Is automotive the toughest industry to create personalized offers with mobile and social?

The leading Dutch marketing blog Marketingfacts quotes a report by Gartner which says “Predicts 2012: Retailers Turn to Personalized Offers Through Mobile and Social but Will Struggle With Multichannel Execution”. How true is that for the automotive sector!

In the report Mim Burt, research director of Gartner, explains that executing cross-channel strategies will prove challenging, because retailers need to cope with siloed business processes. Most challenging are product centric organizational structures that are no longer suitable for today’s customer-centric approach, which should take full account of customers shopping across current and emerging touchpoints. Automotive marketers, whether working in a headquarter, in a country marketing department or as a marketer in a dealership, will all confirm that the car industry might be the pinnacle of product centricity. A classic quote of a director at a leading automotive brand proves the car industries’ thinking: “You can have great sales results with an excellent product and a mediocre marketing program, but an excellent marketing program can’t make up for a mediocre product.”

Toyota says Fun VII is their concept of the ultimate personalized car. Could it also be the first car with an integrated personal marketing and sales process?

The explanation of Burt that retailers need to cope with siloed business process is also very applicable for the automotive industry in Europe. Leading brand names rely for sales on their dealer organization, which classifies as traditional “cash and cards” retailers. Dealer organizations in most cases lack the innovative power in people and knowledge to come up with new processes and really integrate offline and online consumer interaction. Pure internet car retailers such as or are fully focused on the internet buying process and are still struggling to offer a consumer the buying experience he or she wishes. The European headquarter marketing departments of car brands are very much organized around the products. They focus on launches of new products and to get best possible buzz around an upcoming new model. Building and enhancing the brand image is their major concern. And they are just hierarchically too far away from day to day interactions with consumers to innovate the buying process. They are also driven by targets for new products. By nature the best position to initiate an innovation in the way car brands interact with consumers lies within a country headquarter. Close enough to the brand and the consumer.

Unfortunately most country headquarters lack the innovative power because their resources – people and money – are restricted. To create efficiencies of scale in marketing, car brands are tuning down their country marketing teams and create European wide centrally organized marketing programs. This improves the competitiveness of the brand in product orientated marketing programs. However, it leaves no marketing power to create multichannel execution and a truly integrated sales process with mobile and social.

For sure at some point in time the automotive industry will  follow the success of other retailers in creating personalized offers through mobile and social. However the name that will disrupt the industries’ buying process, for now, remains unclear.

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