4 minute read 15 Nov 2019
Man woman paperwork standing amidst cars showroom

How to upshift the customer experience in the era of mobility

By Hanno Lorenzl

EY Americas Automotive Retail and Distribution Lead and Strategy and Consulting Services Principal

Passionate about all things car related. Excited for the future of mobility. Focused on connecting people and opportunities globally. Enjoys playing golf and coaching rugby. Family keeps him centered.

4 minute read 15 Nov 2019

Automakers and dealerships need to shift from product- to customer-centricity to strengthen loyalty.

One aspect of the car buying customer journey has remained consistent for many years: purchase through a dealership. Whether you had a good experience or bad, a visit to the dealer or multiple dealers was an essential part of the decision-making process in the customer journey leading to a vehicle purchase.

However, this era of unprecedented change now disrupts auto retailing as well. Consumers today have limitless online resources to guide their purchasing decisions, enabling them to research everything about a vehicle, and competitors’ products, before choosing whether to buy – or not. In addition, growing segments of consumers are willing to trade the convenience and status symbol of owning a car for the flexibility and economy of on-demand mobility solutions to satisfy their transportation needs. In this shifting and evolving marketplace, what can vehicle manufacturers do to stay connected with consumers and relevant in the marketplace?

Moving from product-centricity to customer-centricity

According to research, in some geographies, automotive brands have found that the number of visits to dealerships before purchase has dropped from five to one, and almost a quarter of customers expressed dissatisfaction with their visits. Yet 72% of consumers felt that an improved buying process would motivate them to visit more often.¹ Some 84% of car manufacturers believe that an engaging customer experience across multiple touch points strengthens their value proposition; but only 8% are well prepared.²

Given the significant changes occurring within the auto retail ecosystem, automakers and dealerships need to change their current product-oriented model to a customer-centric model to strengthen customer loyalty and remain competitive.

Upshifting the customer experience

For automakers and dealers, the key is to focus on building a differentiated customer experience that delights and exceeds expectations. To build a differentiated brand experience requires a broad transformation of the customer purchase journey, rethinking digital and physical retail standards and finding new ways to interact with customers to provide an omni-channel, leading-in-class experience.

To build this customer-centric experience there are several key areas to focus on:

  • Seamless online experience: The typical first touchpoint between a customer and automaker is online. According to an exercise conducted by EY teams around online vehicle sales, the leading-class features that enhance the customer experience exhibited by online vehicle sales portals include digital tools to help select a product based on select requirements, while providing product and omni-channel sales process information including financing options and product insights and reviews utilizing videos, chats and texts. The availability and experience of financing options also need to be integral parts of the online part of the journey.
  • Reinvention of store design: Automakers and dealers will need to collaborate on upgrading the dealer store to enhance the customer experience. From furniture to floor layout, every part of the store needs to be an integrated part of the omni-channel experience. A variety of digital sales tools should also be part of the reinvention process. Tools such as virtual product presentation and mobile customizer apps enable customers to choose and visualize interior and exterior options in real-time.
  • Creation of new product and service ambassador roles: The rising complexity of retail operations and customer needs is rendering some of the traditional dealership roles obsolete. At the dealership level, new customer interfacing roles should be created that are focused on product and service expertise and not simply on closing a sale. For example, an on-site product professional could help guide customers through the available products and features detail, which would enhance the customer experience by building trust and confidence in the product. Another example would be an aftersales representative who would be assigned to maintain relationships with customers after the purchase to achieve a consistent experience across the vehicle’s future service needs.
  • Updating customer service training program: With so much on the line at every touchpoint during the customer sales journey, it is critical that each interaction is a positive experience for the customer. An across-the-board employee training program could emphasize the importance of trust and positive customer experience, and underline the roles of individual employees in the process.

The retail game has changed

As we enter a new age of mobility, the old rules of how to engage customers and close a sale have become obsolete. With consumers increasingly able and keen to access information across channels, automakers and dealerships have the opportunity to transform their retail models to deliver a richer premium brand experience through seamless integration across all customer-facing channels.

By reinforcing these steps with initiatives such as reinventing the customer strategy and journey, adapting sales channels and designing new formats and centering talent management around the customer, automotive companies can forge a successful path to the future of mobility.

There is already a battle for the user interface within the new mobility ecosystem: smartphone owners use an average of 10 apps – and future mobility services will need to be one of them. If automotive companies want to be relevant in the future of mobility, it is critical that they begin the journey now by creating a seamless omni-channel customer experience.


The traditional car-buying journey that has for years necessitated visiting a dealer is being disrupted: consumers now have limitless online resources to help their decision-making. Automakers and dealerships need to create a high-quality omni-channel experience for consumers if they want to win their loyalty – and this demands completely new tools, roles and perspectives.

About this article

By Hanno Lorenzl

EY Americas Automotive Retail and Distribution Lead and Strategy and Consulting Services Principal

Passionate about all things car related. Excited for the future of mobility. Focused on connecting people and opportunities globally. Enjoys playing golf and coaching rugby. Family keeps him centered.