iPad ushering e-zine version of Car and Driver; How analytics on content, reader engagement may follow

Car and Driver on iPad (Image Source: Autoblog)

Car and Driver has just released an e-zine version for the iPad according to Autoblog.  This is part of the start of the e-zine movement, though C and D’s publisher is not alone (see the Zimana blog post on the foray by Bonnier/Popular Science into electronic magazine content ).

The Autoblog gang was a bit underwhelmed with the e-zine Car and Driver, considering the offering as just a transfer of the magazine with no significant features that take advantage of the new format.  That’s a missed opportunity to create renewed interest in the magazine, particularly as now there are so many sources that break car news instantly, such as … er…Autoblog.

That’s okay for now.  The discussion of content — and how to best measure its effects on readers — continues unabated.  The best that these and other organizations can do is to use as much analytics tagging as technologically possible to learn how people use the content and provide better services for all.

How iPad + Hyundai Equus = Analytics opportunity for revolutionizing customer service at auto dealers

Apple’s iPad may be revolutionizing customer service for auto dealers


The iPad has received much hype since Apple’s announcement.  But the news that really caught my attention was Hyundai’s offering an iPad in the glove box of every new Equus.  The Equus is the brand’s most expensive vehicle, a premium sedan aiming to be a BMW 7 series alternative.  The iPad will serve as a service manual instead of the standard brochure.

Now this may sound like a slight come down for Apple — why have a $500 computer serve as a book — but there is a marketing advantage for Hyundai and Apple, along with an analytics opportunity as well.

Hyundai is in an interesting position. It has been strengthening its brand as of late to gain more upscale customers, but unlike Toyota, Nissan, and Honda, they can not create a whole new network and sales division by scratch (ie Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura). Adding an iPad creates a special and timely interest about the Equus.

For Apple, the inclusion addresses the criticisms for what an iPad can be besides an extra computer device.  Although much has been said about the ebook reader capability (and even more said about e-book pricing — more later in a separate post), there are not  many innovative examples to show the capability of an iPad or Slate device.  Replacing the service manual changes that.  The iPad revitalizes a long ignored feature in an automobile and renews the usability in an interesting way, similar to how Starbucks revitalized how consumers perceive coffee.

The iPad also becomes an analytics conduit for information.  According to USA Today’s article on Hyundai and Apple, the iPad will provide service information:

“The iPad will also schedule service appointments, for which owners won’t even have to drive to the dealer. To give the brand a more upscale feel, (Hyundai CEO John) Krafcik is creating a system in which a service attendant will pick up the car from the owner and leave them a loaner. Hyundai also is offering home test drives for potential buyers.”

This means increased customer service capability and more information on its target customers, premium buyers.  Toyota, Nissan, and Honda had the natural progression of customer lifestyle — buyers wanting more premium vehicles as they progress professionally — but these brands did not have the feedback potential Hyundai will have from customer communication to the dealer via the iPad (Maybe Toyota could learn a trick or two for the Lexus LF-A — see the Zimana blog post on it.)

Can an iPad be better in a Hyundai? With a little analytics, like Obama, yes it can!

Takeaways for small businesses:

  • Match your branding accordingly with whomever you partner with — Apple is not a luxury brand, but features and its stores incorporate features of a premium brand (and it is positioning iPad to be superior to netbooks).  This is a fit for Hyundai, which is not an Acura but will limit production on Equus, establishing some premium level above the vehicle on the second rung, Genesis.
  • Technology can serve as a gateway to offline engagement of customers.  Using the iPad will allow Hyundai to use all the techniques and tools to encourage a positive engagement at the dealership. Auto owners have had a negative impression of dealership experience, and all automakers struggle to ensure that any repair is a positive experience that will lead to repeat sales.
  • Analytics can aid your brands effort to strengthen its image by providing a means to gather customer feedback and infer how to improve customer service or product offering.



Lexus LFA – A unique vehicle with unique marketing

One of the most anticipated vehicles in years is the Lexus LF-A, a 550 horsepower, V-10 engined, 2 seat wonder, built from carbon fiber and aluminum. Taking seven years to develop, only 550 LF-As will be built, at a price of $375,000 each.

But the price, far above the most expensive Lexus (the LS Hybrid), is not the most striking aspect of this product. Toyota’s effort to market this special vehicle gives the most pause.

Lexus has one challenge ahead — creating a brand worthy of commanding the $375,000 price tag. While Toyota has been successful with marketing the luxury division, Lexus is not considered in the same league as Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, and Lamborghini, where customers are willing to pay for not only a luxury car but a luxury car maker heritage. Thus the goal of the LFA is to be a halo car for the brand.

First, Toyota released video of the LFA being driven on the Nürburgring race track. The video was meant to display the sporting aspects of the car and reinforce the special development of the vehicle. Nürburgring is a very technical handling oriented race track on which many manufacturers have used for race car handling “cred” for vehicles as well as engineering development (Cadillac’s CTS-V is an example).

Second, Toyota took a few plays from Chip and Dan Heath’s Made To Stick (unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility) by integrating its carbon looming history into the car’s background. Little known fact: Toyota owns one of two looming machines in the world. These looms weave carbon fibers into complex shapes. Toyota has decades of experience. So for the LF-A it used an unexpected fact (Carbon loom) as a sticky point to enhance the technology and experience that is built into the car, qualities that luxury buyers seek about brands like Aston Martin and Ferrari (Hand built quality, racing heritage, and race car-level technology trickled down into production road cars).

Next, Lexus wanted to ensure that its customers benefit from the LFA, not speculators who would only display the cars instead of actually drive them. Having the vehicles seen on the road strengthens the brand, with a special quality given the rare production. So the decision was made to only offer leases on the vehicle (save for Europe), with an option to buy.  Moreover, Lexus will court influential customers to sift out speculators. In Automobile magazine Paul Rohovsky, National Manager of Advance Business Development at Lexus, states how Lexus is relying on its customer database, having a call center asking questions and developing a relationship experience.

If this sounds familiar to segmenting and developing strategy using analytics, you’re getting a gold star. Lexus has created exclusivity and excitement through energizing its customer base to help expose its brand to new customers (for more on an example of segmentation, see the Zimana blog post on segmentation and the Orient Express).  There are also hints of a shared customer-service provider experience —  a leasing program can lead to further customer interaction with specially dedicated Lexus service and sales professionals.  This controlled experience mimics online social groups that discuss specific products, such as Facebook Fans.

You can also see a great discussion video by Editor-in-chief Jean Jenning of Automobile with Brian Bolain at Lexus — Brian’s Lifecycle Manager position implies cross function responsibility for managing a great experience for the customer throughout the product usage.

All in all, Lexus’ approach for the LF-A contains solid ideas of marketing, analytics, and customer service detail from which all businesses can learn.

Start your car? There’s now an app for that!


Place this in the “Yeah, I can see this coming from somebody SOMEwhere” department: Viper, an auto security system company, has introduced a new iPhone application designed to start your car. Priced at $299 if you own a Viper alarm or $499 if you need an alarm and app, the SmartStart will also unlock the trunk and lock/unlock the doors. Granted there is a Zipcar app, plus there are now vehicles like Nissan Altima, Lexus IS, and Ford Taurus that will start when a keyfob is in the vehicle. However, the SmartStart is natural extention of the idea to aftermarket, and one of the first major aftermarket offerings. Certainly not the last.

You can read about SmartStart and see the associated videos here at the Autoblog post

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