Did you know that a recent study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) revealed that only 52% of consumers are satisfied with the traditional car-buying experience (going into dealership, test-driving vehicle, building and negotiating for vehicle, and purchasing vehicle from dealer)? This statistic indicates significant room for improvement. Just like developments of the in-car experience, the future of auto sales is being shaped by AI, particularly GenAI, which promises to disrupt and enhance this current customer journey in ways previously unimaginable.
Each year we attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as one way to stay abreast of the latest tech. During this conference, the biggest tech brands in the industry and hundreds of startup innovators unveil the latest releases and tech breakthroughs. One of the panels in the automotive track, Future of Auto Sales: How AI/GenAI Will Disrupt Customer Experience, challenged this traditional auto-buying experience. Here are four of our takeaways from this engaging discussion.
Customer-centric approaches of leading brands
Major players in the automotive industry are adopting a customer-centric approach, placing the customer at the forefront of their strategies. These brands aim to elevate every customer touchpoint, combining both physical and online experiences.
- In-store experience: Some brands are modernizing facilities, creating a less confrontational atmosphere and providing a space for customers to curate and special order vehicles. This approach ensures a personalized and curated interaction with each customer.
- Online experience: Cars.com, represented on the panel, is historically known as an industry disruptor. They focus on simplifying the buying and selling experience for customers, dealers, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The company strives for transparency, sharing dealer ratings, pricing, and consistency in the overall experience.
AI-driven personalization and data accessibility
GenAI is playing a pivotal role in addressing the pain points in the customer journey. AI is driving personalization by seamlessly connecting online and dealer experiences. In the realm of automotive maintenance and service, companies like NVIDIA are exploring the integration of VR/AR experiences to enhance customer interactions, allowing discussions about vehicle issues in a virtual environment.
Business model shifts and tech adoption
The automotive industry faces a challenge in delivering consistency in the car-buying experience at scale. Consumers express a desire for customization and online research, yet 85% still feel the need to physically interact with and drive the car. This presents a challenge and an opportunity for a business model change. Should there be a shift to direct sales to address OEMs’ desire to save costs? But how to balance the ideal customer journey that includes high-touch, in-person interactions that users want combined with cost-efficiency? While new technology, such as VR for virtual test drives, is available, the physical experience remains crucial. The industry must find a way to work with retail partners, integrating inventory and ensuring transparency in the process.
The impact of GenAI on customer experience
The hyperactivity surrounding GenAI has evolved from experimentation to understanding where and how to incorporate it for maximum value. Major strides are being made in marketing, with GenAI used to generate personalized content at scale in a cost-efficient manner. On websites, experiments using AI-powered bots assist consumers in navigating offers, providing a revolutionary customer user interface (CUI) to help users understand which features and equipment align with their needs.
The application of GenAI extends beyond marketing and websites. The technology is being experimented with in call centers and dealer interactions: dynamic scripts, adapted in real-time, guide call center agents and support dealer training at scale. The aim is to revolutionize the entire customer journey, incorporating GenAI to enhance every interaction.
The future of auto sales is undeniably intertwined with the disruptive force of AI, particularly GenAI. The emphasis on personalization, transparency, and a seamless customer journey will redefine how consumers buy and experience automobiles. As the industry continues to evolve, the collaboration of system partners, integration of data centers in cars, and democratization of technology will shape a new era of automotive sales that prioritizes the customer like never before.