A collaborative product service system concept design to reimagine the future of Automotive Retail for Mercedes-Benz. Starting from the Dealer Management System (DMS) – the system used by dealers to conduct their business – we expanded the scope using Design Thinking methodology to develop a portfolio of physical and digital solutions for both dealers and customers. With a multidisciplinary team over two months, we developed interventions for the complete user journey, from initial consideration to after sales services.
Core Team (ATÖLYE)
Ali Arslan, Aylin Durmaz, Ayşe Esin Durmaz, Ayşesu Celik, Begüm Ural, Carla Lemgruber, Engin Ayaz, Kerem Alper, Mert Çetinkaya, Nesile Yalçın, Serdar Paktin, Ece Çiftçi, Şevval Ceylan, Çağatay Mehmetoğlu
Project Leads (ATÖLYE)
Aylin Durmaz (Insights), Carla Lemgruber (Design)
Berkay Tunalı, Çağatay Gürbay, Özgür Önurme
This project started with the mission to design the new generation of Dealer Management System (DMS) for the future of Automotive Retail. The current DMS options in the market work just well enough for repetitive tasks, and do not fully assist the dealers to achieve their sale goals. Even the leader DMS software in the market is unable to provide the dealer with simple tasks such as managing follow up calls efficiently.
It was impossible to understand the requirements of the new DMS without deep diving into the ecosystem where it operates, understanding the dealer’s daily tasks, as well as the customer experience as a whole. By stepping onto the field, we realized that a new system to manage an existing experience would not be enough, so the project’s scope grew to embrace the design of the future of Automotive Retail itself, and how the ideal Mercedes-Benz Experience should be, both for dealers and customers.
Over the course of two months, a diverse team of over 20 professionals from ATÖLYE collaborated with the Mercedes-Benz team and employed Design Thinking methodology to discover empathy-based user insights and reimagine the automotive retail experience across physical and digital domains. Beyond online benchmarking, the project team went onto the field to conduct 57 interviews at 23 dealers along with 62 existing and potential customers across seven different countries. Below are the highlights of the key insights.
Mapping the emotional states of each actor throughout the sales and after-sales processes via immersive research, we diagnosed the possible problematic moments, which may lead to frustration, stress or anger. This analysis helped us focus on key issues such as impersonal retail experiences or prescribed test drive routines.
From the study, we discovered that sales and aftersales processes are very different at their core. The sales is about personalization and about giving the customer the power to choose their own path. The after sales, on the other hand, is about creating an efficient and highly connected process, promoting transparency and trust. These insights were then captured in the following Design Principles, which helped evaluate each idea against a consistent framework.
A diverse creative team with different professional backgrounds such as product, service, UX and UI designers, architects and animators worked on all the steps of the project, from research, to reframing, ideating and prototyping. project. An ideation session with the ATÖLYE community was also conducted, with over 20 participants from different professional backgrounds, ages and nationalities.
122 ideas were developed, covering all steps of both sales and aftersales journeys, as well as considering options for all types of customers. From those, 35 ideas were selected to be portrayed in two animations showing possible journeys for the Future of the Mercedes- Benz Experience.
Via this vision of a fictional future, a novel purchase experience is articulated where the customer pilots his own journey, starting from a virtual tour, then scheduling a test drive that fits his routine and sharing his unique experience online, and ending with a special handover. Meanwhile, an intelligent retail management system helps dealers better understand customers’ expectations and offer tailored services and opportunities accordingly.
Via this vision of a fictional future, a more engaged, transparent and connected after sales experience is articulated using augmented reality and sensing technologies. The car system, the dealer’s system, and the Mercedes- Benz support channels are connected and integrated for an ultimate customer care, quickly reassuring the client, and scheduling the service needed. A fully synchronized system allows the client to receive the inspection results in his phone, solve his doubts, approve services and schedule pick up time, all from his app.
The 122 ideas generated were organized in a framework that covers all the steps in the sales and after sales processes (horizontally divided), and focus on three different moments (vertically divided): when customers consider their options and make requests on their own time (top section), when customers and dealers interact at the dealer or outside (middle section), and when the dealer’s employees are working on the DMS, both in specific customer cases, as well as managing their own tasks (bottom section). Besides the 35 ideas showcased in the animations, other 50 ideas were explored in greater depth across six chapters.
The new DMS includes features such as a customizable workspace inspired by the familiar Facebook logic, where a newsfeed allows effective communication within the dealer system and a chat-bot that gathers omnichannel data to suggest best next actions and opportunities for sale. It also contains a customer page inspired by the Facebook timeline, where all the data of a customer’s case can be quickly visualized. Another feature is a “my cases” page for after sales advisors, showing both the highlights and the details of each case.
Delightful In-Store Experience: Since retail visits are becoming less about information retrieval and more about memorable experiences, the space was restructured to build a more pleasant experience in both private and shared environments. Interventions can range from: plush lounge areas that invite the customers to spend time at the dealer, high-quality booths with different levels of privacy that allow a non-confrontational immersive consideration moment, and a special sales handover area visible for customers of both sales and after sales.
Self-guided Tablet Tour: During the dealer visit, customers can now explore without the pressure of the salesman, in a self driven journey with a tablet that guides them to select cars, books a set time for private exploration and offers rich multimedia content and tools, such as comparing models or customizations. Headphones help to immerse in the experience with sound effects. With a help button, customers can call the sales staff at any point of the journey. Voice activated controls allow customers to directly ask any question to a AI Chatbot.
Uber Reverse Test Drive: Customers can choose the starting and ending points, as well as the route, so that the test drive not only comes to them, but fits in their daily routine. All the data from the test-drives go both the customer’s profile, as well as feed the data analytics center, which through machine learning helps improve future test drive experiences. A time-lapse video can be recorded and shared on social media, increasing the emotional and social engagement.
Augmented Troubleshooting: In the After Sales journey, A.R. tools allow the customers to perfectly visualize the issues with their vehicles, promoting transparency and trust. A.R. tools also help the staff, as advisors can quickly see the issues and track the work being done, and technicians can visualize parts, and solve their doubts during the repair.
A conceptual model based in Mesh Architecture allows for all the applications created for this new DMS structure to co-exist independently as single programs, but feeding from the same data source in the cloud. Therefore, the new DMS can be implemented as a new “user interface”, drawing data from existing systems without the need to rebuild the entire IT infrastructure. New applications can be added, and existing ones can be updated or removed without interfering with the operations of others, keeping a constant flow of data.
Overall, this project reframed the starting point, going from designing a system, to designing an experience, and then a system that supports that experience. It brought both breadth, covering all the moments of the journey, as well as depth in key aspects, and it will serve as a comprehensive springboard for discussion amongst all stakeholders within Mercedes- Benz. Furthermore, as much as we believe in the project outcomes, what is most important are the questions raised, that can still be further studied to bring new opportunities for both tactical and holistic DMS developments.