Move digital transformation into the fast lane

Despite rising prices, people are still buying cars, and they like the ease of buying cars online. In a recent survey by, 38% of current car shoppers said they expect to complete the entire buying process online. Another 38% intend to purchase a vehicle in person but complete all paperwork online, saving them hours at the dealership.

This surge in demand has prompted a growing number of executives in the auto industry — which has traditionally lagged behind in online selling — to embrace digital transformation. But bringing digital marketing and sales to your auto business, especially if it’s a mature organization, is easier said than done. At a minimum, you will have to gain a deep understanding of customer pain points, make a strong business case for change, and connect with both partners and colleagues. It may also involve dealing with objections from various stakeholders.

Fortunately, AdobeProfessional Services knows what you’re facing. We’re working with some of the world’s most advanced auto industry players to build tomorrow’s customer experiences. In this blog, we’ll share advice on speeding your company’s digital transformation and pulling ahead of the competition.

Why the auto industry is different

Buying a car online is more complex than purchasing many other products. Instead of dealing with one seller, car buyers must interact with many different players, including automakers, dealers, finance companies, insurance companies, and auto repair and service providers. As a result, the experience can be confusing, disjointed, and frustrating.

For example, you might fill out a lengthy form on a dealer’s website to get a price quote and then have to repeat that information on your local dealer’s site. Or if you need to buy a spare part, you may have to comb through numerous small marketplaces instead of getting simple, straightforward help from the auto manufacturer.

Meanwhile, complex data privacy and financial regulations make it challenging for the different companies that own the car buying journey — such as dealers, automakers, and finance companies — to share customer information. Digital transformation, then, requires strong leadership, partnership, and deep expertise.

1. Get buy-in from your leadership team

Buy-in and commitment from leadership should be the first thing on your digital transformation to-do list. This is because some people and departments may be very invested in existing methods and processes. They may not want to collaborate on your project — and may need a gentle nudge. A C-level champion can set goals and expectations for the organization and can provide a path for escalation in case of bottlenecks or obstruction.

Often, leadership teams are very supportive of digital transformation efforts. We’ve seen auto industry companies actively hiring leaders from the high-tech sector. These executives are challenging the status quo and accelerating the pace of innovation in pursuit of driving a cultural change that will go beyond just the car buying experience and into the car ownership experience as well.

Take action. Getting buy-in from your leadership teams requires making a rock-solid business case. You will want to use internal customer data and projections, analyst data, and competitive intelligence to paint a picture of what digital transformation could mean for your company’s growth over short, medium, and long time horizons.

2. Map the prospect and customer journeys

Because buying and owning a car can be a complex process, it’s important to know exactly what the prospect and customer experiences look like. You need to learn how prospects research, compare options, apply for financing, and handle the mechanics of completing their transactions and taking possession of their new car. Similarly, you need to know how owners interact with brands, dealers, repair shops, and more.

For each stage of the prospect and customer journey, you’ll need to figure out:

Take action. Getting the data you need to map prospect and customer journeys may require more than a little digging and looking beyond your company’s website. For example, if you are an auto manufacturer, you will want to know how affiliated sites like dealerships affect the opinions and actions of prospects and owners. You’ll want to see if some experiences are more likely to foster conversions and customer loyalty than others.

3. Understand your customers’ biggest frustrations when buying a car online

Once you’ve mapped your prospect and customer journeys and located data that describe them, you’ll want to take a deeper dive. Typically, this involves building customer profiles that combine data from multiple sources whenever possible and analyzing them to identify places where the customer journey slows down or stops altogether.

Take action. Adobe customers typically use Adobe Customer Journey Analytics to find bottlenecks. In the auto industry, customer journey showstoppers might include very slow approvals for auto loan applications, lack of information on how long a particular make or model may be out of stock, or multiple requests for customers to repeat the same basic information. Once you have a clear picture of where the prospect and customer journeys slow down and break down, you can determine how best to improve them.

4. Identify critical KPIs — for your company and for your customers

As your digital transformation project proceeds, it’s important to measure its impact on key performance indicators (KPIs) that your organization values. These can be sales, revenues, or measures of customer satisfaction like the net promoter score. These kinds of metrics can help keep your leadership invested in a transformation project and give them useful information to share with the board of directors.

Take action. When you are running a pilot project — such as a commerce website for a sub-brand or specific location — continually tracking metrics can help you make the case for a larger trial or even a regional or global deployment.

5. Develop a phased implementation plan — and be ready to share your successes

Generally speaking, it’s easier to maintain organizational enthusiasm for digital transformation when you show steady progress and well-documented results. A phased deployment allows you to achieve milestones at a sustainable pace and scale your digital transformation efforts in a way that allows for maximum user acceptance while minimizing disruption.

Ideally, your phased plan should cover each stage of implementation — including discovery — define milestones, and establish realistic expectations for stakeholders. You will want to identify the technologies you need — which could include Adobe Experience Platform, Adobe Real-Time Customer Data Platform, Adobe Customer Journey Analytics, Adobe Experience Manager, etc. — and document your strategy for sharing your progress with key teams.

Take action. Adobe’s Professional Services organization has helped hundreds of customers plan and execute their digital transformations. Based on these experiences, we’ve developed a roadmap for phased deployment that can help you set reasonable expectations across your organization and build momentum around your project.

The roadmap includes three phases:

Phase 1 — foundation. During this phase, you build the strategies and technologies you will need to support artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions. Because AI and ML are only as good as the data they analyze, this phase emphasizes identifying and connecting data sources and building unified customer data profiles to support your highest-priority use cases.

During this phase, you will also begin to apply AI audiences to these use cases and document some early wins. For auto companies, this could involve using AI-powered targeting for a single region or sub-brand.

Phase 2 — expand. During this phase, you will add new data sources to enrich profiles, refine your data model, and add new cross-channel experiences. At this point, you should also be able to launch ML-driven content, such as offer decisioning, in which you make the best possible offer for each individual prospect. For example, a prospect visiting an auto company’s website might receive a discount for a car with a particular set of features that can be redeemed by their local dealership.

This phase is also typically when our customers will roll out AI-optimized audiences, channels, and budgets.

Phase 3 — mature. This phase is all about continuous improvement. You will continue to add data sources and models while delivering responsive and personalized experiences that span all your channels. No matter how, where, and when prospects and auto owners interact with your brand, they will have a consistent and personalized experience.

Pull ahead of the competition

We believe the auto companies that invest in digital experience today will lead their categories tomorrow. If you’re ready to lead a digital transformation initiative, do your research, make a business case, and talk to your leadership team.

Adobe Professional Services is here to help you plan and complete your digital transformation. If you’re ready to chat, you can reach out here.