Stranded data needs unlocking

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LIKE oil in the ground, data that just sits on the hard drive of a computer has no value until it is linked with other data in a relevant way. 

Like stranded oil trapped in underground pockets, stranded files have no value until they can talk to each other. It is the results born of those electronic conversations that add value to the data in order to make it serve the needs of the keepers of the information and enables them, in turn, to better integrate their customers into their businesses.

This paves the way to helping the customers, the retailers and, the OEMs make better decisions.

Along with this comes trust between those who share their data in order to add value to it and this raises the need for trust between dealers and their OEMs. This will be especially the case with the connected car.

These were some of the core messages of a panel discussion on data at the recent Pentana Live two-day virtual interactive event, in which data leaders in the auto industry outlined their vision for a resource that is increasingly coming into its own.

Discussing the concept of data as the new oil were Stephen Lester, CEO of Cox Automotive Australia, Steve Kloss, CEO of Pentana Solutions, Jens Monsees, CEO of Infomedia and Gary Martin, CEO of Marque Group.

All four run data companies are in various stages of cooperating and integrating data with each other for their industry customers.

Stephen Lester told the participants that while there is a “massive responsibility” to protect the data within the industry’s systems, there was also a responsibility to make it available to improve corporate performance as well as improve the way customers interact with the industry. 

Mr Lester said you cannot manage what you don’t measure and that “we have this opportunity to have the data right in front of us; to be able to break it down into smaller pieces and then be able to leverage it, especially for the purpose of really understanding our customers better”. 

Stephen Lester

“And at the end of the day, whether you’re on the frontline at the dealership or in the boardroom at an OEM, being able to really understand the trends around your customer is only enhanced by your ability to leverage the data that you have … to make better and more well-informed decisions to take care of and look after our customers better. And that’s really what it’s all about; making sure that we understand what those trends are and how we can better leverage them.” 

Mr Lester said the biggest data opportunity today for dealers and OEMs, on which they were currently not capitalizing, is data integration and that trust between both the dealers and the OEM is “really paramount to making integration work”.

“Without that trust, without that collaboration and working together, finding the right data, being able to use it in the most effective ways (would be) a really an impossible task. And certainly we would not meet what the real customer expectation (of us) is at the end of the day. 

“And so I see an opportunity between both the OEM and the dealer to partner in that relationship … to make sure that they leverage and utilize that technology.”

Mr Lester said it was important for the industry to support a more efficient operation of reading industry data.

”It did not matter whether it is “automated via AI or whatever other medium you choose to use” the key is “to really make sure that the data is properly integrated to answer the questions you are looking to answer”.

Mr Monsees said: “We all talk now about data. But I would say we are just at the tip of the iceberg”. 

Jens Monsees

“There is a whole new business opportunity of making better decisions and developing and offering a better customer experience. And we should not just talk about it, but we should implement it into our current dealership operations. 

“And we should also optimize it. Because in the past we were maybe running a winter tyre campaign or an oil campaign, putting it out to the market. But now we have evidence of what the customer, the car owner, actually wants. 

“For example, what is the connected car sending in terms of data? What does the dealership have in their CRM data? What does the OEM have in terms of data? So the integration and the relevance of data, of optimizing and making a better decision so we can do better for our customers and also for our leadership; that’s the holy grail that we are all striving for.

Mr Monsees said Infomedia was currently working with BMW on connected car data.

“If your brake pads are down, then we get in contact with that specific customer via a text message or an email, whatever you prefer. You have a connected car; we know where you start your journey, because that’s where you put on the engine. So that’s where you live, we know where you work, because that’s the route that you’re driving and the connected car is transmitting this data. 

“And then we can look for the closest dealership and we can check with the dealership if your brake pads are in stock in the warehouse. Then we can reach out to you and make an online appointment to replace your brake pads and, based on the data, it will cost you $300 or $500. 

“We can order an Uber for you to take you to work. Or even better. If you’re at the end of your lease contract, we can put out maybe the latest test drive model for you specifically based on your data set. And we can hopefully sell a new car to you and loyalise you.

“So what we have here is more convenience, we have faster operations in our service and parts dealerships and we have also more loyalisation for the OEM brand. 

“Altogether that makes the journey but it is only possible if we are working in an integrated ecosystem in that all DMS providers, as well as data providers, like Infomedia, are connected. 

