How do we get consumers to love connected cars?

Scott Frank, vice president of marketing, Airbiquity

M2M Now: What stood out to Airbiquity most about the findings in the automotive research company, SBD’s recent report on car makers and their ecosystems?

Scott Frank (SF): “First off we think it’s terrific that we’re starting to see more third party research about consumer connected car system usability, preference, and impact on business results like brand loyalty and future purchase decisions. The more information the industry gets like this the better, we can understand program return-on-investment (RoI) and begin to justify the investments being made in them.” As far as SBD’s report there were two findings that Airbiquity found most interesting because they reinforce why it’s important for automakers and their ecosystem partners to keep focusing on improving connected car programs:

1)   Economic Value of Satisfied Consumers – For connected car programs to get the necessary automaker senior management support and investment it’s important to quantify the business benefits. Seeing a 5.7% increase in brand loyalty among car owners who were satisfied and regular users of connected car systems and an average $6B automaker revenue value for that loyalty increase—is a major first step in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll see additional studies that will corroborate SBD’s finding going forward.

2)  Consumer Demographic Segmentation – We have all speculated about connected car user demographics. SBD’s report provides quantitative evidence that these systems are important to younger, more digitally oriented consumers and able to impact their next vehicle brand purchase decision. Given the automotive industry’s concern about attracting younger demographic vehicle buyers it’s good to know that connected car systems can contribute to capturing the attention of these elusive consumers.

M2M Now: What can or should be done by automakers and/or technology providers to get consumers to engage more with current deployed connected car solutions?

SF: A first step would be to work harder to train dealer sales people so they are aware of connected car system features, can explain and demo the consumer benefits, and are genuinely enthusiastic about the technology. Every time I do a dealer check to learn about how connected car systems are positioned and sold at retail I’m amazed at how little most dealer sales people know about the systems, and how typically it’s the last thing they want to talk about during the sales process.

A second step is to do more post-vehicle sale communications to non-users to increase consumer awareness and trial like offering local clinics and incentives. Airbiquity believes that once consumers get through the initial awareness barrier and experience the value of these systems themselves they will become more likely to try using the systems on their own and less intimidated by the technology.

M2M Now: What factors are to blame for lack of consumer engagement? Are the systems overly technical? Is there a lack of need for infotainment features? What, in your opinion, are drivers looking for in their in-car technology?

SF: Airbiquity believes a big factor is the technology adoption curve that impacted the widespread adoption of other mass-market technologies like television, VCRs, home broadband, and most recently smartphones. Younger and more digitally oriented consumers are the early adopters of these systems as they typically try new technologies to enhance their lives. Older, less digitally savvy consumers tend to be laggards for a number of reasons such as lack of awareness about the value the systems could provide them, satisfaction with “traditional” technologies like AM/FM radio, or simply not wanting to take the time and energy to learn how to use something that’s new and confusing. We know there’s a correlation between early adopters of technology like smartphones and early adopters of connected car systems. A recent Parks Associates study found that 48% of vehicle owners that owned smartphones were very interested in the ability to view maps and receive directions in their cars versus 37% of vehicle owners that didn’t own smartphones. Like the masses of flip-phone users that transitioned to smartphones after years of seeing their friends and kids use them, consumers will increasingly become aware of and use connected car systems after personal exposure, hearing recommendations from friends, reading positive reviews in the media, and listening to well informed and compelling dealer sales people.

M2M Now: How does the technology need to change to increase consumer adoption or engagement?

SF: All parties working on connected car systems need to continue working hard to improve system design, features, user interfaces, performance, and overall user experience. We know from recent consumer usability research that the industry collectively has a long way to go to improve these systems. Three summary findings from SBD in this area illustrate a baseline and what to focus on first:

Finding #1: 52% of users were unable to complete basic tasks without support

Issue: Lack of usability – Need better system design, user interfaces, and controls.

Finding #2: 67% of users felt unsafe doing basic tasks while driving

Issue: Driver distraction – Need better vehicle platform integration and improved natural speech recognition, text to voice, and instrument cluster technology.

Finding #3: 75% of users thought some features were unnecessary

Issue: Overbuilt design – Need to simplify the systems by focusing on features that meet consumer needs and eliminate superfluous ones that are not being used.

Having said this we also have to remember that this involves the development and deployment of cutting edge technology and that we’re at the beginning of a continual journey of learning and refinement. At this point in time we have the opportunity to leverage new research findings, solicit direct consumer feedback, increase analysis of real-time usage data from service delivery platforms, and plan the next wave of program and feature improvements.

M2M Now: Where does in-car technology/infotainment/telematics go from here?

Airbiquity_logoSF: Airbiquity believes the next big phase of connected car after infotainment delivery is what we call “vehicle centric services.” The current focus on providing infotainment delivery (streaming music, social media etc.) meets the expectations of digitally oriented consumers who are heavy users of smartphones and want access to their favorite apps and services in their cars. Infotainment delivery was a logical first-step, but digitally savvy consumers will increasingly expect and value services that are specifically designed to enhance the vehicle driving and ownership experience. An example of this is a service that enables the car to proactively recommend an alternative to the daily commute home that optimises fuel consumption, lowers CO2 emissions, minimises engine wear, and avoids real-time road hazards.

To make vehicle-centric services a reality, automakers and their ecosystem of providers must develop compelling new use cases that leverage diagnostic data drawn from the car, consumer data about driving behavior and preferences, and other relevant data sets from an expanding universe of content and service provider clouds. New cars are increasingly fitted with sensors capturing more and more information, and cloud-based connected car service delivery platforms will play a central role by continuously connecting the car and driver to world of off-board clouds, and orchestrating the data flow and analytics horsepower necessary to power vehicle centric services. For example, vehicle and driver data can be continually transferred, stored, updated, and analysed in the cloud to determine the optimum time for a local deal or extended ecosystem provider to present a consumer with a vehicle service offer—including promotional incentives if they take immediate action. That’s a true “win-win” for all involved.


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