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The Connected Consumer is driving change in automotive

by Jack Bergquist , 16.03.2016

Since the dawn of the smartphone, consumers around the world have been on a lightning fast path towards ubiquitous connectivity. Almost a third of U.K. consumers feel it’s essential to always be reachable1. This trend is driving change across almost all industries, from NFC (near field communication) advertising on bus stops to WiFi in planes, every industry is striving to capitalize on this technology and consumers are demanding to use it.

The slow and steady evolution of the automotive industry

While the automotive industry may be accused of being slow moving, it’s been working in this space since before the first iPhone, in the guise of automatic emergency calling – a system with an embedded cell phone which calls the emergency services in the event of an accident. However, over the past five years, new technology and a spike in consumer demand has pushed the industry into a phase of continuous evolution in the connected infotainment space. GfK actually found that 82% of American consumers regarded the presence of technology to be important when looking to buy a new car2.

Unfortunately, as with all innovation, not everything has been smooth sailing. While many connected features have found their way into vehicles, the user interface has often been neglected, leaving some car manufacturers (OEMs or original equipment manufacturers) with unresponsive, hard to navigate systems – and ultimately unhappy customers. Around a quarter of all customers in the U.K. said they lose interest in technology that isn’t easy to use3.

It’s all about the connected consumer’s experience

However, the industry is learning from its early mistakes and many OEMs have now realized that putting the consumer at the forefront of development, both in terms of features and implementation, is key to making a successful system.

BMW AG has been a business at the forefront of connected development in vehicles over the last decade, both in terms of embedded and smartphone-based solutions. GfK has created a video as part of the IMI’s (Institute of the Motor Industry) “Driving Change” program. GfK chose to partner with BMW, as its vehicles represent some of the latest developments in connected technology, such as smart home integration and BMW Online Office.


GfK: Driving Change - Cars and the connected consumer.


Looking to the future, connecting vehicles and the customers within them will go beyond just enabling some limited apps and productivity features. Already some manufacturers are opening up the embedded connection, offering customers new options like using telematics based insurance, or even entering their vehicle into car sharing services to make some money during all those hours of dead time while parked during the day. Moving beyond this, the connection with the outside world will become one of the key enablers for autonomous vehicles: for example, booking a vehicle (think a world of Ubers with no driver), offering content and things to do while being a passenger, and more importantly to ensure the vehicle has key safety elements like the latest maps and feedback from the road network around accidents.

While this future may be further away than some media may suggest, getting there means the automotive industry will need customers to buy in to the new iterations of this technology. Cars will need to have the features customers want, served to them in a way they want to interact with them. In a broader world of increased customization, the automotive industry has its work cut out to ensure customers are kept connected, satisfied and safe.

Please email me to share your thoughts at Jack.Bergquist@gfk.com.

If you'd like to learn more about the developments in automotive technology, then have a look at one of my other, recent blog posts.

1GfK Consumer Life (Roper Reports ©) 2015
2 GfK Connected Technology Report USA 2016
3 GfK Consumer Life (Roper Reports ©) 2015