“That is, I think, the future where we can make the dealership more effective and efficient. But also the customer journey is much more appealing and convenient for the car owners. So that is not a vision. That’s what we are already doing today in Australia.”

Mr Lester said that connected cars represented “a mountain of opportunity”. 

“The knowledge of where customers go, how frequently they stay in places, all of this has a unique value that has not been able to really be monetized to this point. 

“Over-the-air updates are a revenue stream that some manufacturers have already taken on board. That is a key and, quite frankly, the idea or the notion that you can get more performance out of your vehicle with a simple over-the-air update that you can access whether it be via subscription model or a pay-as-you-go scenario is a fascinating new world for connected vehicles. 

“One cautionary piece to this is the security minefield that is really out there and whether you’re on the OEM side, or if you’re an aftermarket provider, that has to be a concern.

“We talk about cherishing the data but that custodianship of the data and caretaking of it and making sure that we look after it appropriately, is going to be so critical for us going forward. 

“There are plenty of bad actors not related to our industry who are making (attacks) that we need to be looking out for.” 

Mr Lester said that the connected car presented an exciting future for the industry, “both from a revenue opportunity at the dealer level and an OEM revenue opportunity, but also how the whole ecosystem of information sharing starts to fit together.

Steve Kloss told the webinar that different ways of engaging sales or approaching their customers via shopping centers, digital showrooms and agency models were “part of the constant change that the industry has always seen before”.

Steve Kloss

“There is lots of talk around all of those different models. I see all of them as enormously positive. And when you tie that to customer engagement, what better way to engage the customer in the way they want to be engaged and (that ties in with) the data opportunity that gives us the insights to serve that customer so much better. 

“So I think, in all of the discussion that floats around shopping centers, agency and all of the different sales models that are there, change is constant. It has always been constant in all the years that I’ve been around the automotive industry. And I think all of that creates enormous positivity for the customer.

“I think there is a clear role. Dealers do a brilliant job. They’re brilliant at the function that they fulfill. OEMs do a brilliant job and the more collaboration there is, and it doesn’t matter what the model is, there’s always a role for both. And data is right at the center of what that looks like. So I see it all as a really positive change for what this industry does.”

Referring to the importance staff should place on data within their companies, Mr Kloss said that the word that should be applied is cherish

“I think if you cherish data, it becomes more emotive than just data. If you are given an emotive position, when your staff cherish data and think about this cherished data as an asset that they have, then they think differently about it.”

Gary Martin told the panel: “I think a word (to use) with data should be responsibility, because all of us have a responsibility with the way that the data is held in our systems and then how it is deployed to our customers be it the OEM or the dealerships themselves. 

Gary Martin

“It’s also about the integrity of the data, and then about how it is served up to really allow the industry to make better decisions. 

“That’s our role. We’re not on the frontlines of the dealerships. So we’re not in the manufacturing plants of the manufacturers. But we should be able to be there to help provide a conduit for this data to move where it needs to move to be available at the time it needs to be available, and allow people to make better decisions. 

“I think that’s key to what we do. And if we can really focus our attention on how that moves through our various automotive IT ecosystems, the end result is a better customer experience which is what everyone’s really focused on as all the data allows that to evolve, Mr Martin said.

“I would really love dealers, when it comes to data security, to actually have a strategy and to actually be able to communicate that strategy to their staff.” 

He said that a lot of dealers say they are worried about security but “they don’t actually have a living strategy; and you have to keep evolving that strategy. 

Referring to AI, he said that AI brings “another whole raft of responsibilities”. 

“With the data that gets put into these engines, we as vendors and the holders of the data itself, we have to be very mindful of responsibilities and we have to educate our staff; just like on security.

“AI is a different security angle. And so we have a very active participation of our group of companies to just inform them that AI already exists around us today, which it does.

“In the automotive industry, we are entrusted with the data of our dealership customers, the OEM data … and how AI is used to make better decisions to make it easier for people to do their job. That’s what we’re about. But we have to act with integrity. 

“AI is the gold rush that everybody seems to talk about in our world as the vendors in IT and we really do have another responsibility which, besides cyber and data protection, it is now protecting what AI does with our customers’ data,” Mr Martin said.

By John Mellor

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