Nissan's European CIO builds CMO fast lane

Stephen Kneebone, European head of IT for car manufacturer Nissan explains the CIO versus CMO battle is a myth, it's about collaboration

Digital disruption to a traditional business model has reshaped the car industry every bit as much as it has retail, financial services and travel, the European CIO for Nissan, Stephen Kneebone tells CIO UK in an exclusive profile interview.

"The pace of digital in automotive is faster than retail. After all we compete in general retail for consumers, so it is to be expected," Kneebone said of the competition for consumer-spend in a slow economy.

"Digital is very much a team effort with a cross functional team. You don't get far if you are not operating as a team," Kneebone said, refuting hype that the CMO will oust the CIO.

"We have a brand team to get the issue moving, they are the custodians of the customer experience and I make sure that digital experience is delivered.

"Customer experience, for me, is the most interesting. We have to be very clear that the customer experience will be like from order to ownership.

"We have set up a brand leadership team, which I am a member of, which is defining the customer experience and the impression of what the customer wants that to be. Of all the touch points, how can we support all of those in IS?

"We have identified that digital excellence as a key priority; in the automotive world Nissan is seen as a challenger brand, so in digital we are positioning ourselves as leaders."

Online brand experiences have been aligned with all other areas of interaction. At the recent launch of Juke crossover Nissan saw a 72 per cent increase of visits to its websites and threefold increase in mobile access.

Kneebone explains perspective car buyers used to visit a dealership six or seven times before committing to a car, now it is down to one visit, they arrive very well informed and the site experience is inevitably the six non-physical visits that are made today.

"We are redefining the retail experience so that it is seamless between digital and the dealer," he says using much the same multi-channel vernacular high street retailer CIOs use.

"Digital is where IS can really have a role, as the experience has to be engaging, offering online configuration and design. We have to up our game and make buying a car a more natural retail experience. The dealer is part of the customer engagement and how we look after our customer post sales so that our customers are loyal and will repurchase and recommend us.

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