Last week, we were really excited to bring industry leaders, speakers and over 50 automotive marketing delegates together over breakfast at The London Transport Museum, Covent Garden, to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the automotive industry. 

Driven by the emergence of digital technology, the automotive industry is experiencing a new wave of technological evolution. Together with our partners Sitecore, Rackspace and The Global Academy of Digital Marketing (GADM), the event was a chance to take some time to step out of the office and talk about what the future holds. Some really interesting insights and future trends emerged from the session: 

The unstoppable force of the customer
Our MD, Neil Collard, outlined the past, present and his vision of the future for automotive marketers, and discussed the changing habits of consumers. He spoke of the ‘unstoppable force’ of the customer and the need to join customer, car and third party data to enhance the ownership experience, engender loyalty and build advocacy. Neil’s key insights for automotive brands to consider for the future included:

- Consider if your brand will drive change or react to it?
- Compare yourself to other sectors and be brutally critical
- Place delightful customer experiences at the heart of your thinking

Customers are driving the industry, not brands 
Rakesh Patel, Digital Sales Director from industry leaders Autotrader was interested in digital disruption and the future of car buyers and dealerships. Rakesh spoke of how his brand has been forced to follow the ‘unstoppable force’ of the customer, as highlighted earlier on in the morning by Neil. Autotrader now operates from 2 UK offices (down from 42) and has moved fully to digital.

Rakesh argued that customers are driving the industry like never before, not brands and data is the key that will enable us to move forward. He talked of how progressive, best-in-class retailers, such as Amazon, Tesco and Zappos are now using data to understand consumer lifestyles to ensure the experience is right for customers. In his view, the automotive industry is a little behind and must play catch-up. 

Benchmark yourself on the way customers live their lives 
The importance of fully understanding customer lifestyles continued through the morning, with ex-Google industry manager, Alex Rose – now Marketing Director at WhoCanFixMyCar, presenting his talk – Digital Disruption in The Automotive Industry: From Meerkats to Motoring. Alex highlighted the need for car manufacturers to benchmark themselves on the way customers live their lives outside automotive, rather than against the competition. 

Further talks came from David Sigerson, Senior Business Optimisation Consultant at Sitecore, who spoke of the need to know every customer and own every individual experience, ensuring brands put customers at the heart of any marketing strategy and how data and technology must be the foundation underpinning all of this. 

Key take-outs
Damien Ryan from GADM, chaired a lively panel discussion, with a host of questions from the audience, ending with a neat round-up of the morning’s key insights: 

1. Currently, the industry is lagging behind – brands need to move from simply reacting to customer needs, to anticipating and even dictating change 

2. Combining relevant data sets to give consumers better brand experiences is crucial to success

3. A lack of response to the ‘unstoppable force’ of the customer, will only serve to provide fertile ground for new entrants

4. Brands must start to understand customer’s lifestyles outside the automotive industry 

The morning served as a really useful platform for digital marketers to share, collaborate and transform the marketing industry. We plan to host future sessions in 2015.

For more e3 insight into the automotive industry, read our Whitepaper: A different perspective on automotive marketing. The advantages of maintaining your challenger mindset

To talk to us about any of the above, call me on 0117 902133 or email