The Connected Car: How market research must flex to meet millennial demands

bluecars connected

(Blog): I started a career as a tech writer 15 years ago, writes Paul Hartley, which included predicting how the new era of ubiquitous, always-on connectivity would ultimately change our business and personal lives. As the tech bubble rose, we all predicted ever more incredible things and many were nothing more than hype. My favourite is the Internet Refrigerator, possibly the most oft-quoted example of an always-on digital life.

Imagine a refrigerator (so the story went) that monitors the food inside it, notifies you when you’re low on milk, and even orders your weekly groceries online. I first wrote about this concept back when “’dot com’ was still a fashionable term, and yet a decade and a half later, my refrigerator sits dumbly with a near-empty carton of sour milk inside.

The Smart Fridge bomb of the 1990s leads me to ponder: what are the hype examples of today that are destined to become ironic footnotes of tomorrow? A straw poll among colleagues quickly offered up a likely candidate in the form of the Connected Car.

Imagine a car (so the story goes) that has always-on wireless broadband, monitors its own health as well as that of its driver, communicates with key information sources (traffic, weather, even other cars), and is a hub of streaming entertainment for its passengers. Sounds great, but experience tells us that the mere availability of technology is no harbinger of success. The real question is this: will Connected Cars satisfy a genuine need and thereby stimulate ongoing consumer demand?

A new generation with new demands

I’ve realised that I am the wrong person to predict the future of the Connected Car. That’s because I am part of Generation X. I recall clearly a time when there was no internet, a time when music resided on LPs, and a phone call outside of home required a quarter. Gen X snubbed Internet Refrigerators and is just as skeptical now about Connected Cars. But that doesn’t matter one bit because Millennials are the future of the auto industry, and their expectations are profoundly different. Consider these distinctly Millennial attributes:

  • Internet Natives: This generation has grown up with the internet, believes wireless communication to be a ‘hygiene factor’, and sees interactive, data-driven experiences as a business and social necessity.
  • Smartphone Junkies: Smartphones outnumber automobiles five to one for this group. Millennials’ smartphones already interact seamlessly with multiple other sources that they own or encounter each day.
  • Content Cravers: Millennials have shown themselves to be rabid consumers of new content through new channels, given the right business model and delivery mechanism (witness the explosion of apps, streaming music, social media, etc.).
  • Connected Commuters: The typical Millennial commute is highly interactive. The idea of “digital downtime” during commuting hours is inconceivable, making them far more open to Connected Car innovations such as personalised streaming music or voice-activated social media.

Millennials will undoubtedly demand a Connected Car, but can Detroit deliver? By itself, it can’t. We can expect Connected Cars to create massive upheaval within the auto industry, leading to the entry of multiple new tech and telecom players forming unlikely partnerships with OEMs. We’ll see partnerships with wireless operators, software developers, content providers, etc. Once formed, these partnerships will set about developing entirely new business models and create completely new digital experiences for users. Imagine, for example, connectivity and content forming part of an auto lease.

Insight will drive connected car innovation

Right now though, the potential players have many more questions than answers. Consequently, it’s a time in which consumer insight will play a critical role. Market research will need to flex along with the industry, going beyond just explaining ‘what’ the demand is, and providing substantive detail on ‘why’ and ‘how’. Automotive and tech companies alike are very good at answering the first question and stopping there. It’s no use knowing that (say) 80% of Millennials say they need a Connected Car, but not knowing why they do, or how they intend to use it. These deeper layers of insight are critical for the development of non-traditional players within their new business models. True insight will therefore be a blend of behavioural big data with vital qualitative and quantitative detail, ideally within a framework that facilitates ongoing refinement and a cycle of continuous improvement.

Success will come to brands that can look beyond the tech hype to gain a detailed understanding of the way Millennials live — not just what they want, but why they want it, and how they will use it. Then rather than peddling mythical Internet Refrigerators, automakers and their new partners can respond creatively with products and services that stretch the boundaries of their existing business models to meet the demand.

Pau Hartley
Blog by Paul Hartley

I’d love to hear what you think. Are Connected Cars the ‘next big thing’ and what does this mean for your business? Post your comments here or contact me directly at paul.hartley@marketstrategies.com.

Paul Hartley is a vice president in the Communications Division ofMarket Strategies International, a research consultancy with expertise in communications; consumer/retail; energy; financial services; healthcare and technology. The firm provides intelligent research, designed to the highest levels of accuracy, with meaningful results that help companies make confident business decisions.

(Photos: Courtesy of Market Strategies International)

FEATURED IoT STORIES

9 IoT applications that will change everything

Posted on: September 1, 2021

Whether you are a future-minded CEO, tech-driven CEO or IT leader, you’ve come across the term IoT before. It’s often used alongside superlatives regarding how it will revolutionize the way you work, play, and live. But is it just another buzzword, or is it the as-promised technological holy grail? The truth is that Internet of

Read more

Which IoT Platform 2021? IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide

Posted on: August 30, 2021

There are several different parts in a complete IoT solution, all of which must work together to get the result needed, write IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide – Which IoT Platform 2021? authors Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO and Bill Ingle, a senior analyst, at Beecham Research. Figure 1 shows these parts and, although not all

Read more

CAT-M1 vs NB-IoT – examining the real differences

Posted on: June 21, 2021

As industry players look to provide the next generation of IoT connectivity, two different standards have emerged under release 13 of 3GPP – CAT-M1 and NB-IoT.

Read more

IoT and home automation: What does the future hold?

Posted on: June 10, 2020

Once a dream, iot home automation is slowly but steadily becoming a part of daily lives around the world. In fact, it is believed that the global market for smart home automation will reach $40 billion by 2020.

Read more
RECENT ARTICLES

AND Technology Research and University of Essex join forces to develop self-powering, battery-less IoT device powered by AI

Posted on: September 24, 2021

Purpose-led technology company, AND Technology Research, is announcing a new partnership with computer scientists from the University of Essex to explore new ways of reducing the amount of power a device needs, while at the same time using energy harvesting techniques to produce truly self-powering devices.

Read more

How can IoT optimise the bearing supply chain?

Posted on: September 24, 2021

In 2020, stock management issues were estimated to cost UK manufacturers 66 billion GBP  because of disruption caused by the pandemic. Consequently, the quest to improve efficiency, cut waste and enhance supply chain operations is one that suppliers know all too well. Here Chris Johnson, managing director at miniature bearings specialist SMB Bearings, explains how the Internet of Things

Read more