The automotive industry’s focus on digital experience has gone up a gear in recent years. Along with competing over the best-engineered products, manufacturers are now competing to offer customers the best-engineered digital automotive experience possible.

We recently sat down with Michael Roosen, Managing Director of Toyota & Lexus Belgium (who we’ll refer to as Toyota for short, to talk about the importance of customer experience (CX) in the automotive industry and to Toyota in particular). 

Watch the full interview with Michael below to learn all about Toyota’s customer-centric approach to digital, and to hear from Michael on the crucial role Contentsquare plays in Toyota Belgium’s success.

And keep reading to find out three insights Michael shared with us about how to optimize the digital experience and make your automotive company’s digital objectives serve its business objectives. 

Why is the digital automotive experience so important?

Today, the car dealership is rarely a customer’s first port of call when purchasing a vehicle.  

Many customers now prefer to buy cars online; the market for online car buying is projected to reach USD 722 billion by 2030. 

And even if they aren’t willing to purchase a car without sitting in it first, they’re still likely to check out your website before paying you a visit.

“In automotive today, the digital experience is the first point of contact,” Michael says. “They could be on their mobile or their laptop, but the first point of interaction is almost always a digital platform.”

And it isn’t just first-time buyers that automotive companies are serving digitally. It’s just (if not more) important to cater to existing customers through digital channels.

This decade has seen the business model for automotive change (thanks in part to the emergence of electric vehicles, or EVs) from securing one-off purchases to driving additional revenue through recurring services and products. 

“Automotive is all about loyalty,” says Michael. “Customers will come back after their first purchase for services, maintenance and information about their car and new services that are available.”

As the most convenient touchpoint for many customers, digital channels are critical for nurturing loyalty, and are an intrinsic component of today’s automotive customer lifecycle. 

“A physical contact with the customer is still important,” says Michael. “But in-between those real-world interactions we have a digital platform to stay in touch, keep up a connection, and nurture loyalty—all to the benefit of the customer.”

That’s why Michael considers digital customer experience “fundamental” to Toyota Belgium’s objectives, and why he believes that the company has to be “the best retailer online” to succeed as a business. 

So how does Toyota Belgium go about achieving that goal? For the full story, you’ll have to watch the interview. 

But for now, here’s three insights into optimizing the digital automotive experience that Michael shared in our conversation.

1. Data analytics is key to improving the automotive experience 

Toyota Belgium’s guiding principle is customer centricity. They aim for every interaction a customer has with the brand, whether physical or digital, to be the best, most efficient and satisfying interaction possible.

To execute on this principle of putting the customer first, Toyota Belgium must first understand the customer. And that’s where data analytics tools like Contentsquare come in.

“We make all our decisions based on data,” says Michael. “We use various tools, including Contentsquare, to study the customer journey and understand our customers’ behavior, so we can offer them the best possible experience going forward.”

Toyota Belgium’s digital team A/B test every campaign they run so that they can assess the impact of their decisions on customer behavior, and optimize accordingly.

“When a customer is confused by a call to action or campaign, we’ll notice it because the data tells us,” says Michael. “We’re constantly looking at whether things work or not, and then taking actions to improve, improve, improve.”

2. A stand-out automotive experience relies on tech AND talent 

Speaking of “improve, improve, improve”, another of Toyota Belgium’s fundamental principles is Kaizen, a.k.a. continuous improvement.

In prioritizing innovation, Toyota Belgium is far from an outlier in an industry that’s always been on the leading edge of innovation—a tendency Michael puts down to vehicles being “the center of the life of our customers”. 

However, not all automotive companies have moved as fast as others, and the more complacent companies have wound up eating the dust of their forward-thinking and moving competitors.  

Determined that Toyota Belgium doesn’t take its foot off the gas and fall behind, Michael has invested heavily in both technology and (an often overlooked element of digital transformation) talent.

“You can have the best website, the best tools and platforms, but if you don’t have the best talent to run these then those tools will be suboptimal and underutilized,” says Michael. “That’s why I’m proud to have created a digital team that’s one of the best—if not the best—in Belgium’s automotive industry.”

So remember: Talent might not quite trump technology when it comes to CX, but it’s absolutely key to unlocking the huge potential of your technology and digital channels. 

3. The digital and physical should dovetail for a great automotive experience

As far as Michael is concerned, Toyota Belgium’s digital and business objectives are “one and the same”. After all, if the company fails to perform on digital, its business performance will necessarily be compromised.

The digital experience is therefore of paramount importance for Toyota Belgium. But this doesn’t mean that the physical retail experience can be treated as an afterthought.

“We need to be excellent on digital objectives and in-store experiences,” he says. “It’s about consistency: Customers need to have the best experience on our digital platforms and have that same level of experience when they come to our dealership for a test drive.”

Occasionally, the digital and physical customer experience will divert from each other—but will end up dove-tailing in a complementary manner.

“When a customer comes to us with a very specific issue that can’t be solved through digital channels alone, we’ll bring a solution to life outside the digital experience” explains Michael. 

“However, we’ll learn from this, and integrate the solution we work out into our digital automotive experience for future customers.”

Build a first-rate automotive experience with Contentsquare

If you’re worried your automotive company will be overtaken by competitors with a better digital automotive experience than yours, it could be time to invest in digital experience analytics.

Contentsquare’s Digital Analytics Cloud will tell you how your website’s visitors and app’s users are behaving at every stage of the automotive customer journey, so you can quickly figure out how they’re feeling about your experience and make improvements wherever necessary.

Every day, our platform drives real business outcomes (including customer retention, conversions and overall revenue) for automotive companies like Toyota Belgium—and can put your business in the fast lane to digital automotive experience excellence.

So why not take us for a test drive?