Shifting gears to Automotive digital success

How to adopt a customer-centric approach to digital engagement and vehicle sales

In this interactive ebook, discover how rapidly-evolving consumer trends are radically changing the Automotive industry. Explore how you can drive your customers toward loyalty by delivering rewarding experiences online and face-to-face.


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Shifting gears to success

Radical trends like connected services, green technology and a demand for better online experiences are dramatically changing the face of the automotive industry. Discover how you can steer through rapidly evolving consumer expectations, while driving your customers toward loyalty with rewarding digital experiences.

In this eBook, you’ll explore:

How to become truly customer-centric
How to build brand loyalty that has customers racing back
How to prepare your brand for the future



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The Automotive Industry is facing some of the most significant challenges in its history. Increased individuality, urbanization trends and connectivity requirements are driving the change agenda. Ecological aspects like the European Green Deal are requiring new driving technologies and an individualized flexible set of mobility and transport solutions. We’re also seeing new players and technology companies enter the space, bringing disruptive and innovative ideas with them. As part of this transformation, there’s also a greater necessity for customer-centric services, as mobility service providers ask critical questions such as “how can we drive customer and brand loyalty?”, and “How can we monitor customer satisfaction in a scenario where mobility services are delivered from multiple providers?”.

New mobility offers and solutions require enriched customer experience (CX) and technology-based solutions that set the customer at the center of each interaction. Implementing a CX platform with a digital feedback loop that captures data from customer interactions, connects and synthesizes data, and includes AI based services could not only enhance the overall customer experience, but also improve business outcomes. Microsoft is strongly committed to its customers in the Automotive Industry – both to OEMs and suppliers. With our technology and cloud-based services we are enabling digital transformation and the building of software competencies as the foundational layer for the success of the future. As a partner for the Automotive Industry we are also supporting our customers building their own skills and expanding their competencies in Software Development.

Putting the customer at the center of our thinking and doing, Microsoft is proud to partner with Sitecore and Publicis Sapient who use their expertise in digital customer experience management and digital marketing to build their solutions on our platforms. These two specialist digital customer experience partners are offering and providing superior solutions to help Automotive companies as they design and implement long-lasting relationships with their customers. We recognize that Europe is still the “heart” of the Automotive Industry, and one of the core competencies, specifically of German Automotive players, is product innovation. Nevertheless, there is an urgent need for agility and speed for Europe to stay in pole position. It’s clear that software plays a crucial and fundamental role in all future oriented mobility concepts, and we look forward to being part of the journey towards the mobility solutions of tomorrow.

Stefan André Raschke
Automotive Sector Director
Enterprise Commercial Unit Microsoft

Where are
we now?

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Where are we now?

The Automotive industry has been hard-hit by the events of 2020. Manufacturing supply chains have been disrupted, assembly plants were temporarily closed, and exports have been faced with limitations and delays. Yet, despite these challenges earlier in the year, the industry experienced a rebound in the second half of 2020 with new vehicle sales growth across Europe, China, and the U.S. However, despite rapid growth in China, it’s estimated that sales in the U.S. and Europe won’t reach pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023.1

Across all industries, 2020 also saw rapid digitalization. Driven by calls for safety, government regulations, and rapidly changing customer preferences, face-to-face interactions became challenging — and in some cases impossible. These rapid lifestyle changes have taken customers further away from traditional in-person dealerships, making the digital experience even more important.

Building a digital highway


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Building a digital highway

With customer requirements changing, car brands are racing to explore how they can continue to engage with customers and ensure business continuity. Digital channels are the answer. The global situation has highlighted and accelerated the need for car brands to offer a fully integrated in-store and digital buyer experience throughout the entire customer lifetime. The opportunity to reach and engage with the online audience clearly exists, and it’s up to manufacturers and dealerships to maximize sales by taking advantage of this opportunity.2

Aside from the clear shift to digital, there are a number of additional key trends specifically in the Automotive sector. The electrification of cars, the rise in shared mobility, the shift towards autonomous vehicles, and a big surge in ride-hailing apps are all emerging as a result of changed behaviors. They also influence the customer’s perception of buying experiences and future expectations.

Do you want to know how to get the most out of your sales experience? Do you want to build better engagement with customers at the most critical touch points? Do you want to get ahead of the curve when it comes to future mobility solutions? Explore how to get a clear picture of the road ahead with key customer purchasing trends and cutting-edge industry insights to accelerate your customers’ experience.

