OEMs and the multi-faceted customer

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One of the age-old ways of relaxing before a big presentation is to ‘imagine the audience in their underwear’ or ‘imagine them tucked up in bed’. In so doing, you strip away the mystique which surrounds our workplace portrayals of ourselves – our work costumes if you like. For most ordinary workers, a meeting with the CEO or even a second line manager could be an intimidating experience – but, almost universally, the intimidation comes from the workplace face of their position, rarely from the core individual.

Remember, too, that even the most intimidating workplace tyrant might celebrate their birthday by blowing out some candles and possibly by wearing a silly hat. Might read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to their kids. Might step on the scales and congratulate themselves for losing a pound this week. Might post under a pseudonym to a World of Warcraft forum, and might very well snore. None of these facets is any more or less valid than the other – some are for public consumption and some most definitely are not, but the individual is defined by their sum total rather than by the prevalence of any given example.

This isn’t meant to be a motivational speech, although if it helps the reader to ace their next presentation then so much the better. It is in fact intended to demonstrate the inadequacy of Automotive OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) current attempts to target their customers.

OEM and a single customer view

Two key examples of this spring to mind. When OEMs broadcast glamorous lifestyle messages, they are hoping to appeal to the polished, Instagram-ready public facet of their target buyer, whose life is defined by a series of snapshots. Of course, the OEMs have an image to maintain, and it’s reasonable to expect a certain amount of this Photoshop-handsome communication to go on. But, there lacks a layer of messaging beneath the sheen, to appeal to the side of the buyer who is quietly concerned about finances, or considering trying for another child, or simply has an irrational hatred of Volvos. (Other irrational hatreds are available). In short, OEMs should remember that their neatly-segmented markets are made up of millions of individuals, each with innumerable facets. They should therefore seek to gain as much insight as possible into these facets on a customer-by-customer basis, aiming towards the platonic ideal of an audience of one.

The second example is even more relevant. Imagine four 39-year-old mothers of two are looking for a new car. The first spots an advert in the Sunday Times. The second spots an advert on YouTube, clicks on it, browses around for a while, looks at prices on the spec sheet and then goes for lunch. The third posts a picture on Twitter of her friend’s new car. The fourth, the go-getter of the bunch, marches straight to her local dealership and demands a test drive. The reader at this point may be expecting the big reveal – that they are, in fact, one and the same person – but will, sadly, be disappointed. The answer is we don’t know if they’re the same person or not. How could we know, without the implementation of a) clairvoyants in dealerships or b) a concerted programme of data reconciliation between the multiple customer channels?

This illustrates why the single view of customer capability will be such a massive bonus to the first OEM to truly and successfully implement it. The more facets of an individual with which the OEM knowingly interacts, the more the customer experience will actually be reinforced and the brand strengthened. A brand which targeted my Lycra-warrior facet with messaging about bike racks, my boy-racer facet with Youtube videos of it trouncing the latest M3 in a group test, and my nerdy facet with a clear breakdown of the relevant financial products: that brand would be likely to make a sale.

So our message to OEMs is simple: don’t assume you know your customers, any more than you think you know Taylor Swift because you follow her on Twitter. Get to know each and every one of your snoring, Warcraft-playing customers like they’re your best friends in the world, then work hand-in-hand with your dealer network to make the best possible use of your new-found omniscience.

Luckily, IBM has a bunch of ways to help you do just that.

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