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Digital transformation and customer centricity in the Automotive industry

I have recently changed roles to lead the EMEA Automotive and Manufacturing Business Development team within Salesforce. I am proud that we have the privilege of working with some of the most respected companies, including OEMs such as VW Group, Groupe PSA, Renault-Nissan, Toyota Motors Europe; and dealers, such as D’Ieteren and Bergé Auto. In this blog post, I wanted to share (1) a summary of the industry trends that are top-of-mind to the customers and prospects I’ve spoken with, and (2) my favorite examples of how Salesforce supports our automotive customers to drive value.


Two powerful trends in Automotive

New technology roadmaps, driven by Industry 4.0 trends, are top of mind in Auto Strategy HQs. Specifically, I see two profound changes in the industry:

1. The changing role of the dealer: Digital is fundamentally changing the way we buy cars. Recent research by Bain highlights that nearly 50% of car buyers begin their decision journeys online and visit the dealership on average only 2.4 times. This increasingly contradicts with the dealer-centric experience we saw over the past decades and puts pressure on delivering top-notch customer experiences. Moreover, we see an increase in alternatives to traditional dealerships, incl., temporary pop-up stores (e.g., Tesla’s and Seat’s presence in shopping malls like Westfield), new sales experiences (e.g., Audi VR showroom) and a strong increase in purely online sales (e.g., Hyundai click-to-buy, Peugeot ecommerce platforms).

2. From vehicle sales to mobility services: CASE (connected, autonomous, self-driving and electric) enables a wide range of new business models, including sharing models, functions on demand and 3rd party services. We indeed see many examples emerging – incl., Daimler’s recent stake in Car2Go and Audi On Demand concierge-based rental service. Powerful population trends further underline the need to revise our thinking regarding mobility – e.g., the increased urbanisation with 66% of the population expected to live in urban areas by 2050 and the shift to the “home-centered life” where stores and offices come to you (e.g., Toyota’s e-Palette vision at CES). As a result, Deloitte forecasts that by 2040, nearly 80% of the vehicle sales will go towards shared vehicles. McKinsey adds that car-generated data could become a $450-750Bn market by 2030.

“The car industry is going to change more in the next 5 years than in the past 50” – Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO, General Motors

The most important implication of these shifts is that automakers, OEMs, dealers and affiliated companies need to focus on seamless digital customer journeys. An exhaustive 360-degree customer profile (fed by a.o. DMS and ERP) can personalize the end-to-end customer experience, from awareness creation to car purchasing, aftermarket sales, leasing retention. And this is exactly where Salesforce comes in.


Four ways how Salesforce supports OEMs and dealers

Our Salesforce “Customer Success Platform” has proven to help OEMs, dealers and affiliated companies become more customer-centric across all aspects of their business, in order to meet the new reality in the automotive sector. I like to summarize our value propositions in four ways:

1. CRM for vehicle sales: We help a wide range of OEMs and dealers to improve the effectiveness of ‘traditional’ vehicle sales, incl. personalized marketing to engage with the customer through the awareness and acquisition stages, lead management to provide intelligent tools to dealerships, dealer engagement and captive finance solutions (e.g., subscription-based products sold through ecommerce portals). A few concrete examples:

  • PSA personalizes their online properties (2,200+ microsites) to guide the consumer’s purchasing journey by capturing and unifying first-party data through Salesforce DMP (see details here)
  • As part of its DRIBER transformation, Bergé Auto implemented an operational and collaborative CRM (e.g., lead management, customer care) to become more customer-centric and analytical CRM (e.g., analysis of retail traffic, quotes and stock levels) and ensure proper sales performance (see details here)
  • Aston Martin leverages the single customer view to intimately connect with the customer, e.g., empowering the DB11 launch with personalized emails, digital invitations, lead management, dealer engagement (see details here)

2. Personalized aftermarket service and sales: We help our customers provide personalized service across all channels, helping to capture short-term opportunities in aftermarket sales and service, while boosting loyalty and customer retention in the long-term. Examples include:

  • Ducati built a rich community for their riders to share experiences and is planning to connect the bikes with IoT to further enhance community engagement (see details here)
  • Maserati leverages WeChat to engage deeply with its rapidly growing customer base in China (see details here)
  • Renault BeLux built an award-winning customer portal to get self-service access to personalized services, given car status and driver preferences (see details here)

3. New business models and mobility solutions: IoT and digital are unlocking a range of new business models – e.g.,

  • Through the OnStar “AtYourService” app, GM leverages car-connectivity to enable drivers to book services (e.g., hotels, fuel stops) and get personalized promotions (e.g., coupon for donuts and coffee), depending on the trip details and personal preferences of the driver (see details here)
  • Octo Telematics launched a new model for usage-based insurance, by leveraging the Next Generation Platform to capture and contextualize IoT data (see details here)
  • FlixBus rapidly scaled its new shared-economy model for bus services to 100M+ passengers, leveraging Salesforce for marketing, proactive passenger communications, customer service and partner management (see details here)

4. Employee engagement and digital supply chain: Finally, we can help ‘unlock’ systems of record to enable easier, global collaboration around product industrialization, employee engagement and the digital supply chain. Three interesting examples:

  • Fontana Gruppo consolidated information from 14 ERP systems into a single, mobile analytics platform (Einstein) and streamlined the product industrialization (e.g., new products, prototypes) and lot tracking (e.g., chemical validation) processes (see details here)
  • Michelin simplified and optimized processes across silos to efficiently collaborate around the customers (see details here)
  • DHL provides real-time transparency on supply chain issues (e.g., adverse weather, geopolitical unrest) and proactively escalates issues through the Resilience-360 app (see details here)

I am intrigued by the pace of change in the industry and the superb innovation our customers are driving on our platform. If you are interested to learning more about the role of Salesforce in Automotive, please join our Automotive track at Dreamforce ( or reach out to me personally.