#aftermarket – The future is here, according to AudaVision’s 25 presenters, guest panellists, and keynote speakers.
The two-day conference, held this April at Toronto’s historic waterfront Palais Royale, offered a wealth of information to dealers, shop owners and other industry members in the audience. Much of it centred around high-tech solutions to auto maintenance and repair as well as the insurance claims process. Even more intriguing, experts examined the potential impact of Gen Y consumers and the outlook for new business down the road. Here’s a recap of what was said.
The Digital Revolution
The advent of the Cloud has redefined how computers manage our business affairs across the board, said Todd James, VP of industry relations for Oracle, and Mark Breading, partner in insurance advisory firm Strategy Meets Action. The leap in available bandwidth and data storage creates “efficiency of interoperability” – the ability to lower costs while increasing core competencies, including productivity and customer service, by tying everything together in neat, cross-correlating bundles. Vital to this is the Cloud’s capture of Big Data, detailing the minutiae of our daily lives, which can be sifted through and analyzed in order to build more connectivity. It also heralds the so-called Internet of Things, wherein machines talk to other machines about human needs. Your car, for example, could diagnose a problem, tell the service provider’s computer about it, set up a repair appointment in your calendar, and even pay for everything after it’s done.
Although automated vehicles are still in development, the rest of this futuristic scenario is already in full swing, including telematics technology that records and transmits every action of a vehicle. James says by 2016 alone, Big Data is poised to pull in $17 billion in revenue; in the following year, the Internet of Things is predicted to amass $290 billion. All of this is fuelled by society’s acceptance of digital connectivity – mobile e-commerce, for instance, is expected to reach $1 trillion in revenues by 2017.
According to Jamie Watters, director of product management, the new AudaNet program on the Audatex platform has been crafted to leverage Big Data and interoperability in the Cloud ecosystem, as well as enhance and streamline the claims procedure. (Among its many features is the ability to write estimates on and take photos with a hand-held tablet, present moveable 3D views of the exploded car body, and communicate instantly with internal departments and outside suppliers and partners.)
Other programs under the Solara umbrella now taking advantage of the digital revolution include AudaVIN, which lets a shop drill down to the last digit on a VIN code, and InPart for Collision, a single-source parts procurement program connected with APU that offers comprehensive real-time search and a flexible rules engine to support different insurance estimating processes.
The Customer Experience
Brian Solis, principal and “digital anthropologist” at the technology research firm Altimeter Group, admits that the rapid change of the past 15 years or so has left many businesses in reaction rather than proaction mode. This will sort itself out soon enough –
by 2020, over 50% of our workers will be WIFI-friendly millennials. Once society as a whole is more in sync with high-tech advances, we will be better positioned to plan for success.
Key to this, said Solis, is what he called “the customer experience.” Broader than customer service, this encompasses the entire lifecycle of every point of contact between a business and an individual consumer. With 99% of consumers citing customer experience as a deciding factor in whether or not they stick to a brand, and seeing that only 7% of companies Solis surveyed were identified as “customer-centric,” there’s plenty of room for technology to fill the breach.
For Tony Krajewski, a partner and technology specialist at Deloitte LLP, the early 20s to mid-30s Gen Y customer will be the game changer. After studying 23,000 consumers throughout 19 countries, he has discovered that this generation prefers urban over suburban lifestyle, and is willing to use a variety of alternate modes of transport to cars, what he calls “the Uberization of mobility.”
The numbers are dropping in terms of vehicle and even driver’s license possession; however, those who do have their own transport also expect built-in safety technology, such as lane departure and collision warnings, that protects them from their own sometimes dangerous driving. Given this arc, Gen Y’s seem perfect candidates for automated cars – perhaps from a ride-share fleet – that allow them to sit back and text while in transit.
On the other hand, Dennis DesRosiers, the head of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, does not see things changing quite so fast nor so furious. “Much of the technology scaring the hell out of this industry will happen 20 or more years down the road,” he told attendees. Any downside represented by Gen Y attitudes towards driving will be more than made up for with new immigrant vehicle acquisition.
In fact, car ownership appears headed for record territory over the next two to five years, and even upwards of a decade, he claims. It’s already a $200 billion annual industry in Canada, and is expected to continue to grow to the tune of some two million units by the end of the decade.
A record number of new car models will be launched over the next two years, buoyed by hefty promotional dollars. All these new cars come with extended lifespans, thanks to the general high quality of their manufacturing. This means survival rates will be double compared to 15 years ago – which translates into a great deal of maintenance and repair opportunities. And the same holds true for the used car market.
DesRosiers concluded his keynote speech and the AudaVision conference itself with this summation: “Longer lasting cars means a very healthy Fixed Operations aftermarket – more so for dealers, but this will trickle down to the independents. [Even though] increased technical complexity gives OEs the edge, because they have the specialized equipment, there’s still lots of room for ‘Joe,’ your local independent. He can’t do all the high-end marketing and may not have all the equipment, but he’s best at connecting with his customers on a very personal level.”