How Audi created a unified view of its customers

Luxury car brand details how it and creative digital agency Holler worked to develop a unified view of Audi customers during ad:tech event

Adopting a united and lifecycle-based view of customers is the cornerstone of Audi’s plan to become the number one luxury car brand in Australia by 2020.

Speaking at the ad:tech event in Sydney, Mike Hill, CEO of Audi’s digital and creative agency partner, Holler, talked through the brand’s customer-centric approach and how having focused teams, defined business outcomes and metrics, targeted communications and customer segments are vital in achieving a single customer view.

The decision to review Audi’s customer approach came when it discovered people were less likely to buy an Audi car the longer they had one. Research also showed they were less likely to recommend an Audi the longer they were a customer.

Hill said this sparked the need for a longer-term satisfaction and advocacy focus. “What we’re seeing with luxury car buyers is that by the time they've gone to the website and come into the dealership, they've made up their mind,” he said.

“But what happens after they've bought the car? That’s when the cycle starts again and that’s really where most brands have fallen down in the past.

“We needed to evolve Audi’s organisation from being sales obsessed to being customer obsessed, and to do that we needed to build relationships. We needed a totally different way to value customers not just as a point of purchase, but over their entire customer lifecycle.”

By simply improving the customer experience for Audi drivers, said Hill, the individual’s value could go from $60,000 to $480,000. He also stressed the fisherman’s mantra of “knowing where the fish are”.

“They say 5 per cent of the fishermen catch 95 per cent of the fish. That’s because fisherman get really detailed about the species they’re looking for, where they live, their tactics, the tackle, and the bait,” he explained. “That’s what we’re doing here with Audi; we’re trying to understand our audience by developing a single customer view.”

Data and technology are commonly perceived as the solution, but Hill said these are only enabling tools. What’s important is to understand the customer, then build technology and data around that.

Key advantages of having a single customer view include the ability to deliver personalised and consistent messaging across channels, as well as optimise sales and marketing spend. It’s also vital in truly understanding and increasing the lifetime customer value.

“It creates a better focus on the most profitable customers – people of high worth are not just about revenue but about advocacy; and to understand the role of sales attribution for each channel for better channel planning,” Hill added. “You can deliver customer insights back into the organisation."

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Seven-step plan

Hill detailed seven steps necessary for companies to become customer-led, based on Holler's experience:

  1. Have a focused team

    CRM and loyalty were initially part of the marketing and IT team at Holler, but now exist as a focused internal team with responsibility and accountability within Audi. The team covers data and CRM, comms, and data integrity.

    “This is so important - if you don’t have a team, get one,” he said.

  2. Define specific business outcomes

    Forrester research shows more than 50 per cent of Australian CRM programs fail because they don’t have any clearly defined business outcomes. Hill said a good CRM program looks into both what the business needs and what the consumer needs.

    “We came up with three to five business outcomes. You can’t have a successful business technology program without clear understanding of the prospective business outcomes,” said Hill.

  3. Define metric calculation

    After defining business outcomes, Hill said the business should equate these into its data strategy. “This allows us to work out what type of data we need and we don’t waste time, energy and resources on chasing data we don’t need,” he said.

  4. Define customer segments

    “The bad, old way to categorise customers was pre-sale, sale and post-sale, but now we come up with customer personas,” said Hill. These are evaluated and checked on a quarterly basis and rely on mapping out data and writing a creative brief.

    One insight from Holler’s analysis was that Audi A1 drivers are 3.7 times more likely to be female. “Based on that simple insight we changed the way we did all of our banner communications,” said Hill.

  5. Define the comms

    “The simple way to do this is to send an email saying thank you for purchasing a new car, but now we’re really targeting that customised email to heighten that experience and advocacy,” said Hill. “Within the message required for each of the touchpoints based on the customer context, we then planned the production of automated comms for each of the 30 different customer segments.”

  6. Defining data strategy

    Hill said it isn't until this point that you really look at data strategy. In Holler’s case, this involved creating a domain-specific language and taxonomy of how Audi employees speak about concepts within the company.

    “We then take those concepts and translate them into a technical language, which mirrors the concepts in real life,” he said, citing how a lead for sales force might be a prospect, or the other way around.

  7. Drive insights back into the organisations

    “This is where we reap the rewards of our single customer view,” Hill claimed. This was played out by the creation of Land of Quattro last year, an interactive experience where viewers could create their own car commercial using Audi vehicles. During the campaign, Holler tapped into data and insights in real time.

    “What we realise was when we had an ad on TV, searches online went up really steeply on iPads,” Hill said.

    The campaign also increased the number of Audi test drives by 28 per cent.

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