You recently revamped your entire marketing agency landscape.
It’s true. This is also part of our new strategy. The new agency model “THE MARCOM ENGINE” lays the foundation for a personalized and targeted customer approach in the future. Instead of more than 80 agencies operating in the regions, we will focus in Europe on two top-level partner agencies, whose portfolios complement each other perfectly, to implement our new marketing concept together.
What exactly will change for customers as a result of your new business approach?
If customers choose to share their data with us, thanks to digitized processes, we will be able to know their wishes and preferences better than ever. We know what products or services might interest them. This database saves us time and allows us to offer them an individual and personalized offer. It won’t just be for the vehicle; it includes all the relevant services: from financing to the charging package for their electric powertrain. And customers will get all these things from a single source.
We want to provide them with a premium customer experience, from the initial point of contact through to vehicle use.
The next step will be to extend aftermarket upgrades for on-demand vehicle functions, previously only available as an ex-factory option. This will allow us to offer our customers additional vehicle functions that they can use flexibly or just for a limited time, if they wish. This means that they can continue to personalize their vehicle and continuously adapt it to their mobility needs.
Can you give us an example of the features you are talking about?
Additional features, such as driver assistance systems, selected light and sound packages or even suspension. A good example is the BMW Drive Recorder. Our vehicles are already equipped with cameras that can be used for other purposes. For example, if you want to take photos for your digital photo album while driving along a winding mountain pass, you can activate the BMW Drive Recorder. This feature is particularly appreciated by customers as an upgrade. The after-sales support rate is higher than the initial configuration.
Another example is the heated steering wheel: if a customer is driving in sub-zero temperatures, our voice assistant will prompt them to try the heated steering wheel – even if they did not order it when purchasing the car – for free during a trial period. If the customer likes the feature and wants to continue using it, he can pay for the corresponding upgrade, maybe only in the cold season or for the winter vacation.
To do this, you rely on all possible customer and vehicle data. Is it in the interest of your customers?
Let’s be clear: our customers naturally decide themselves to provide us with personal data so that we can optimize their experience of our vehicles and our services. The high standards that customers expect from our products and services set the benchmark for how we handle their data.
So how are your customers reacting to these options? Do you think this business case has potential?
It certainly is. Pilot projects in Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom have shown that customers are very interested in these additional vehicle features.
We expect the proportion of aftermarket upgrades for vehicle functions to represent a significant percentage of our highly profitable optional equipment business in the future.
This will also allow us to reach other customer groups, such as used car buyers or customers who rent or lease their car and prefer to purchase vehicle features for a limited time only.
And how do customers activate these additional options?
They use their personal BMW ID to log into the BMW ConnectedDrive Store, where they can access the entire BMW Group digital ecosystem, including the wide range of aftermarket vehicle upgrades. This will also be possible using our branded apps in the future.
So apps give you a direct line to the customer?
Yes, they do. Their new design makes them easier and more intuitive to use and offers us an interface for individualized dialogue with our customers.
Today, they not only provide access to vehicle status and functions, but with the BMW digital key, for example, it is possible to integrate the smartphone as a vehicle key, or to integrate Amazon Alexa Car or redeem BMW Points for a BMW Top-Up. . They also put our customers in direct contact with their BMW partner so that they can arrange a service appointment quickly and easily.
Does this mean simple, straightforward service appointments will soon be a reality?
Customer support is extremely important. Our customers really appreciate having their vehicle serviced and repaired by our retail partners. Our partners provide services to approximately 15 million customers per year, on average, performing nearly half a million vehicle diagnostic tests worldwide each week. These are quite impressive numbers. It’s also why we revamped this business unit late last year as we continue to improve customer satisfaction and convenience even further.
What exactly does this mean?
One aspect is to expand our product offering: for example, through remote diagnostics. In the future, if the vehicle displays an error message on the vehicle display, the customer can simply call their BMW partner directly from the vehicle. If the customer agrees, vehicle data is transmitted over the air and the service employee can perform remote diagnostics. If the car needs to be taken to the workshop, a service appointment can easily be arranged at a convenient time. This means that a spare part can be ordered directly and the workshop appointment is optimally adapted to it. Remote diagnostics will be rolled out in stages around the world this year, once the first pilot projects have been completed.
When will customers be able to benefit from your new commercial measures?
This varies between markets for BMW and MINI and also depends on individual characteristics. But our two fully electric vehicles, the BMW i4 and the BMW iX, will certainly be released with the new sales concept. Without saying too much, the focus will be on after-sales upgrades of vehicle functions on demand, as well as a transparent and particularly customer-centric configuration process with personalized options. We will also bundle offers – from winter wheels to a lease contract – so that customers get everything they need from one source.
Finally, there is another subject that the BMW Group has dedicated itself to: sustainability. Does this also apply to sales and marketing?
Yes of course. The BMW Group belief that “there can be no premium without sustainability” also applies to us in the Sales and Marketing division. We are already helping our customers make appropriate and sustainable product and powertrain decisions and training our employees and business partners to become ambassadors for our sustainability ambitions. Topics such as recycling and the use of secondary materials are also important issues for us in sales and marketing.