The recently released 2015 Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST, an annual study of consumer awareness and adoption of advanced and emerging automotive technologies, has found that simply flooding the marketplace with infotainment and connected services may do little to accelerate consumer adoption.
“Automakers believe they’re under intense pressure to launch new features and connected services to remain competitive,” says Larry Shannon-Missal, managing editor of The Harris Poll.
The survey, which was conducted during Q2 2015 among over 14,000 U.S. recent new car buyers and covers approximately 60 technologies, found that educating consumers about the value of existing features and cultivating usage may have a more positive effect on both selling cars and increasing customer loyalty.
Educate, Educate, Educate
Because automakers measure car design success by the number of features offered, a checklist approach to infotainment development has prevailed. Survey results suggest redefining success with a focus on familiarity, usage, satisfaction, and loyalty between users and brands may better serve the industry.
Only 16 out of 60 technologies evaluated obtain “good” familiarity scores (as measured by AutoTECHCAST’s 3-tier performance scale based on over 10 years of data). Back-up cameras (61 percent), satellite radio (51 percent), and back-up warning systems (42 percent) are the technologies with the highest familiarity scores. Technologies such as automatic window tinting (7 percent), augmented reality dashboard (7 percent), and DMC-Driver mode control (6 percent) record the lowest familiarity scores in the study.
“The risk of low familiarity is that consumers fail to recognize the value of features, fail to associate the value with specific brands, and may lead to negative perceptions about the brand and/or the industry,” says Shannon-Missal. Low familiarity with individual components may be a result of consumers feeling inundated with technology in their new car purchases, with over four in ten recent car buyers (42 percent) believing carmakers add too much technology to their vehicles.
Over four in ten (44 percent) say they’ve never used one or more of the major infotainment solutions, and low users (i.e., those who have never used or use only once in a while) are significantly less likely to be familiar with infotainment features. Usage is one of the most important success factors for any technology, and the study finds that some of the key opportunities to overcome low usage can include making features easier to use and educating consumers (i.e., avoiding confusion).
What Consumers Want
The AutoTECHCAST study finds consumers are most interested in advanced technologies that prevent accidents and make them feel safer. Comparable findings can be seen in The Nielsen Connected Life Report, a bi-annual study of consumer needs, preferences, attitudes, and behaviors around new and emerging technologies related to connected cars, homes and wearables.
According to The Connected Life Report, more than six in ten (64 percent) Connected Car owners say safety alerts are very important. While seven in ten (70 percent) intenders want a connected car because it makes them feel safe.
However, the AutoTECHCAST survey suggests that while the availability of certain features as standard (e.g. navigation) can have a significant effect on purchase decisions, very few consumers are willing to spend extra for these products or services.
Eleven technologies show strong momentum (growth in interest) in the study, with wireless mobile device charging in the lead. Other options with above-average momentum and interest worth watching include vehicle-internet connectivity, lane-keep assist, hybrid electric engines, and emergency-front-collision-avoidance systems.
Overall, a handful of technologies separate themselves in this year’s survey. On the positive side, back-up cameras, warning systems and blind spot warning systems score well as technologies showing positive momentum (improvement over the last year), prioritization (picked most when asked what they prefer in comparison to other techs), bundling options of choice (included in most popular combinations of tech features) and most used. On the other end of the spectrum, real-time navigation, personal assistance services and text-to-speech/speech-to-text options are least used, show declining momentum and are near or at the bottom for many study metrics.
When considered in isolation, satisfaction with infotainment features appears relatively strong. However, when placed in context with other vehicle technologies, almost all (14 out of 17) of the infotainment features rank in the bottom half of the satisfaction ratings.
“The explosion of simple smartphone capabilities related to navigation, music, and other areas may be leading to some drops in satisfaction within the automotive market, and may increasingly lead to a drop in the usage of infotainment systems,” says Shannon-Missal. Many of the poorest performing options in the satisfaction area were functions that directly compete with smartphone features, such as built-in apps and voice-activated controls.
Technology/features are among the top five most important factors in recent car purchasers’ decisions (after price, fuel economy, reliability/dependability and value for the money), with 40 percent acknowledging it played a role. Women, parents, those with household incomes under $50,000, and Millennials all appear to place more importance on technology over the past few years. The Connected Life Report shows that technologies such as safety alerts, entertainment connectivity and internet-enabled navigation are very important in the Connected Car decision-making process. Groups with the highest overall interest for technologies in the study include Millennials, high-frequency drivers, and those planning to buy sports or luxury cars or luxury SUVs. Baby boomers have the lowest overall interest.
The AutoTECHCAST survey results suggest that satisfaction with technology features can drive customer loyalty. Satisfied infotainment users are 5.7 percent more likely than non-satisfied users to remain loyal to their current brand. Additionally, those who report being satisfied with how the technology works in their vehicle are three times more likely to purchase from the same manufacturer, compared to those who are dissatisfied (68 percent vs. 23 percent). Concerning where to place bets on in-car technologies, while adding features can increase purchase desirability, getting the user experience right can have a bigger impact on the bottom line by helping keep customers loyal.