Kathy Gibson is at IDC CIO Summit in Chartwell – The traditional automotive market is seeing massive disruption from competitors in the technology space.
Claycia Johnson, brand management at BMW, points out that tech giants like Google and Apple are the new competitors that motor manufacturers are up against. And the best way to meet these new challenges is with technology
“We realised that if industries are changing, this means consumers are changing,” Johnson says. “And we need to know how they are changing.”
BMW undertook a massive project to gather data and information from and about its customers, to get a picture of where the business needs to be.
“It’s not about the vehicle anymore,” she stresses. “It’s about mobility and, for us to stay relevant, we must understand what services we need to offer.”
BMW started its digitalisation journey with customer touch points, changing the products and services offered to customers.
In July 2014, BMW started building cars with integrated SIM card modules in the chassis, enabling future connectivity.
Using that technology, BMW has since added services like emergency call buttons. “From here we can use vehicle data to see where an impact happened, how many airbags were deployed, if there were passengers in the car and more. We are also able to use GPS and triangulation to get police and ambulance services to the scene quickly.
“At the same time there is someone speaking to the driver.”
The next level Johnson says, is to move beyond just analysing the data to adding value.
Helping to make customers’ lives easier, are seemingly simple solutions like automated app updates and concierge services “Things like this start to let the customer feel empowered.”
Teleservices use technology in new ways, Johnson adds. “Traditionally, taking your car for service is a schlepp – you have to find the time, call the dealer etc.
“Not the vehicle sends information about what needs to be done to the dealer, who then calls the owner to find a convenient time for them.”
A standard feature built into all BMW cars is realtime traffic information, which gives drivers a wealth of useful information.
“We are starting to build the platform of the future,” Johnson says. “And these factors are going to be important when we start autonomous driving.”
BMW has realised that vehicle owners are mobile, and don’t want the mobile usage to be dictated by any organisations.
“We wanted to empower customers to manage their own mobility,” Johnson says. “And so we launched BMW Connected.
“This is not an app,” she stresses. “”We needed a platform whereby we could communicate with our customers; and where customers can use the technology both in the vehicle and outside the vehicle.”
BMW, having realised that it needed to become customer-centric, had to change itself.
“So we needed to build seamless interaction across the entire lifecycle, offering a personalised and contextual experience. To do this we need to know who the customer is. When we looked at the big data we have, and are now able to understand customers a lot better.
“If you are not adapting to the changing consumer you are not relevant to them – and they will go somewhere else.”
Importantly, BMW had to find new ways to work.
“This is important,” says Johnson. “Most people, when they think about digitalisation, think about the end point where you deal with customers rather than about the whole business.
“So we had to look internally and realised that we cannot carry on operating in the same way. We needed to be more agile, to change the way we work and think, and changing the people we bring into the organisation.
“We had to shake the tree. Change happens when people are uncomfortable, when they realise that the world is changing.”
Customers don’t want to have to talk to a variety of different people when they deal with a company, so BMW realised it had to integrate systems and processes.
“We are not perfect,” Johnson says. “We have a long way to go, but we have walked a long way already.”
Because people in the organisation are now more open-minded about change, they are more willing to collaborate and work now happens across multi-disciplinary teams.
“At the back-end, the open mobility cloud allows us to integrate across a lot of different platforms,” Johnson explains.
“We use machine learning and artificial intelligence in the backend, which allows us to use the data we have about our customer to offer them personalised services that anticipate needs.”
Integration allows BMW to offer voice services as well as integration with services like Alexa, as well as to send live links.
Partnering is an important strategy for the digitalised world, and BMW lets Apple’s CapPlay run in-vehicle.