Friday, May 27, 2011

Digital Kumite: Gator vs. Tundra

I have no interest in comparing the variety and quality of accessories across OEMs. Deciding who’s the best along these lines is a matter of taste and judgment. It is also irrelevant if the accessories are not merchandised to end-customers effectively. As we discussed last week, depending on dealers to do this is a bad bet – they will conform to pan-industry worst practices. One of the most effective levers that OEMs have to merchandise accessories is the internet – they can reach the 50+% of customers who are “digital sales customers”. Again, all of this was outlined last week.

Why am I stressing accessory sales? The disastrous 2009 vehicle sales year now represents three year old car parc that is about 40% less juicy than it was in the good old days. Normal M&R sales for the foreseeable future will reflect this significantly depleted prime car parc. But, we can tie our P&A sales kites to rebounding new vehicle sales… if we can better merchandise those damn accessories.

The Deere Gator is the defending champion here. Deere does a lot of things right, but six rise to the top:
  1. Clicks to build:Starting from a blank Google search screen, it takes just a few clicks until you are building a Gator.
  2. “Video clinic” image quality: You build a Gator on the screen with Pixar-like image quality and you see the product change based on your selections.
  3. Broad selection of accessories and implements: It seems like you can choose from nearly everything that Deere has in their product portfolio. Most accessories and implements can be seen in the build image.
  4. Selection detail drill down and dynamic build: This is the ability to drill down on a particular accessory, option, or implement and understand it well enough as a customer to make a buy or no-buy choice. It is also about the visual impact of seeing your selection on your configured product.
  5. Cost tallying: You see the costs increase/decrease as you make selections.
  6. Turnover (T/O) to the dealer: Once you design your product, is there a seamless transition to the dealer? During the Gator build, you can stop the process at any time, save your build list, print or email it, and/or request a dealer quote.
Like the Gator, the Tundra is a magnet for accessories. But, it takes a lot of clicks to actually get to the build-a-Tundra capability. I entered into the world of Toyota with a simple Google search for a “Toyota Pickup”. This took me to a picture of a Tundra, then back to the entre product line-up to choose what to build, then, finally, to the build process.

Now I can add stuff to a Tundra that is sitting there on my screen. The problem is that pretty much all I can see change is the color of the truck. The Gator build is like watching a Disney movie – it changes in front of my eyes. This is what I term “video clinic quality”. The Tundra, like most automotive internet build images, leaves too much to the imagination.

Toyota offers a fairly broad selection of accessories for the Tundra, and it has excellent drill down capability for more detail on each choice. Still, there is no dynamic build sitting front and center, that is “my Tundra.” It remains red and unadorned. The cost calculator is on par with the Gator, and the turnover to the dealer is OK, but involves more steps and keystrokes than the Gator.

Winner of this round: Gator

Last Thought: If I had a site like Deere’s Gator, I’d sponsor “Make Your Own Sunday” sales events. The idea here would be to leverage the internet product configurator to gain pricing and product insights through a one-day (call it “Sunday”) promotion on the Gator. With some thoughtful conjoint analysis design, you could determine utility scores and pricing elasticities for different accessories and implements. The promotion could draw in customers to build their Gators with the promise of unique “Make your Own Sunday” incentives and discounts (that could be engineered to tally to less than existing discounts.) Data collected from the build site could also be used to add Amazon-style captions, i.e. "Customers who bought this accessory also bought XYZ". This would psychologically leverage purchases from other buyers to make consumers feel that accessorizing is the norm rather than the exception.

If you have a configurator that emulates the quality of a video clinic, then use it for a video clinic. Hotels and airlines would do this in a heartbeat.

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