The teenage daughter of Nissan Motor Corporation chief digital officer Madhu Nutakki last year shopped for a car, as California legislation allowed her to drive herself to school and back from the age of 15-and-a-half.
Nutakki is based in Silicon Valley.
“It was fascinating. I couldn’t even imagine the difference in how she would do it and how I would do it.
“She goes to Instagram and looks at a bunch of stuff. Then she goes to Snapchat and look for stories about the car she is interested in. Then she checks out a whole bunch of stuff on Youtube; what people are saying and what the car looks like,” explains Nutakki.
“Then she goes to the app store and looks for mobile apps, but she can’t find any. Then she goes to the dealer website on her mobile phone. Yes, the dealer website is digital and you can browse it on a mobile, but it isn’t really designed for it. She figures out how to navigate it.
“Then, when she wants to book an appointment, there is this huge form she has to fill in. That is when she switched off and turned to a different brand.”
Nutakki says what is a “small frustration” for him, was a “big frustration” for her.
“Her closing comment was: ‘Daddy, you don’t know anything’.”
Customers are in control,” says Nutakki.
“We thought we were in control, but that is no longer the case.
“The auto industry has to figure out how to make each touch point as effective as we can. We all have to learn from other industries.
Nutakki believes that the global auto industry has a few months to two years to sharpen its digital game before the post-Millennial generation turns from buying cars to using cars through mobility ventures such as Taxify and Uber.
“We are hitting the Millennials now, and the next generation is starting to buy cars, like my daughter. If we don’t hit them during this time we’ll lose them.”
Lightning Speed Changes
“We all know computers and phones are getting faster, but the biggest change is that things are getting faster, faster,” says Nutakki.
“Ten years ago, before smartphones became the be all and end all of life, we never thought of checking a restaurant’s review before going there, or of being able to leave your wallet at home and go to a foreign country and use digital money all the way through.
‘“The pace of change is changing. With the touch of a button you can do anything. You don’t have to ask anyone or go anywhere.”
Nutakki says technology is disrupting business models everywhere. Every industry, be it entertainment, hospitality, retail or media, has something different in their business model than two, three years ago.
“Customers want to be in control, that is what they are expecting.
“Disruption is happening all around us and we [the auto industry] have to figure out a way to play into this space much more actively.”
Nutakki says this means more than a website or an instagram account.
“Every touchpoint has to be digital.”
One experience Nutakki singles out as extraordinary was shopping at the True Religion jeans store in New York.
“I have a smart watch. I use it for notifications, payments – everything else but telling the time.
“Ten seconds after I walked into the store – and I’ve never stepped into that store before – the sales person knows who I am, he knows what I bought the last time [at True Religion], where I bought it, what my size is, what the brand is and he greets me on my name. It was a fascinating experience.”
Nutakki says Nissan is seeking to develop a number of digital solutions for the brand.
One is an all-in-one dealership experience app to empower dealers to know who shoppers are before they walk into the facility. This app should also help consumers to pick the right vehicle, guide the test drive and close the deal.
A Google assistant app could help customers discover Nissan. The app recommends cars based on the shopper’s interests and price range, and the shopper can schedule a test drive from the chat.
The ‘Bot an Appointment’ service is a chatbot experience that helps customers schedule an appointment, check into the dealership and pay for their service, all from their smartphone.
Nissan could also provide a personalised virtual reality test drive. Shoppers answer a few quick questions, then experience a test drive that shows off the model and its features.
Inside Intelligence Centre Showrooms, powered by artificial intelligence and digital displays, shoppers can, guided by chatbots, explore the vehicle, ask questions and change the location on display.
Owners can also earn points for safe driving, unlocking exclusive services.
* Nutakki spoke at the Car Digital Dealer conference, held at Kyalami race track earlier in September.