Debbie Shuttlewood, Kantar TNS’s Director of Automotive, shares how digital moments are transforming the automotive landscape.

Very few categories remain undisrupted by the forces reshaping our world around ‘digital’. Every aspect of the marketing mix has been impacted by consumers’ constant connectedness: creating unprecedented opportunities to engage, with unparalleled chances to waste money! 20% of touchpoints typically generate 80% of brand and sales impact. It’s tempting to do everything, but consumers won’t reward you. Rewards come from aligning with consumer needs, as Intel pioneer Andrew S. Grove noted in Only The Paranoid Survive:

Henry Ford’s slogan for the model T – “It takes you there and brings you back” – epitomized the original attraction of the car   [BUT…] post-World War I, style and leisure had become important considerations… General Motors saw a market for “a car for every purse and purpose.” The introduction of a varied product line and annual model changes, [saw GM take] the lead in both profits and market share, and ...continue to outperform Ford in profit for more than sixty years.

Identifying consumers’ key moments means looking both at consumers’ literal journeys and their customer journeys in respect to auto purchase.

We are in the throes of another revolution. The Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) who thrive will be those who meet the connected consumer’s needs, and harness the massing forces of change. A category in this level of flux calls for a new way of thinking, one that identifies the moments that matter most to customers, then optimises and activates brand delivery in those crucial moments. This lens can be applied to understand both the macro changes reshaping the category, and the micro moments in a customer’s journey where the brand should optimise and activate.

Identifying consumers’ key moments means looking both at consumers’ literal journeys and their customer journeys in respect to auto purchase.

Auto brands have long made the connection between customer experiences, customer loyalty, and increased lifetime spend. Today, OEMs need to conceive of customer experience more broadly yet with more precision than ever. The moments that matter most are increasingly not the conversation with the salesman or getting behind the wheel in the dealership. When they visit a dealership, a prospect’s mind is probably already made up: having gone online for inspiration, asked friends’ opinions on Facebook, used Google for price comparisons and/or watched video reviews on YouTube.

Kantar TNS’s work with a major auto brand has led them to reconceive the vehicle purchase journey. An understanding of consumers’ moments reveals the decision-making process to be distinctly non-linear, with new brands joining prospects’ consideration sets after they have narrowed down to a final shortlist. We identify the key touchpoints driving this and how to optimise and activate them: equipping OEMs to turn disruptive force to their advantage.

By actively solving concrete needs in the moment consumers require it, OEMs will journey into a highly successful future

The maturity of mobile as a research medium has driven the capability to get closer to the moment, and right into it when required. Technological development comes to our aid in the activation phase too. The most promising segment can be identified in a survey, its online behaviour profiles anonymously modelled in a Data Management Platform, and lookalikes of the segment reached at scale with digital advertising. This kind of Mindset Targeting can drive huge uplifts.

Finally, consumers’ connectedness is leading to increasing alignment of drivers’ literal journeys and the marketing concept of the ‘customer journey’. The connected features and capabilities of today’s cars offer unprecedented opportunity for manufacturers and dealers to move their relationship with customers into an era beyond the mere sales transaction. The opportunity lies in absorbing the real-time information and feedback from drivers and their vehicles. At the most basic level, a car could send a direct message about an engine fault back to the OEM, which might generate a call to the owner from the service centre saving time and hassle. This example scratches the surface of the possibilities: possibilities which will explode as driverless cars open opportunities for people to do other things with their time as they journey.

Success will come from identifying the moments that matter most, optimising and activating against them. By actively solving concrete needs in the moment consumers require it, OEMs will journey into a highly successful future. 


At Kantar TNS our approach is rooted in a passion for understanding auto consumers, a commitment to tailoring solutions around specific business issues and connecting the voice of the customer to auto strategy. Click here to find out more