Sophus3 Quarterly Insights Event: Launching a digital-only EV brand
Jonathan Goodman | Chief Operating Officer Polestar UK
Addressing the first Sophus3 Quarterly Insights webinar of 2021, Jonathan Goodman talks about the challenges of implementing a ‘digital only’ sales model for the new electric brand, Polestar, in the midst of the pandemic.
(5 minute read)
“We set out from day one to be a digital brand and what we have seen in the last 12 months is an acceleration in the whole move to digital. Being able to order a car online and get it delivered to your door is absolutely where the world has found itself in the last twelve months. It has reinforced our impression that we are the right brand at the right time.”
“We are seeing lots of companies and lots of car makers now scrambling to get onto the online journey whereas that is how we have designed ourselves. One of our advantages is that we are a small team, and you don’t have fifteen layers to go through… so it’s a lot easier to effect change. The strong pyramid structures of traditional car brands restrict innovation”
“We’ve reinforced our CRM teams and introduced chat technology so that people can liaise directly. Our big learning over this period is that people want communication, but they want it on their terms. The automotive industry, traditionally, hasn’t been very good at that — it has been about ‘push, push, push’. We’ve learnt that customers operate on very different timescales and demand different information.”
“But we are still on a learning curve, after all, we have only been ‘live’ for 12 months in terms of handing cars over. The advantage we have as a direct to consumer business is that you have the feedback straight from the customer. There are times when you hear things maybe you don’t want to hear — and in many bigger companies you are shielded from that by a huge dealer network that absorbs criticism. But for us, it means we have to be responsive so we’ve had to make our communications with the customer better. We’ve realised that customers are hugely passionate about your brand and that, if something is not right, you’re in a position to change things, and it’s a great advantage to be in that situation.”
“The key focus of the company is the customer, and there are an awful lot of companies that say “we’re all about customer focus” — but they are not. How many companies are there where the CEO talks to the customer? Our CEO, Thomas Ingenlath, talks to customers every single day — he’s available online and our customers want to ask him things.”
“Digital is where people want to be, more and more after the last 12 months. People will be working from home more frequently, and they want to find out about your company digitally and order your goods digitally.”
“Why have we rejected traditional dealerships? Firstly, because you are asking customers to go somewhere they can’t go for any other type of shopping. Secondly, they are intimidating places to walk into. Then you add on to that a salesperson who is incentivised to sell the fifteen red ones that have been wholesaled in during the previous week.”
“Despite the fact that I want to purchase a black one, the first thing that the salesperson is going to try to do is persuade me that I really want a red one. That’s not a great customer experience.”
“So we’ve said, ‘let’s take the commission-paid salespeople out of the equation’. No customer who walks into a Polestar space is going to get an order form placed under their nose or put under any pressure. They will meet someone who knows the products inside out and can listen to what it is they want, even if they are there for just five minutes during their lunch break.”
“We measure digital effectiveness with lots of analytics. We also get a huge amount of feedback through live chat, phone conversations and calls into our CRM centre. You get this feedback on a daily basis, so you don’t have to wait for a once-a-quarter mystery shopping exercise to find out how good a job you are doing. The online interaction with customers, the fan groups etc. give us amazing feedback and show the sheer passion for the product.”
“But this brings a whole new challenge. We’re a new brand without a history, we’re bringing customers in — and we are very happy with how the order take is going — but how do we now build a relationship with those customers? How do we interact with them through the life of their vehicle, rather than it being “oh, we will be back to you in three year’s time when we think you are ready for a change”.
“That’s where the car industry is now, and that’s where we want to do things differently. This is where, for example, ‘over the air’ updates are important. It gives you the opportunity to interact with the customer to give them, and explain to them, new technology and improvements. And who doesn’t love that? We’ve all got used to it with our mobile phones for example.”
“We need to get rid of the irritants in the industry — people don’t like commission based salesmen or queuing up at eight in the morning to get their car serviced — and we need to change the approach and ask how do we fit in with the customer rather than force them to fit in with our requirements.”
Access to the complete recording has now been opened up and it can be viewed here.
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