Customer and Brand Digital Experience Innovation: Kia Global In-Store DCXJ (Digital Customer Experience Journey)
Today’s automotive consumers seek more than a simple transaction; they aspire to a unique experience. The purchasing process has evolved into a journey where customers engage with the brand, experience technology and innovation, and select a vehicle that aligns with their lifestyle. Before visiting a dealership, customers gather information and shape their expectations online. Therefore, the harmony between online and offline experiences has become not just a choice but a necessity.
In the ‘Kia Global In-Store Digital CXJ’ project, we have designed a digital integrated experience at the dealership based on the recent shifts in the car buying journey. This aligns with the changing landscape of customer experience in the automotive industry, acknowledging that customers now embark on a journey where digital interactions play a crucial role in shaping their overall experience.
Kia is a global brand at the forefront of popularizing eco-friendly transportation, with a focus on innovative electric vehicles. They lead the way in promoting sustainable solutions by expanding purpose-built vehicles (PBV) and various mobility services. Kia’s distinctive design, advanced autonomous driving technology, and cutting-edge connectivity services offer customers a novel and enhanced experience.
Digital Innovation and the Evolution of the Car Buying Experience
In the past, car purchasing involved in-person consultations, physically exploring vehicles, test driving, and seeking trust and emotional satisfaction through these experiences. However, the transition to the digital era has brought revolutionary changes in consumer behavior, including access to information, service expectations, and the demand for personalized experiences. Consequently, an Omnichannel strategy has emerged as an essential element in the automotive industry. Consumers now explore vehicle information online, navigate through various digital touchpoints, and make purchase decisions. This shift has also impacted offline store experiences, as consumers now expect offline visits to offer similar personalization and convenience to the online experience.
Against this backdrop, Kia has undertaken the ‘Kia Global Instore DCXJ (Digital Customer Experience Journey)’ project in collaboration with Saltcake to break down the boundaries between digital and physical experiences, aiming to provide customers with a seamless experience. In this project, Saltcake and Kia have analyzed and understood customer behavioral data, enabling the provision of personalized recommendations, tailored services, and a differentiated customer experience within the stores. The goal is to transform over 200 Kia stores worldwide into more than just vehicle showrooms but into interactive spaces where customers and the brand engage in mutual interactions.
Initializing the Digital Customer Experience
We conducted four crucial research and surveys before diving into the comprehensive DCXJ design. Through this process, we defined the roles and functionalities of the new DCXJ and digital tools.
2022 Digital Customer Experience Trends
Saltcake has divided DCX (Digital Customer Experience) into four trend themes for this project, defining 12 global trends.
<Table– Digital Customer Experience Trends, Saltcake>
01. Seamless Commerce Omnichannel
Provides customers with a personalized and convenient experience by delivering a seamless, uninterrupted connection between online and offline.
02. Brand Experience Enforced Interactivity
Increases conversion and purchase rates by offering a richer customer-centric brand experience through various digital tools.
03. “Generation-less” Digital Channels
Provides an integrated customer experience across all age groups through diverse content and digital channels, not limited to a specific generation.
Forms a closer relationship with customers through personalized experiences tailored to individual preferences using artificial intelligence and big data as a foundation.
Competitor and Best Practices Analysis
We have researched and analyzed the store layouts, customer service, and digital experiences of overseas automotive companies and other service brands that have entered the domestic market to provide concrete examples of DCX trends. We directly experienced domestic stores through on-site visits to conduct quantitative and qualitative detailed evaluations.
Photo 1 – ‘Polestar Space’ Hanam StarField in South Korea, Polestar
Photo 2 – ‘Audi Experience Ride’ (출처 https://www.audi.com)
Investigating the strategy of the current KIA Global DCX
Kia’s Digital Customer Experience Journey (DCXJ) required a distinctive approach for the Korean and international markets. Kia’s stores in Korea have the potential to provide rich digital experiences, reflecting high digital utilization by consumers and significant car purchase volumes. On the other hand, the absence of standardized DCX in overseas stores necessitated the identification of unique challenges and improvement directions for stores in different countries.