Becoming customer-centric


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Becoming truly customer-centric

As car brands and dealerships develop their digital strategy, it’s essential that they put their customers at the center of all decisions. Whether it’s pre-sales, sales, or post-sales, the entire experience can be enhanced with a stronger, personalized engagement model that is powered by a clear, segmented strategy and strong technology solution, enabling the customer while ensuring activity remains manageable by internal stakeholders.

Alasdair Graham

Head of Digital Marketing, Lookers

"From the perspective of fulfilling customer needs, OEMs, dealers, aftersales service providers etc. – all need to establish a dedicated customer approach, to respond to changes in customer experience requirements."

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Let data drive all the decisions

Data underpins the ability to support, inform, educate, and offer value-added services and other products — all in the right context. By gathering data across the entire value chain from OEM to dealer, you’ll be able to reduce the size of data puddles and paint a picture of the customer experience by replacing guess work with data-driven decision making.

Consolidating these data sources into a single data reservoir makes management, analysis, and action more efficient and timely, and it allows for improved analysis. By implementing easy-to-use dashboards accessible from a centralized platform, you’ll be able to use data more appropriately, better-understand customer trends, and recognize how this translates into customer needs.

On a microlevel, understanding individual customer preferences enables you to build a personalized marketing, pricing, and outreach strategy. Data allows you to reach your audience with tailored messaging, programmatic advertising, and automated lead management — all followed up with relevant personal engagement.

Personalizing ‘micro-moments’ is key to nurturing potential customers as they navigate the car-buying journey. Being in control of your data allows you to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and personalized data that prepares your customer for a deal that quite simply can’t be missed.3 AI and Machine Learning strategies can help to identify sentiments, scale personalization, deliver multi-media experiences, and offer appropriate content that takes the customer along to the next best action.

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Make digital self-serve your new normal

Remote interactions don’t have to be less impactful than face-to-face engagements. Investing more time and money into strong content marketing and digital experiences over in-person meetings can be a great way to improve efficiency, but it’s important to focus engagement at the right time and on the correct channels. By aligning digital experiences with those in-dealership, you’ll be better equipped to deliver a consistent, real-time, and personalized journey, helping to build releationships that earn lifelong customers. This translates to being able to transition from a product business to a services business.

Although the customer-facing side of the Automotive sector has traditionally been an in-person industry, this engagement process needs to adapt to fit the new trends, which will likely continue beyond the pandemic. Customer engagement doesn’t just apply to the sales process, but also the entire relationship between the brand, the product, and the customer. Adjust your approach to a fully customized self-service experience, and train your Sales Development team to make an impact across email, phone, video, and in-person interactions.

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Help your customers make better choices

Purchasing a vehicle is a high-cost, emotive purchase. While some customer personas may make a purchase based on their sentiment, others are more rational by meticulously researching their options and gradually working out a shortlist before proceeding to engage with select manufacturers or dealerships. It’s key that manufacturers and dealerships can differentiate between these two purchasing profiles.

By offering a guiding hand throughout this process and highlighting key USPs that further enable the customer’s buying persona, you will be better equipped to influence the customer as they make these decisions. For example, offering something as simple as home delivery provides convenience and highlights the premium service you can provide.

The digital transformation of the Automotive industry is also providing a range of new opportunities for manufacturers and dealerships looking to take their customer service to the next level. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies have advanced significantly in recent years, creating the potential for virtual test drives. A truly realistic experience can be accessed via a web browser without the usual speed bumps. Digital contracting, meanwhile, is streamlining the paperwork side of purchasing and financing vehicles, greatly reducing the time it takes to fill out a contract and further improving satisfaction.

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Building brand loyalty that has customers racing back

Building and growing a base of loyal customers that keep coming back allows automotive brands to gradually transition from a product business to a services business. But keeping customers engaged between each purchasing lifecycle is a challenge that gets more difficult. With increased competition amongst car brands, rising used car purchases, and alternative digital disruptors growing, building strong and lasting relationships is vital. Here are a few ways you can grow loyalty with your customers:

Matthias von Alten

VP, Management Consulting, Publicis Sapient

“Keep in mind there won’t be strong market growth after the recovery from COVID-19, so shifting from a focus on cars sold to customer loyalty orientation will be a crucial driver of success for the automotive industry. This does not mean just an easy “earn & burn” loyalty program. Future loyalty initiatives must cover the entire customer lifecycle and add value to each customer touch point, making peoples’ lives more comfortable and convenient. All relevant elements for those measures are available, but they need to be connected smartly.”

