The internet has been a revolution not just for enabling communication and flow of information, but how business functions in the new age. Leveraging the power of this wonderful technology can lead to competitive advantages and cost savings for companies.
We at 21North have always been inspired by such examples – ranging from small family businesses finding their right audience through Facebook targeting, or how large companies are reinventing their supply chains using cutting-edge IoT technology.
Far from being a cost centre, going digital can lead to better top and bottom line in the long run – be it through manpower cost savings, efficient ways of reaching potential and existing customers, deriving actionable insights, optimizing processes, and so on. Digital technologies have benefits for companies ranging from bootstrapped startups to established multi-national corporations.
Of course, going digital might not be a luxury anymore – if Covid-19 has shown us anything, it’s that firms that have been digital-ready or quick to adapt are thriving (Maruti Suzuki sets a fine example for going digital and reaping the benefits), while those that have been laggards are falling behind. In some ways, Covid-19 has given us all reason to pause and assess, and see how processes can be bettered.
The automobile industry: Ripe for digital disruption
From the days of Henry Ford, the automobile industry has been at the forefront of technological innovation. However, in recent years, this ground might have been ceded to Silicon Valley’s internet companies. This certainly poses a challenge, as today’s customers demand the same level of service and convenience agnostic of industry. But this also poses a massive opportunity for those willing to adapt and provide such solutions. Both these points were summed up by Deloitte in 2019:
“Updating and improving a sales process that has not changed for decades poses a unique challenge, but it is one that we believe can be met by ambitious OEMs. To succeed in this new era, OEMs and their partners will have to embrace new technologies to improve the overall car-buying experience or risk having to compete on the basis of their business model as well as their product.” – Executive Summary, “Disruption in the Automobile Industry” report, Deloitte.
This is as much a wake-up call, as a call-to-arms. Here are five ways in which digital services, such as those provided by us at 21North, can help OEMs and service centres.
- Reduced personnel costs for non-core activities: In a world that is increasingly on-demand, we see scope for shedding cost centres such as internal driver teams. 21North’s digital chauffeur services, for example, takes care of all internal movement requirements – from warehouse/stockyard to showroom to even customers’ homes. Outsourcing this to specialists not only takes a big load off, it also provides flexibility to scale up or down easily and quickly.
- Enhanced after-sales operations: We believe that after-sales service is going to be a key differentiator for OEMs going forward. In 2020, a customer who owns a car is likely to avail of the touch-of-a-button convenience afforded by food delivery and telemedicine. The lack of such ease when needing to service a vehicle is likely to be a sore point. A digital service that enables pick-up and drop according to the customer’s convenience along with a digital estimate and online payment will be a simple but effective way to keep customers happy. Since the process is digitized, there is less requirement for personnel as well.
- Service centres become more productive: While there is definite benefit for the customer who doesn’t need to take time off work to drop her vehicle off, service centres also benefit from more predictability and optimized bay utilization. With more visibility over weekly schedules, they will be able to be more productive. And by keeping the customer in the official ecosystem, chances for generating revenue go up, especially if they are encouraged to get their car serviced regularly given the new ease of doing so.
- Intelligence & insights from data: The more data that gets generated from this process – from the customer, service centre or even from a digital service like 21North, the more the OEM can dig out potential insights that can drive business decisions. Has the convenience of booking led to an increase in servicing? Does a particular locality have a lot of service requirements? Is one service centre underperforming? Numbers and trends can be valuable assets and the next big idea might just be hiding in a spreadsheet!
- Optimise the purchase process: How can the purchase process for potential customers be as easy as possible? Online booking, test rides at home, online payment and upgrades – all make the lives of customers (and service centres!) better. By optimising this process, it could even mean that OEMs can forsake showrooms in expensive locations and deliver a branded experience at the customer’s home.
- Creating brand advocates: Consumers these days are very vocal about their purchase experience and most importantly their after-sales experience. Social Media Platforms are not just for social networking anymore but also a space where consumers can interact with your brand, advocate for you if they had a seamless experience and critique the brand for a strenuous experience. By delivering a smooth and pleasant experience, OEMs and SVCs can drive some valuable social media reputation that plays a vital role when a consumer is researching the brand and service online.
These are just a few simple examples which can be adopted immediately. As digital evangelists, we’re excited about what the next few years hold. Nascent technologies such as blockchain, 5G and Virtual Reality will find new use cases, and bring with them benefits for OEMs and customers both.
For now, we’ll say things look bright for those willing to grab the many opportunities that digital technologies provide. As a player in this space, 21North remains bullish on the industry’s ability to adapt, as well as the health of the industry itself.