Commerce partnerships used to be defined by money. Brands paid publishers for advertising, and retailers for placement, for example. But the new commerce ecosystems that are appearing across sectors and industries are based not on money, but on data.
The emerging automotive ecosystem is a great example. Every participant is collecting data at every interaction with their prospects and customers. They’re then combining it with data collected by other participants: sharing it for mutual benefit in data partnerships; licensing it for insight or activation; using it to improve targeting of messages on partner platforms; and developing co-branding partnerships.
All of this means the trick for any brand in the ecosystem is to work out who has the data they need. Not in a broad-brush way, but at a granular level that can inform the particular customer interactions at each point on the path to purchase.
Do you know where your customers are?
Consider the manufacturers. In the awareness stage of their customer journeys, their strategy is to attract new customers and retain existing ones. They know who the target audience is for a particular model in terms of life stage and lifestyle, and they know (or should know) who their existing customers are. But they don’t know who’s in-market for a new car at any particular time. And they don’t know who might be thinking about switching to an electric vehicle.
At this stage, the key data sources are demographic and panel data owners, review sites, marketplaces and publishers. The first two can help show the propensity of particular groups to switch fuel sources, for example, while the latter two can start to provide leads in the form of people who have signed up for newsletters about electric vehicles, for example.
Driving earlier engagement
Moving into the consideration stage, we’ve known for a while that some four-fifths of a car purchase decision is made before the buyer visits a dealership. This trend looks likely to continue. Research in 2022 by Catalyst/Xaxis found that ‘Consumers are returning to physical stores, but they are not abandoning the lockdown behaviours that made their lives easier. Younger shoppers, in particular, intend to increase their use of ecommerce sites dramatically.’
So it’s become imperative for manufacturers to find ways to identify prospects earlier in their path to purchase. In the new data ecosystem, market places and comparison sites identify prospects coming into the market, as well as their areas of interest. Likewise finance and insurance companies pick up people early in their journey who might be checking out loans or insurance costs well before they raise their hands to alert a manufacturer or dealer of their interest.
Purchase and beyond
Then, as you move into the purchase phase, it’s apparent that the manufacturer’s own data, along with that from marketplaces, dealer networks, and finance companies, is more relevant. And again there are opportunities for brand partnerships, and cross- and up-selling, particularly with financing.
Finally, after purchase, the link between data and loyalty is evolving. Because manufacturers can now control most aspects of a car’s operation remotely, they can build closer relationships with customers. This can take the form of turning on different services at different times of year, and of real-time monitoring and diagnostics that improve safety and efficiency. And all the while they’re collecting data to increase their understanding of the customer, and to improve both existing services and future products.
Other opportunities emerging include the use of screens at charging stations to provide advertising opportunities, and partnerships between cafe brands and electric vehicle manufacturers to boost food and drink sales while drivers are waiting for their cars to charge.
The key is that these are more than just transactional relationships. In the majority of cases, all the parties involved benefit from sharing data and the boost that brings to their business. However, this new way of doing business comes with challenges. It requires new approaches, new skills and often new structures. And it requires buy-in from aspects of the business that may need to be persuaded to give up their existing way of doing things. I’ll look at these challenges – and ways of addressing them – in my next post.