For a long time, the car was an essential possession, a must-have and symbol of status. Marketers focused on appealing to the consumer’s desire to drive a certain type of car in line with their self-image. Today, cars still hold status;however, it is not necessarily the type of car that defines a consumer’s self-image. It’s much more complex.
On the one hand, we see a sociocultural shift taking place and changing the way people think about consumption and ownership, made evident by new business models within the sharing economy for instance. On the other hand, the traditional (product-centric) value chain is being disrupted and atomized by networked technologies, customer expectations, unbundling, and disintermediation, showing that previously defensible differentiation is no longer sufficient.
While recent research confirmed that they still want to buy cars, Millennials do not necessarily value the car itself, but rather how it seamlessly enables their daily lifestyle and mobility. This behavioral and attitudinal shift reflects a deeper, structural shift from products to services. Customer expectations today focus on the on-demand outcomes that services can provide rather than the features of products alone.
With mobility becoming the consumer focus, requirements are changing: customers will want to alternate between solutions fitted for specific purposes and customize their mobility experience accordingly. These expectations range from choosing traditional (in the future, on-demand) car features based on info and entertainment systems and interfaces that seamlessly connect with customers’ multiple devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, wearables) to extended mobility services that may or may not center around an owned or shared car.
By moving from their traditional product- and technology-driven past towards a service-driven future focused on connecting the consumer lifestyle, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will be able to accommodate customers’ constant need for change, allow for customer participation in telling their story, and offer inclusive experiences that differentiate their brands and increase their loyalty. This necessary shift from asset building to network orchestration (i.e., managing a customer-centric ecosystem incorporating a variety of products and services) adds complexity to an already-intricate industry.
Service design experts utilize a stage framework to manage a similar complexity. By adding a key layer to the same framework, OEMs can structure and master the complexity ahead.