Ford bets on connected car market as next mobile iteration
September 27, 2013
Ford's Sync AppLink
NEW YORK - A Ford executive at the Mobile Marketing Association’s SM2 conference said that the company has its sights set on a completely connected car experience that takes place through a mobile device.
The Ford executive’s “Create Buzz: Find Your Brand’s Voice in Mobile: Success Strategies to Stay Ahead of the Competition” session looked at how mobile plays a role in a bigger strategy around connected devices for the automaker. According to data presented during the session, there will be 50 billion connected devices and eight billion people by 2020, which supports Ford’s strategy in connecting with consumers while they are inside their cars.
“I personally could tell you that I feel like I’m at the top of the eighth inning at bat [with mobile], because we are moving on,” said Trisha Habucke, digital marketing manager at Ford, Detroit.
“The phone is a given, and the phone is the place where we need to be, but this is where we’re going — complete connectivity through your mobile device,” she said.
Drive on mobile
Ford's in-car communication system Sync was launched in 2007 and continues to grow.
For example, the automaker recently rolled out Sync AppLink that hooks up with a consumer's in-car Sync system to let consumers navigate mobile applications such as Pandora and iheartradio via their voice.
Ford also acquired Livio — a Ferndale, MI-based software company — on Monday in a move to help standardize the ways that apps connect to cars.
Ford's Sync AppLink
Ford also recently revamped the http://support.ford.com site, which helps consumers manage the Sync technology, with responsive design.
The brand took 172 pages of content and rendered it so that consumers can access the site via smartphones, tablets and desktops.
As a result of the responsive site, mobile use increased 30 percent within the first three months and there has also been an uptick in satisfaction ratings.
Turning mobile leads
Although Ms. Habucke did not mention specific numbers, she did say that mobile is proving to be effective in driving sales leads.
The brand took all of the leads that came in to Ford.com in the past 18 months and matched them against sales in the time period.
Ford claims that it costs about $8,000 to get a consumer to buy a car.
Ms. Habucke also spoke about the challenges that a large company such as Ford deals with in mobile and emerging technologies.
“Mobile was really cool five years ago,” she said. “Now it’s just another channel for us.”
“So this is where we need to go, and when we’re going to innovate, we have to think in ways that mobile is not just again a channel.”
After consumers research a car purchase via smartphones, tablets and desktops, they bring all of the information with them to the dealership, but the research can often fall apart when a car shopper feels overwhelmed with the traditional hard sells that dealers use to close a sale.
“We’re trying to figure out a way that digital and mobile can help bridge that gap a little more so that the consumer feels a little bit better about it,” said Kimberley Gardiner, director of digital marketing strategy at Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Torrance, CA.
Mobile also helps Toyota hit specific demographics.
For example, Toyota recently rolled out a mobile-heavy campaign for the 2014 Corolla (see story).
Toyota's new campaign
Since the initiative is geared towards millennials, there are several different mobile elements to the campaign, including near-field communications, mobile advertising, an interactive virtual test drive via a mobile site and a Shazam tag within television ads.
“Knowing that these consumers are really interested in learning about a vehicle in a different way,” Ms. Gardiner said. “They don’t want to go to the back of a brochure because it doesn’t fit their lifestyle — they want something that is a bit more engaging.”
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York
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