While some of the industry still finds it hard to fathom a world where mobile engages more consumers than television, this year’s CES is proving that connected cars and the small screen permanently in our pocket create a fantastic opportunity for brands to engage consumers.
This year at CES, most display manufacturers are demonstrating curved, incredibly thin and ultra HD screens, which are likely to be incorporated in cars. These manufacturers, coupled with major car players like Audi, with its autonomous A7 making the 550-mile trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas, and Mercedes-Benz (pictured), are giving us glimpses into the future of driverless cars. It’s one with huge and exciting potential for marketers and advertisers given how much of the driver’s attention and time will be freed up.
It’s all too easy, however, to be carried away by the future. CES is typically only the first step on a long journey for technology, before making it into the homes of consumers. Rather, it is all about understanding where the leading edge of tech is and how brands can take what they see at CES and incorporate it into their strategy for the future. So let’s start off with what’s happening today.
BMW has been integrating SIM cards in its cars since April 2014 to provide continuous mobile connectivity (by 2020, 90% of all new cars in the industry will have SIM cards). At CES, BMW revealed a smartwatch app that allows drivers to park, start and defrost their vehicle using simple voice commands. Hyundai and Audi have also developed a smartwatch app that enables drivers to start their engines and locate their cars, all through a smartwatch. As these are first generation smartwatch apps, it’s possible that the market will be flooded with these type of apps before the true potential of the platform is realized and brands can reap the benefits, just as we saw in mobile.
Gimmicky products are one of the biggest issues with today’s new technology. New and innovative technology tends to be created "just because" when the real need is to focus on "why". We need to make sure we’re looking at how the technology will help solve real world problems instead of building technology for the sake of technology. Sometimes this is through hardware innovation, sometimes it’s through software, but there should always be an underlying reason why new tech matters and what problem it solves. It’s all about solving big consumer issues.
So, in the near future it’s entirely possible that a smartwatch will be able to track biometric levels of a driver along with location, knowing if they’re tired, hungry or dehydrated, which would open up new engagement levels for brands on the road. However, right now, there is still a way to go before brands can properly capitalise on the potential.
Back to the present day, we can see some great uses of technology in cars by companies such as, Parrot, which has built smart units in the standard traditional radio-size. The Parrot Asteroid Smart, which has been sold preinstalled in certain Mazda and Hyundai models, runs a version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread and is available to buy today. In-car systems aren't easy to get right, especially as today’s consumers are tech-savvy with high expectations. These particular smart options are increasingly popular for in-car entertainment as, not only does it allow consumers to get and stay connected to the internet while driving, but both classic and old cars are now able to be smart too. ‘Connected car’ does not only apply to new models - connectivity is now available for all.
The real benefit of the connected car for auto brands lies in the opportunities created by the data that is generated whenever a vehicle shares information. These connected cars could soon be able to communicate levels of wear and tear via the web, enabling remote diagnostics, preventative alerts, more efficient servicing and significantly improved customer loyalty. Alongside this, data is already being used by insurance companies on exactly how individuals are driving, providing them with bespoke insurance cover.
Cars already generate huge amounts of data, but until automation hits the mainstream and a driver’s concentration is freed up, it’s always somewhat of a closed ecosystem. Integrating this data will transform advertising and media strategies, allowing brands to truly understand customers as individuals, but the question is, will brands be ready for this and have an ‘in-car’ strategy?