I always enjoy ringing in the new year - the thought of working with a fresh slate to create bigger and better things is both refreshing and exciting. I'm curious to see how the newest technologies adapt to become viable solutions and strategies for progressive companies and individuals.
Here's my list of the technologies with incredible potential for creating new solutions for automotive consumers and professionals in 2010.
- Real time Search: Google and Bing are squaring off in the first round of real time search results by providing real time results from the likes of Twitter and Facebook. While we don't see these results in the same format as regular search results now, this will move from being a silo to being a primary search result visual. Search Engines such as Topsy will help the competition ramp up improved methods of displaying real time results from relevant and influential sources; other players in this space: Collecta and OneRiot.
- Geolocation Services: It will become increasingly easy to engage with prospects and customers with the advent of GPS style functions within mobile phones, social channels and smart phone apps which harness geolocation capabilities. Geolocation API's will increase the ability to communicate with consumers; your own creativity is the limitation. For example, Whrrl's Merchant Program is a simple way to extend your online footprint and offer an incentive for consumers to visit & engage them with new discount/promotional ideas.
- Mobile Video: Video has become a standard for the automotive segment within websites - mobile video will be a new frontier. Smart phone video usage will continue to explode as it becomes easier to stream from your phone - and to users phones. Network expansion from 3G to 4G and Google's entry into the spectrum will open up new creative possibilities. The first step was gaining mobile acceptance and basic usage. Nine million users accessed their Facebook account via their mobile phone in 2008; that number exploded to 88 million in 2009. Huge opportunity for mobile video in 2010.
- HTML5: The newest version of HTML will host a suite of user features and benefits that improve online experiences. Rich applications (video & animation) will be easier to integrate as Flash and Silverlight won't be as heavily relied upon. The goal is to create simple user experiences which function like a desktop application and also allows next-gen features such as offline data support and drag and drop capabilities. Hopefully more automotive web developers will recognize the opportunity this presents to provide dealers and their visitors more memorable and effective experiences.
- Social Centralization: This is my term for the direction of car dealer social networks and the value added services they will provide automotive professionals. Dealer network sites will evolve into centralized destinations that provide more than blog posts and discussions. As user acceptance and awareness increases, greater value will be driven by segment specific research, access to video libraries and vendor ratings. I see the culmination being the eventual cross-pollination of content and resources from major industry brands into their own specific communities. I also see the user gaining greater access to this content, whether they act as a contributor or a reader, via simpler access points such as smart phone apps.
- Social CRM: The entire CRM segment will be shaken up in 2010. Old systems dealers have been subjected will be turned upside down with the advent of more web based systems. The biggest changes could also come from the integration of the social channels to these systems to help improve and monitor customer communications. Major CRM solutions have already made this leap; I'm confident these solutions will make their way into the newest CRM tools being rolled out. I wouldn't be shocked if an open source DMS-CRM solution sprouted up. Salesforce.com is adding a new data tool to their offering called Chatter. Other companies such as Yammer have rolled out creative solutions which mesh internal and external communication efforts.
We're experiencing another round of significant changes in the automotive markets. Improvements in the retail process, customer service and online user experience will continue to move at break neck speeds in 2010 and aren't limited to the above list; they're certainly not limited to simply technological solutions - these are simply tools to help make the improvements easier to achieve. The biggest change will undoubtedly come from how the professionals in our market react to the needs of the automotive consumer and work towards creating a better overall customer experiece.
The automotive retail change movement has already begun, how will you become a part of the solution?