over $212 billion annually while on the road.  Surprisingly, he also reported that in 2017, more cars than new phones were added to US mobile networks, so “Internet-enabled cars are already here en masse.” A connected car has an internet connection that’s enabled to purchase products or services via voice or touch. In-car commerce began in 1996 when GM launched Onstar. It’s evolved constantly over the years: in 2014, Apple launched CarPlay, and in 2016, Alibaba and SAIC launched the world’s first internet car, the Roewe RX5, which allows customers to make purchases directly from the dashboard. Last year, Ford became the first major automaker to integrate Amazon directly into their vehicles. Today, consumers in the US, Western Europe and China consider smartphone connectivity in new cars a “must have.” In fact, Alexa is now in 8 of the 12 biggest automaker’s offerings.

In-car commerce

In-car commerce big benefits for merchants: a first-mover advantage, considerable amounts of data about consumer behaviour, and inexpensive development, as software for car infotainment systems, is cheap and easy to create. That being said, it’s too early to conclude that consumers will embrace buying products and services through their vehicles at sustained rates into the future. Eric offered some predictions about the future of in-car commerce. He thinks that Amazon’s Alexa is going to continue to expand into car-based commerce and that another big player may soon emerge (Google, anyone?). One thing is clear: the more autonomous cars get, the more mainstream in-car commerce can become.

The role of insight managers

In the face of so much disruption, how can intelligence professionals guide their stakeholders? Martin Rückert said that AI technology is essential for fast speed to insight. Cognitive dashboards come to the rescue to bring all sources onto one platform and cut out the white noise. As a result, insights managers can self-serve relevant news. Through blending structured and unstructured data, patterns emerge which augment the skills of researchers and marketers. Elizabeth then shared a live software demo to show how cognitive intelligence can answer complex questions by forming previously unnoticed connections. The audience had lots of questions for the panellists, starting with “How is disruption changing the role of insight managers in the automotive industry today?” According to Kai, it’s making the job more challenging: there’s an extremely high expectation from stakeholders on the manufacturing side to provide quick but high-quality insights. Since things are changing so fast, you need to keep a constant eye on the market. Eric agreed. He said, “The job is tougher than it’s ever been. The trick is to balance having a targeted eye on the customer with also having an open mind.”

A realistic perspective

A second question asked what advice the panellists would give to an insights manager to stay on top of disruption. Both Kai and Eric allowed that things aren’t always as crazy from inside the industry as they seem from outside. Consumers are often much cooler than marketers or researchers expect, so getting a realistic perspective and moving beyond media hype is essential. In closing remarks, Kai noted how there’ll always be the simple need to go from A to B. But the more the industry changes, the more that can be done on that journey. It’s important to pay attention to how consumers perceive things: how do they want to use these burgeoning services? What will they accept, and what won’t they accept? AI should be utilized to stay on track, as the companies that will succeed are the ones that can best predict the desires of customers.