With inputs by Kuldeep Kumar Upadhyay, Director, Industry Advisor for Manufacturing, Automotive, and Energy

As recently as a decade ago, car buying looked a lot different than it does today. Buying a car was an occasion that usually involved a few family members and multiple visits to nearby showrooms. Before buying a car, one would consult with friends and neighbors, visit numerous dealerships, take test drives, bargain for the best deals, and pocket brochures the salespeople handed out. For a car manufacturer, the focus was on ensuring that the product was of the highest quality and that dealers were trained to deliver customer satisfaction.

But today, the car-buying journey is different in three primary ways. It is spread across multiple channels (online and offline), involves multiple players (partners), and doesn’t end at purchase, because customers expect to be engaged long after signing on the dotted line. These differences create an opportunity for car companies to leverage customer data to offer connected, personalised experiences that build loyalty - without ever having to ask a customer to input their data more than once.

1. Meeting customers across their channels of research

Today, most customers do parts of their car-buying research online. McKinsey says 59% of car buyers globally are open to completing the entire process online - from research to purchasing. This poses a challenge for car companies because this research isn’t linear but across multiple phygital touchpoints: search engines, social media, news sites, review forums, car manufacturers’ websites, car magazines, and showrooms. Car manufacturers thus need to make their phygital presence robust, always available and consistent.

But just being present on the right platforms isn't enough. Car manufacturers need to actively source data at each touchpoint and use it to inform future interactions and deliver the same level of service at every stage. Every time customers switch from one channel to another, OEMs and dealers risk losing their view into preferences or other data. This can frustrate customers to the point of dropping out of the sales funnel. This creates a need for greater frequency and timeliness of cross-stakeholder interaction between auto companies and their OEM partners, dealers, and service stations to always provide connected, consistent customer experiences.

2. Creating a customer-centric car-buying journey

Kickstart the customer journey by using data like browsing history or queries to create relevant marketing campaigns that help move leads further down the sales funnel.

Online leads can be assessed and directed to the right dealerships based on location, preferences, and product availability, among other criteria. So, as leads flow into the pipeline, each stakeholder can start interacting with them in contextual and meaningful ways to move them along their buyer journeys. Here, having a single, shared view of the leads, prospects, and customers enable all stakeholders to align their communication and deliver end-to-end engagement throughout the customer lifecycle .

3. At the dealerships – making the sale

Having done their research, the customer walks into the showroom with a specific product in mind. They also know the price point, offered variants and other product specifications. They do not expect the dealership to reshare information again, but instead quickly move them ahead in their buying journey.

Equipping sales agents at the dealership with an easily accessible 360-degree customer profile - information about prior interactions, products that have been marketed to them, and search history - helps sales agents upsell the right products, offer deals, and supply information that the customer hasn’t already come across.

For prospects who walk into a dealership without prior research, equip dealers with a mobile-enabled CRM solution to collect their data as they interact and easily create comprehensive customer profiles that other teams can access and add to.

With a 360-degree customer view, salespersons can add the right services, product details, and prices to the agreement, digitise booking and billing processes, and smoothen the entire car buying experience.


Build personalised experiences across the customer journey.

4. Continuing to impress – delivery, maintenance, and service

Now that the sale is complete, delivery, maintenance, and service provisions need to seem like a part of the same journey. Even after a customer buys the car, they expect to hear from the dealer regularly on service reminders, insurance renewals, special offers, loyalty rewards, and even special anniversaries. But this communication does not create a positive experience unless it is personalised.

Several partner companies shape the car ownership experience – from the car insurance provider to the specialised service centres they visit. The car brand thus needs to ensure the customer's experience with these external entities matches the one they provide.

Extending visibility into the customer profile to service stations, for instance, can elevate the customer experience. Equipping service representatives with data processing and predictive tools can help them predict breakdowns and provide prompt service with pre-ordered parts. It also enables contextual conversation suggestions for better vehicle performance and value-added services.

5. Gaining loyalty – upgradations, upselling, and retention

The relationship of an auto brand with its customer doesn’t end at the sale. There are a lot of opportunities for auto companies to convert one-time buyers into repeat customers.

Keeping up a steady flow of communication with email and SMS marketing, making informed recommendations about add-on purchases and services, providing immediate on-road assistance, and 24x7 customer service are all ways to ensure a long-lasting relationship.

An additional benefit is that your brand is already at the top of their list when the customer is ready to upgrade their vehicle.

How Salesforce can help create a connected customer experience

Salesforce for the automotive industry is a unified solution that enables you to build memorable car buying experiences and loyalty that can last a lifetime. Salesforce Customer 360 offers some of the best Salesforce tools and capabilities to listen to customers, engage them consistently at every touchpoint, and provide excellent service – based on the data gathered across the many phygital touchpoints a car buyer encounters today, all the way from pre-purchase research to preferences registered by connected cars.

Here’s how Salesforce can help you:

  • Hypersonalise your marketing across the awareness and consideration phases with Marketing Cloud, and create customised offers and promotions to convert specific audiences
  • Activate sales and service interactions through chatbots, live chat, and messaging on social channels with Salesforce Digital Enablement
  • Empower your service teams to better support customers across phygital channels and improve customer satisfaction with Service Cloud
  • Improve partner onboarding and engagement, help manage co-marketing campaigns, and give your partners controlled access to data, insights, and tools for better selling with Partner Management
  • Extend commerce services across shopper touchpoints, enable guided selling, deliver dynamic buying and post-purchase B2B and B2B2C experiences, and more using Commerce Cloud
  • Create accurate pipelines and revenue forecasts with predictive AI, data insights, and real-time adjustments offered by Sales Cloud
  • Effortlessly build custom applications with built-in security and trust to deliver connected and engaging digital experiences that respond to changing business needs with Salesforce Platform

Build personalised experiences across the customer journey.