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Cox Automotive Voice-Activated App Nexi Connects Consumers To Car Dealers

"The Future is happening now, it’s just not evenly distributed," Cox Automotive SVP Amy Mills says. "So you have to watch everything, particularly the things that are just coming to market."

Just as Apple is rolling out its “chat with a business directly” through its iMessage app, other brands are looking to make seamless connections between shoppers and sellers.

Last month, Cox Automotive’s vAuto, one of the car dealer sales and information platform’s brands, debuted Nexi, which it billed as a “digital assistant for car dealers.”

Available as a skill for Amazon Alexa — with Google Android Home functions still to come, Nexi helps dealers “access their inventory, sell cars and generate profit,” the company says, adding that the Connected Intelligence/Knowledge Graph service can respond directly to consumers with a full range of questions on inventory, local market data, operations, and other dealership-related information.

Citing a survey by the Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan Management Review of 3,000 business executives, managers, and analysts in 112 countries and 21 industries, called Reshaping Business With Artificial Intelligence,  Cox noted that

  • Eighty-four percent of respondents say AI will enable them to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage.
  • Eighty-three percent believe AI is a strategic priority for their businesses today.
  • Sixty-three percent believe the pressure to reduce costs will require their organizations to use AI in the next five years.

“We’re using voice technology to make inventory sourcing for our clients more efficient,” Amy Mills, SVP for strategy at Cox Automotive, told GeoMarketing following an appearance at last week’s 2018 NADA / J.D. Power Automotive Forum. “Nexi, which helps a dealer manage their inventory through a conversation through an app.

“You can ask, ‘How did I do last week’ and it will tell you how many days you’ve had a product in stock,” Mills added. “It’s all the data and information you could get out of Stockwave but without having to scroll through a dashboard by using a voice activated platform. Voice is gaining traction because it is intuitive to humans. Nexi provides this information in the most efficient manner possible—by voice through the Amazon Alexa skill, as well as emails, text messages and notices within vAuto applications.”

Nexi is available all vAuto customers who use Stockwave, the Cox Automotive brand’s inventory analysis tool.

The Future Of Driving And Buying

In her discussion at the NY Auto Forum, Mills also offered several predictions and caveats regarding the future of the car industry.

“I’ve seen a report that CEOs say by 2022, 30 percent will be sold online. If you think about the number of vehicles sold online last year and double that every year, you can get by 20 percent by that year at least,” Mills said.

There’s also a big difference between the end-to-end deal happening and a pure online sale, she added. Part of the process is already starting online, as that’s the initial place where dealers want to have a conversation with a dealer. Only 11 percent of consumers today see themselves conducting the whole transaction online, Mills said.

“Because buying a car is such a large purchase, you’re going to see a lot of interaction between online and offline, such as when it comes to framing the consumer experience and efficiency of the whole operation,” Mills told her interviewer, Jason Stein, Publisher, Automotive News.

“How long until we get to the point where 25 percent of personal cars are not owned or leased, but shared and subscribed?” Stein asked.

It’s hard to say ‘when’ or ‘if,’ but where we need to keep an open mind is how younger consumers will shift, Mills responded. Right now, Millennials own 1.5 cars per household versus the national average of 1.9. Part of that is due to life-stage or economics, she said.

“But you are seeing the emergence of ‘digital natives,’ who are used to shopping in a very different way,” Mills continued. “The post-Millennials coming up, kids that are 9- or 10-years-old, they won’t know a world without ride-sharing and pay-as-you-go. There are things in the marketplace that could accelerate that shift, but I think we’re looking at roughly 10 years out until that mindset takes hold.”

Affordability, for one thing, is something that could kick consumers out of ownership and into pay-as-you-go. Secondly, congestion is another factor. Five of the top 10 congested cities are in the U.S., and New York is one of them, Mills noted. Not all of those locations have solutions that can address those two issues.

As for autonomous cars, or semi-autonomous features, Mills pointed to a figure mentioned earlier in the day at the forum Rebecca Lindland, Senior Director/Executive Analyst, Kelley Blue Book, that two-thirds of consumers don’t believe they’ll experience a fully-functional autonomous vehicle in their lifetime.

“The flipside of that is another two-thirds want semi-autonomous safety features, like adaptive cruise, that are in vehicles today,” Mills said. “Over time, as consumers become more comfortable using those features, they’ll become more comfortable in a vehicle that may not have a driver.”

In summing up how the auto industry should view the current upheaval, Mills said, “One of my favorite all-time quotes is that ‘The Future is happening now, it’s just not evenly distributed.’ So you have to watch everything, particularly the things that are just coming to market.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.