For years, automakers and dealerships used Salesforce for CRM, but that involved a hodgepodge of company-specific customizations. Now, Salesforce hopes to sweep that away with Salesforce Automotive Cloud, a platform dedicated to the automotive industry that adheres to industry standards for data exchange.
The new offering came as automakers rethink their relationships with dealerships and intermediaries who have been handling face-to-face customer relationships and local inventory since the pandemic made online auto sales and contactless delivery desirable. . Until then, few consumers wanted to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a car they had never seen or touched.
Michael Ramsey, vice president and automotive analyst at Gartner, said Automotive Cloud offers automakers a way to take back control of their brand image.
“Basically, Salesforce built this because they could see that automakers suddenly needed to deliver customer experience rather than relying on dealerships to do it,” he said.
Achyut Jajoo, general manager of manufacturing and automotive for the company Salesforce, highlighted the steps Ford is already taking to impose a new way of working on its dealerships. “They basically want them to become more experiential,” he said. “The dealership of the future would actually look more like an Apple Store.”
Automotive Cloud is intended to help automakers get closer to their customers by analyzing data not just about a person and their vehicle, Jajoo said, but across their entire household and all dealership interactions on one. screen.
“And because we have that data, we can now recommend the best course of action for dealers to take,” he said. “We’ve created tools to do this in a more declarative way, rather than with custom coding.” The tools include a rules engine that can examine data and trigger alerts and recommendations.
By bringing their dealership data together in one place, automakers will also have a better picture of the market, Jajoo said.
“Now you can do performance analytics: what cars are selling, what make, what model, what model year, in what geographies, which dealership is performing best – all those types of things,” he said. declared.
One of the things that lubricates the flow of data around and between companies is standards compliance. The American automotive retail industry realized this nearly two decades ago and came together to create the nonprofit Standards for Technology in Automotive Retail. STAR members include the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA); car manufacturers such as Ford, GM, BMW and Toyota; and IT vendors such as Microsoft, Nuspire and Tech Mahindra. Many STAR member IT vendors have offices in Detroit, once known as Motor City and increasingly becoming a hub for technology companies.
STAR deprecated its original flat file exchange format a long time ago and now publishes over 200 XML message formats for Business Object Documents (BODs) covering everything from lead exchange to arranging a loan, selling the vehicle, servicing it and ordering parts for repairs to resell it.
Salesforce adheres to STAR standards, making sure all necessary fields are available on its platform, Jajoo said: “Salesforce as a platform is API first, so it becomes easy for us to exchange information between the parties.”
The company has created templates to facilitate this data exchange. “It’s an ecosystem game,” he says. “We extend this data to your partners, whether they are resellers, agents or other third parties.”
This means companies that adopt Automotive Cloud should be able to continue to exchange data with those using other STAR-enabled platforms.
But there will be more work to do for CIOs who have already built their automotive CRM systems on the Salesforce platform, as they will have to unravel years of customization in order to adopt Automotive Cloud.
“For traditional automakers, it will be a big step to adopt the platform wholesale, as most already have a fairly robust Customer 360-like database,” Gartner’s Ramsey said.
Toyota Financial Services is one of the companies eagerly awaiting the migration challenge. Its head of digital information is excited about the potential of Automotive Cloud’s offerings to build more meaningful relationships with customers.
Salesforce isn’t the only company targeting CRM solutions in the automotive industry. Microsoft offers an “automotive accelerator” for its Dynamics CRM product – but, as with previous Salesforce efforts, this is more about making it easier for customers to develop applications on top of the vanilla CRM tool to meet their needs, and less to provide a turnkey solution.
“Automotive Cloud offers a modular way to connect customer, car, dealer and other parts of the organization that need customer information, such as finance, warranty and connected vehicle services,” said Ramsey. There needs to be something like this in place to manage customer IDs and all interactions between businesses, he said, adding, “I’m sure other businesses will follow with some sort of vertical offering. like this, but at the moment it fits into a niche that is a step above a standard CRM and is something closer to a client operating system,” he said. he declares.