Friday, January 27, 2012

Voice of the Customer Update – Mobile

by Robert Desel

We just wrapped up three important pieces of consumer research to support the upcoming Digital Summit (Feb 28 & 29), NASB (March 13 & 14) and NAPB (April 23-25). Today we are going to look at some early results from our mobile survey and some macro level context for this topic. We will be going into much greater detail at the Digital Summit.

Mobile continues to grow, develop, and change at an unprecedented pace. Beginning around the middle of last year, the average time spent on mobile apps started to exceed the average time spent browsing (on both mobile and desktop). By December 2011 app consumption was 30% higher than web. If we view this from the standpoint of where we as manufacturers have been investing in our customer-facing technology, this is a very important trend. Mobile is here; it’s now arguably more important than conventional web browsing and if we want to reach the customers where they are, it is going to consume an increasing amount of manufacturer resources.

Against this backdrop is an ever-crowded ‘market’. Apple’s app store has over half-a-million apps available for download, with an average of 739 new apps submitted every day or about 17,000 last month. Meanwhile, about 10 miles up the road, Google’s Android marketplace has close to 360,000 apps with another 15,000 being added every month. To call this a crowded market place is an understatement.

Breaking through this clutter is tough, but ratings in this ‘marketplace’ are more powerful than anywhere. The chart to the right shows the distribution of download buckets by category, and we can see that there is a higher proportion of >50k downloaded apps within the 3.5-4.5 rating categories.

However, that’s not the end of the gauntlet! Once we have cut through the clutter and actually gotten a vehicle owner to download the app that we have invested precious corporate resources to develop, they actually need to keep it on their phone long enough to make a difference to our business and their ownership experience. Here is where the statistics get even scarier.

Three months after acquisition only 24% of the users that downloaded your app will still have it on their phone and by 12 months after acquisition that number drops to 4%.

Let’s do some math. The “My Chevy” app on Android Marketplace (Apple doesn’t disclose download stats) has 50,000 to 100,000 downloads. Let’s be generous and call it 100,000. If we assume they were all downloaded in the last month, by the end of 2012 only about 4,000 of these Chevy owners will still have this app on their phones. I am not picking on GM; their app is well designed and is probably one of the better ones out there. This point just illustrates how difficult it is to make an impact in this space. Furthermore, app retention rates decrease with frequency of use (the less you use it the more likely you are to hit the uninstall button). If we consider the fact that our core functionality would ‘require’ a user to use a service and maintenance app at most 3-4 times per year, this makes our challenge even harder.

Let me recap what we have covered so far:
  1. The mobile ‘space’ is important and accounts for more of the consumers’ on-line time.
  2. The marketplace for our OEM apps is crowded and getting more so.
  3. Even when we cut through the clutter and get our app on the owner’s phone, keeping it there is even harder.
All of this means that the apps we build have to nail our customers’ requirements and this may mean we need think a little bit outside of the box, and come at this issue not from the perspective of what we want, but what we need to give the customer to get them to 1) download our app and 2) keep it on their phone.

With this in mind we surveyed about 2,000 vehicle owners to understand their behavior and, most importantly, what they want in an automotive service app. Here are three big takeaways to get us started before the Digital Summit in February.
1. It’s still a wide open market for us.

73% of the consumers had not downloaded any automotive service apps onto their devices. Of the consumers that had downloaded something, 3rd party apps were dominant.

2. For those owners who do have our ‘OEM’ apps, they don’t use them a lot.

This is somewhat expected, based on the typical features and functionality that we offer. However, the low frequency of use may result in longer term low retention, while some of the 3rd party apps with higher usage and higher retention will have an opportunity to capitalize on their position with additional features and functions that may not necessarily be ‘dealer friendly’.

3. Each type of app is getting pretty good ratings, but gas apps are king.

The consumers rated OEM apps at 7.03 (on a scale of 1-10). This isn’t too bad. However, gas apps got the highest ratings. Maybe we should consider adding or making more prominent ‘Gas Finder’ features in our OEM apps.

Taken together, I believe that this all represents opportunity for companies to connect with their customers. Mobile is an important and rapidly developing window to our customers, it is with them 24/7, and there has not yet emerged the ‘killer app’ for vehicle care and maintenance. Manufacturers have the resources to build that killer app, but, as with many other aspects of the digital space, the question is whether each manufacturer will go it alone and implicitly ask customers to install and keep multiple apps on their device or if a third party will build an ‘all-makes’ killer app.

We are continuing to dig deeply into this customer research, as we get ready for the Digital Summit, and will be including a thorough look at what attributes are most important to consumers and whether there are segments of the market that are looking for different things that we can use to target our efforts. See you all in a few weeks.

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