Face of motor retail industry set to change

The face of consumerism in the motor retail industry is set to change dramatically in the next ten to twenty years and the driver for the changes is none other than-technology.

Image by Enjith Krishnan. Just as other retail industries have been affected by advances in technology, the motor retail industry is in no way exempt from these advances and what has been standard practice in the industry from manufacture to retail practice for the last century or so, will see drastic changes in no less than the next decade.

Just look at the concept of “cocooning”, that is, the increasing trend whereby people opt to remain at home in the comfort of their homes where all their needs can be met, is a reality and one that the motor retail industry will have to adapt to.

I see a future where consumers will be able to visit a dealership, look at the exterior and interior of vehicles and even test drive vehicles without stepping out of the living room. Consumers will be able to enjoy a fully immersive retail experience at home powered by developments in 3D TV and Heads-Up Displays. The days of large luxurious dealerships may become a thing of the past in the next few decades.

What’s more the South African motor retail industry will benefit from these technological advances. Consumers will no longer be paying for “Taj-Mahal” dealerships and the concomitant expensive building and operating costs. The future will see us driving electric, fully recyclable and disposable vehicles that will not need to be serviced and will cost a fraction of the price of a petrol or diesel vehicle.

The past five years has seen the dramatic evolution of manufacturing in that vehicles are being made to order. In the future consumers will order their vehicle from the retailer and the vehicle will be manufactured on demand.
It is essential that retailers adapt to these changes since the manner in which they deal with consumers will change. Consumers will always be “owned” by retailers as retailers are their point of call (since they cannot talk to factories) however the interaction between consumer and retailer will be different due to consumers being able to “personalise” the manufacture of their purchase. The change required by retailers is a mindset change – an industry that has remained much the same for the past century or so will require retailers to accept and adapt to an ever changing world enhanced by technology.

The South African motor retail industry does not fare particularly well with regards to technological infrastructure and this is mainly due to Telkom’s monopoly which has largely cost the South African economy. South Africa may be behind technologically but the outlook for the future is a positive one if retailers and the industry are amenable to embracing the technological advances. Retailers can look forward to a cheaper, more personalised and efficient retail experience.

The future of online car buying

The Future of Interactive Mobile Computing

There is no question that the car buying process and experience will change dramatically in the next few years too. Technically, today it is possible to do the entire transaction online, but the problem lies with the user experience – the lack of “touch and feel”. The speed with which technology is developing, the availability of bandwidth, the development of practical mobility solutions and the increase in processing power will lead to technologies that we can only imagine today. One of the best examples is the iPad from Apple. It is a truly practical mobility solution that brings a full multimedia experience to the user.

Publications such as Wired Magazine and Popular Mechanics have embraced the technology to produce online reading experiences that were only seen in science fiction movies a year ago. One can read an article about a car and see interactive videos and high definition interactive 3D models of cars. Another technology that is developing at the speed of light is 3D computing. Combining the interactive, multimedia experience of the iPad with a 3D experience (a precursor to holograms) will revolutionize the way we interact with our environment. Imagine browsing a website in 3D and looking at fully interactive and 3D models of cars, being able to look inside the car and under the hood. You will even be able to virtually “kick the tires”.

The idea that consumers want to touch and feel before they buy is true only for today. As the consumer immersion experience improves they will be much more amenable to online purchasing of high ticket items such as cars. All of this is obviously much more true for new cars, especially the strong and well recognized brands. Pranav Mistry from MIT developed a technology called ‘SixthSense’ that allows the user to have a totally mobile interactive integration with the physical world. There is no doubt that the car buying experience is going to change dramatically in the next five years and the obstacles that exist today preventing consumers from buying online will all but disappear.