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Keep in line with market trends

Marketing and incentivization alone aren’t enough to keep customers coming back. At the heart of every memorable brand is a solid range of products that has to meet the needs and preferences of the customer. Investing in vehicle design that is both attractive, efficient, connected, and scalable to support the evolution of the automobile is a must. Achieving this in a way that is cost-effective, thus providing a strong profit margin, is both a challenge and an opportunity for vehicle manufacturers.

While it’s no secret that there is no one-size-fits-all preference for all customer profiles, applying a customer-centric approach to research and development could help to ensure the right boxes are being ticked now and in the future. Continue to offer customers flexibility, and ensure you cater to all within your range.

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Offer convenient purchasing models to reap future rewards

Offering your customers a variety of payment models can ensure you are catering to a wide array of needs. Whether it’s leasing, a hire purchase, or an upfront payment, having more finance options helps to build the longevity of your relationship with customers. For example, for customers that prefer to change their vehicle regularly, leasing is a great option. At the same time, for customers who may want to own their car but don’t have all the funds upfront, a hire purchase may be the better option. Ultimately, splitting payments across fixed intervals offers flexibility and convenience for the customer.

Offering additional value-adds such as vehicle delivery, maintenance, servicing, and companion mobile apps provide additional benefits after the original point of sale.

Approximately 72% of car buyers capitalizing on a complimentary maintenance plan repurchase the same vehicle make.4 Offering these added extras allow you to hold significance with your customer throughout the lifecycle of the purchase, while encouraging additional recurring revenue.

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Make every interaction count

The foundation of every long-term relationship is good communication and the creation of real value for your customers before, during, and after the sale. It’s no different when you’re trying to cultivate better customer engagement with car buyers. Sixty-five percent of a company’s business tends to come from its existing customer base.5 Make sure your customers are aware when their maintenance plan is up for renewal, and offer continued benefits above and beyond that of a new customer. Segmentation is really important when it comes to how you speak to customers. Understand who your personas are and who is most likely to make another high-value purchase soon.

Are you providing the right content and services to your customers? Are you giving them access to a range of additional perks? And, have you built enough rapport from the previous purchase to bring them back for the next sale?

Automotive OEMs need to move from traditional segmentation approaches and employ data and personalization strategies to acquire, retain, and increase customer lifetime value. The manufacturer that makes and maintains a meaningful connection with customers after the sale, will be in a better position to earn brand loyalty more easily. Determine what will keep your customers coming back and keep in touch frequently with Next Best Action (NBA) and Next Best Offer (NBO) communications.

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Being prepared for the future

Are you up to speed with the latest trends in the Automotive sector? Preparing for evolving consumer behavior shifts and digital disruption is extremely important to stay competitive in this evolving space. Here are three key future trends you should be keeping an eye on:

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Design dealerships for digital

Customers don’t make a distinction between brands and dealerships. As a result, manufacturers must offer a valuable omnichannel experience to keep customers engaged. Combining the online and in-store experience to develop a flexible customer journey is the first step — and many dealerships have yet to catch on. Matching and marrying digital interactions with physical ones (showroom visits) will provide consistency and real-time personalized journeys.

OEMs need to connect customer service centers with dealerships and handle issues, passing them from one customer service unit to another. Dealerships must undergo a face-lift by adapting to suit customer needs and molding around the need for a more cohesive customer experience — in terms of systems, staff training, and better technology.

Whether it’s virtual test drives, upskilling employees to do multiple roles, new bonification set-up, changing your business structure, or improving documentation management by digitizing the process, there are a number of efficiencies that can be achieved.6 With digital more of a requirement than a choice, dealerships and manufacturers need to work together to create a seamless experience through the customer’s journey of research, consideration, intent, purchase, and ongoing loyalty.

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Stay on top of shared mobility

Prior to the events of 2020, more and more people were travelling by taxi, ride-hailing, or car-sharing with each other. Across China, Europe, and the U.S., the shared mobility market now exceeds $60 billion.7 While the events of 2020 may have made travelers more wary of sharing a space, as shared mobility evolves and becomes more accessible, the future could pose ample new opportunity for many auto brands, including manufacturers, suppliers, and technology innovators. Shared mobility has the potential to be transformative, although the pace at which this industry evolves depends on how a number of factors, including customer preference, evolving technology, and government regulations progress over the next few years.

