How Ford Retail is bringing digital into the boardroom

Celia Pronto is Group Marketing and Ecommerce Director at Ford Retail, and her expertise is in working with multichannel businesses experiencing vast transformation.

She will be speaking at our JUMP event on October 9, about Ford Retail’s digital transformation, and the importance of customer experience. 

Here, Celia gives us a taste of the presentation, and some valuable insights into the company’s strategy…

Can you provide us with a taste of your presentation at JUMP?

I’m really looking forward to sharing the journey we have been on as Ford Retail, which includes our transformation from analogue to digital.

For many businesses this can be a daunting task, with many struggling to figure out where to start and how to measure success; but I hope that by sharing our approach other businesses will be able to benefit 

How much of a challenge has it been to bring digital into the boardroom?

The challenge at Ford Retail hasn’t been in getting digital into the boardroom, as there has been an acceptance that it is fundamentally transforming what it means to be an automotive retailer today.

The biggest challenge has been prioritising what we need to do to deliver something relevant to our customers, rather than copying others or getting behind the latest trend, which has sometimes meant taking a step back to ensure we have the foundations in place from which to build.

The other challenge has been educating colleagues across the business about digital to ensure they are comfortable with it. Although they all understand its importance it’s fair to say not everyone is fully comfortable using it, and that is a challenge we need to overcome 

Where is Ford Retail now in terms of its digital transformation?

We are still fairly early on in our transformation. In many ways we’ve had to take a step back to ensure we build solid foundations in our systems, people and processes to fully support the changes we need to make.

Forcing ourselves to take stock has probably one of the most challenging tasks, as human nature means we are tempted to keep trying to move forwards quickly.

Howver, the positive aspect is that we should be in a much better place to very quickly escalate once all the building blocks are in place

Do you think the automotive industry in general has been slow to adopt, or to ‘get’ digital?

I don’t believe the industry in general has been slow, particularly when you see some of the innovative activity from manufacturers.

As dealers we have been slightly slower to adopt digital when compared to other industries, but as with any industry there have been some who have been able to get there quicker

Why is customer experience seen as more important in the digital age?

As retailers we know that increasingly consumers will only walk through the door for an experience. If all they want is a functional, linear buying experience they can get this quite easily online.

You only need to refer to recent Nielsen statistics, which showed that although 86% are willing to pay more for a better customer experience, only 1% feel retailers meet their expectations – so the opportunity for improvement is huge

Which elements make up the customer experience?

In reality the term “customer experience” is interchangeable with brand experience or customer service.

For me customer experience covers the entire spectrum from what goes into creating an expectation in a customer’s mind – including advertising and word of mouth/social – through to the retail look and feel, the atmosphere you create, the service delivery, how your people behave and the post- visit experience.

One weak link in the chain means a disappointed customer, and a failure deliver on their expectation of a great experience

What is the best starting point for businesses seeking to evaluate their overall customer experience?

Where should they begin? Start with what is true and unique about your business, and build from there. If you listen to your customers and staff you can get to this pretty easily.

However, because this is frequently something that feels quite simple, the temptation can sometimes be to ignore this as not being compelling or differentiating enough – resulting in an attempt to over-engineer the customer experience; or even worse, create an expectation which doesn’t feel true to your brand or company.

If you start from that single point of uniqueness, I really believe you have an ownable platform to build from in a differentiated way.

Is mobile a particular challenge in terms of customer experience?

Mobile on its own is not necessarily a challenge, but how you integrate this into your thinking is. This could be everything from content and contact strategy to how it works as part of an omni- or multichannel approach.

JUMP is all about creating seamless multichannel customer experiences. Now in its fourth year, the event will be attended by more than 1,200 senior client-side marketers. This year it forms part of our week-long Festival of Marketing extravaganza.

How Ford Retail is bringing digital into the boardroom

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