To address this, Kia conducted two phases of strategic research. In the first phase, virtual meetings with key regional stakeholders were conducted to gain a deep understanding of each regional market and its customers. Through this process, Kia identified customer behaviors during store visits, the status of digital customer responses, and key challenges. This information played a crucial role in shaping the future direction of the global DCXJ.
<Kia’s Global DCX Assessment – United Kingdom, Netherlands, United States, Ecuador, Chile, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Australia>
In the second phase, individual interviews were conducted with country-specific stakeholders to gather in-depth data on each country’s customer purchase journey, the status of digital systems operation within stores, and the market environment related to customer information collection. This in-depth interview for the 15 countries was crucial for Kia to design and implement DCXJ in the global market more effectively.
Global Consumer Insight
For the global DCXJ project, Kia conducted extensive consumer research in Korea, the United States, and the Netherlands. This research took place through online methods as well as focus group interviews (FGIs) divided into nine groups. The primary objective was to analyze three key elements.
We analyzed which factors 1) determine customers’ store visit behaviors in each country, 2) identify touchpoints where customers feel discomfort, and 3) are key issues to consider in establishing global DCX.
Through this consumer research, we found that the purpose and consumer behaviors of store visits vary significantly based on the customers’ digital engagement and dealer dependence. This has had a significant impact at each stage of the customer journey, serving as a crucial factor in shaping Kia’s global DCXJ. Additionally, the varying preferences of consumer groups and countries regarding the provision of personal information demand a more nuanced approach in the design of DCXJ.
“Kia dealerships near my home have maintained the same interior for the past 30 years. I believe that a trendy transformation would not only enhance the overall customer experience but also positively change the brand’s image.”
“It feels like Kia is ahead in terms of technology and trends compared to other brands. It certainly gives off a more high-tech vibe.”
<Consumer Voice in FGI>
An especially significant discovery from this research is that a rich digital customer experience significantly contributes to the positive formation of the brand image across most consumer segments. This clearly validates the close correlation between DCX and Brand Experience (BX) in the voice of the consumers.
Kia Global DCXJ
To comprehend the various challenges and opportunities in the global market, we conducted a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of market trends, on-site environments, and customer behaviors. This led to the design of a globally standardized DCXJ that seamlessly connects all stages experienced by customers before and after visiting the dealership. The emphasis was on providing a rich experience for the purchase decision with minimal dealer intervention.
Furthermore, by considering the level of acceptance of digital experiences by customers in different countries and the local business environment, we defined DCXJs for different store types. This approach ensures effective deployment and high performance tailored to each country
InfoGraphic – Kia Global New DCXJ Map
Kia Global DCXJ is broadly divided into three segments, encompassing guidelines for improving existing digital tools, utilizing new digital tools, and defining approaches for customer data collection and utilization.
Phase 01. Start Experience
Looking around and collecting brand & store information
In the initial stages of a store visit, customers explore vehicles with various curiosities. At this stage, providing a simple and clear entry process allows customers to initiate interactions with the brand within the store.
Phase 02. Search & Engagement
Taking a deep look at the models and function
During the vehicle exploration process, customers prefer to access content in a simple and intuitive manner. This stage involves providing appropriate digital tools for customers to explore products voluntarily, allowing them to navigate through the offerings without complexity.
Phase 03. Decision Making
Experience customized support for the purchase
During the purchase decision stage, personalized support is provided to the customers. In this stage, offering clear feedback ensures that everything the customer has experienced has a positive impact and can be reflected in the actual contract.
Beyond Boundaries: Saltcake’s Global Customer Experience Innovation
Saltcake’s collaboration with Kia on the Kia Global Instore DCXJ project is a significant example that emphasizes the importance of ‘Boundaryless Digital Customer Experience.’ Through this project, Saltcake made a substantial contribution to enhancing customer satisfaction in Kia’s global markets. Particularly, by closely analyzing the characteristics and requirements of customers in each country and providing tailored solutions based on this analysis, Saltcake added significant value to Kia’s global strategy.
In the future, Saltcake will continue to strengthen its expertise to help domestic companies overcome challenges in enhancing their brand and customer experience in international markets.
Table – CX/UX/UX/Design Methodologies