Ultimately, there are still many what-ifs surrounding shared mobility. Automotive companies may need to transform to enable the production and marketing of purpose-built models, such as autonomous or green vehicles, provide cost-efficient alternatives, or improve market penetration elsewhere by becoming a platform or services provider.8

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Shape the future driving experience

With the rise in shared mobility and excitement building around autonomous vehicles, car brands have to carve out a market for themselves. In big cities, the growth of electric and autonomous vehicles seems likely, especially as congestion and pollution continues to be a problem. Robo-taxis and shuttles could be a helpful solution to many of the issues being faced. By 2040, its expected that these types of vehicles could account for up to 66% of the passenger-kilometers traveled.9

Connected cars are also set to evolve the way passengers interact with their vehicles. The enriched customer experience will create new ways for drivers to benefit from a personalised experience, almost resulting in cars becoming a ‘virtual chauffeur’.10

Whether it’s tracking, access to digital services, personalized controls, or proactive recommendations, the connectivity of cars has the potential to build a customer experience beyond imagination. Car companies can use this opportunity as a way to differentiate themselves and make a place for themselves in the future.

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Though recent events may have put the brakes on car purchases short term, the future is looking brighter. Now more than ever, it’s important for car manufacturers to invest in genuinely customer-centric business models. Placing the customer at the heart of their decisions and business structure will open the door to a future with better longevity.

Car buyers purchase vehicles based on both rational and emotional decisions, and designing a customer experience that caters to different needs is vital. Smart data segmentation will be the basis for a successful marketing approach to different target groups. Sophisticated data management can aid effective targeting and result in a much better understanding of customer preferences. Utilizing cutting-edge marketing technology to support dealers is a great way to get ahead of the curve. And, integrating in-store and digital experience to boost engagement across the customer lifecycle will help to form deeper, direct connections.

Creating a truly remarkable customer experience will require an evolution of the way we work to embrace new digital innovation and changing customer expectations. Manufacturers must do their very best to engage customers at every stage of the product lifecycle, or they risk being outshined by competitors, new entrants, and disruptors in a rapidly evolving market.

Key takeaways


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Key takeaways

Build deeper and more direct connections with the buyer online, in dealerships and in-car.

Explore how digital transformation can create remarkable new ways of working.

Segment customer data clearly to differentiate between rational and emotional purchases.

Deliver omnichannel personalized engagement throughout the purchase lifecycle.

Consider how changes in customer preferences, technology and regulation could change the automotive landscape in the future.


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About Sitecore Sitecore delivers a digital experience platform that empowers the world’s smartest brands to build lifelong relationships with their customers. A highly decorated industry leader, Sitecore is the only company bringing together content, commerce, and data into one connected platform that delivers millions of digital experiences every day. Leading companies including American Express, ASOS, Carnival Cruise Lines, Kimberly-Clark, L’Oréal and Volvo Cars rely on Sitecore to provide more engaging, personalized experiences for their customers. Learn more at

© 2021 Sitecore Corporation A/S. All rights reserved. Sitecore® and Own the Experience® are registered trademarks of Sitecore Corporation A/S in the U.S. and other countries. All other brand and product names are the property of their respective owners. This document may not, in whole or in part, be copied, reproduced, translated, or used in any other form without prior written consent from Sitecore. Information in this document is subject to change without notice and does not represent a commitment on the part of Sitecore.

1 “COVID-19’s Impact on the Automotive Industry”, Boston Consulting Group, 2020.
2 Joachim Becker, “Buying a Car From the Couch”, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2020.
3 “Winning Tomorrow’s Car Buyers Using Artificial Intelligence in Marketing and Sales Report”, McKinsey & Company, 2019.
5 “Matt Mansfield, “Customer Retention Statistics – The Ultimate Collection for Small Business”, Small Business Trends, 2016.
6 “As Dramatic Disruption Comes to Automotive Showrooms, Proactive Dealers can Benefit Greatly”, McKinsey & Company, 2019.
7 “McKinsey Center for Future Mobility”, McKinsey & Company, 2021.
8 “How shared mobility will change the automotive industry”, McKinsey & Company, 2017.
9 “The future of mobility is at our doorstep”, McKinsey & Company, 2019.
10 “The future of mobility is at our doorstep”, McKinsey & Company, 2019.

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