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I was fortunate to be invited by one of our customers to discuss what it means to enable great auto buying experiences while walking around – and climbing over – the new structure for a brand new auto dealership property being constructed here in Seattle. We discussed how the Automotive Retail business is shifting, and what that means for dealers in terms of enabling a continuous and seamless experience as customers shift from online to on-premise to close out the deal. That’s why I’m looking forward to spending a couple of days in San Francisco on January 22-25 at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention and Expo—not just to learn from this automotive summit hosted by JD Power, but also to catch up on all the new technology options available to dealers to help them win more customers, deliver better service and manage their bottom line. There will be Microsoft partners there, including Dominion, Incadea and MOC1, and it’s going to be a really exciting show!

Enabling that continuous and seamless experience is really what the auto buying challenge is all about, especially as customers engage along a value chain spread across different business units and organizations. How does everyone tap into the information that exists early on in a customer’s shopping journey, and how do they all feed the information stack to enable the best delivery of the next experience in that journey?

The answer lies in two parts – we need consistent processes and united data.

Let’s talk about consistent processes. For most consumers, research starts online, triggered by a life event, a problem or a strong desire. First, the consumer forms what we call their “Worldview,” which is about them establishing how they’re going to navigate their purchase journey. There are four decisions that generally need to be made during the Worldview phase, and these are typically made through a lifestyle lens to find the best fit for the consumer (e.g. top family cars, top city cars, etc.). These decisions are:

  1. Confirming you’re going to buy a car
  2. Working out what you want from a new car
  3. Determining how you’re going to get your information
  4. Establishing a base level of brands or models

Those who have solid brand preferences and/or their own experiences skip through this stage quickly and easily. However, most consumers have trouble with some or all of these steps. In some cases, consumers find it hard to work out how to get the information they need to move to the next phase.

Here’s where OEMs and dealers need consistency in their customer engagement processes and information. If it’s tough for a potential auto buyer to get information, or easy for them to get conflicting information, then the result is a weakened brand experience.

Technology is the only way to drive that consistency, and that’s why I’m looking forward to checking out all the technology our partners and others will be showcasing at NADA 2015! I hope to see many of you there.

Stay tuned for my next blog, where I’ll share my experiences from the show.