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The Consumerization of the European Commercial Vehicle Market

6 min read

Expectations of Brands and Dealers Are Forever Changed 

“Now is the time…to think big to transform your business operations to match new digital expectations.” – Janusz Moneta, Lucy Sinclair, Think with Google

I shared our 10 thoughts about the “Future State of European SMBs” recently which apply directly to commercial vehicle buyers and the brands and dealers that market and sell to them. But today I wanted to briefly discuss 3 CV specific observations that have fundamentally changed how customers shop, buy, and own vans, trucks, and coaches/buses forever.

There are obviously a multitude of forces currently at play in the European CV market right now—from the recent Ford restructure and Cummins/Meritor purchase news to supply chain, inflation, and component disruptions and challenges. Add in the travesty that’s happening in Eastern Europe—plus the pandemic’s unpredictability—the business and personal impacts make 2022 even more uncertain than 2021.

However, this article is less about the CV market today and more about the CV customer and dealer of tomorrow. As I noted in my “Future State…” post, us marketers are at an incredibly pivotal time fueled by the collision of the Pandemic, Technology, and Demographics (“PTD”). 

That PTD collision has forever changed the CV customer and dealer landscape—a change that has been hyper-accelerated by behavioral and expectation shifts over the last 2 years. So, what’s next for CV customers and dealers? Here are a few of our observations that we believe will impact most of us in CV for years to come.

Observation #1: The customer is in the driver’s seat

It’s been called the Expectation Economy, the Industrial Revolution 4.0, and a myriad of other clever names (“phygital” anyone?), but what they all are rooted in is the fact business buyer expectations, and patience, is no different than their consumer and personal buying expectations. This directly translates to European CV buyer’s behaviors and journeys.

CV research and buying experiences have often trailed behind passenger and car experiences. PTD has accelerated and closed the gap to the point that consumer and commercial are no longer in a lead-and-trail position, but are now one in the same. From on-demand access to information to frictionless experiences, whether online, at home, or at the dealer, CV customers expect and demand consistency and continuity everywhere, every time, and with everyone. And when they don’t get it, they move on. To potentially never come back again.

While SMBs, or CV buyers, may have lost some control of their own business success, they regained that control back in how they shop, buy, and own CVs. And, like I repeatedly say, it’s not going back. So, it’s up to us in CV marketing, sales, and CX/brand management to keep up.

Observation #2: OEMs and their dealers will become MSPs

We’re seeing the rapid evolution from some of our tech hardware clients to transition from computer companies to technology solution providers. This same evolution is happening with CV OEMs and their dealers.

Connected vehicles/drivers is growing dependent on telematics driven by last-mile delivery and fleet management and the drive to EV across Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV), Heavy Duty Commercial Vehicles (HCV) and buses. As a result, OEMs and dealers will continue to be relied on to be more of a Mobile Solution Provider (MSP) than solely a vehicle and parts provider. Basically, this helps deliver a seamless and connected hardware, software, and service experience that meets customer demands (fueled by Observation #1).

When it comes to dealers, some are predicting their demise of at least importance. While that may be true as a point of sale, that’s not true from the perspective as a point of delivery and service. OEMs and dealers will play similar roles that Managed Service Providers play in tech where SMBs either outsource or co-source their mobility and solutions needs to optimize business performance. The challenge is about the speed that this is happening, as it’s less about digital transformation and more about business transformation.

Observation #3: Meet the “Use It” generation

What if we said a day is coming where OEMs and dealers may never sell another CV. While that may be an extreme, it may not be too far from the truth given the new workforce generation that are “use it” vs “own it” natives. Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) has entered almost every industry and it’s not a reach to see it driving incremental growth in the European CV market. Moving CVs to the cloud may only be a metaverse thing, but the premise of not owning a CV, only using it, is not a future vision prediction but an evergrowing reality. It’s not like Truck-as-a-Service (TaaS) is a new premise as it’s been discussed for years. But what has changed, again, are customer behaviors and expectations accelerated by PTD. It’s why some are projecting TaaS to grow at an explosive CAGR of 26% over the next decade. Or to frame it differently—a $100B industry. Which is why we, in the CV marketing/brand/communications business, need to look to Netflix, Microsoft, and SaaS companies to help us shape what’s next for the CV experiences we’re tasked with building.

The rate at which the CV market is evolving can be paralyzing, especially for large enterprise companies and brands that may not be built for agility or speed. But the reality is visionary predictions that many believed to be a decade away are conceivably happening now. And some things happening couldn’t even be predicted.

These 3 observations are just that, our perspectives based on what we are seeing, not just in CV, but across the full spectrum of SMB shoppers, buyers, and owners/users. If you have a few more perspectives to share, or want to discuss the 3 shared here, feel free to reach out to me at dgliatta@thecargoagency.com.

Dan Gliatta has been helping Global Big Brands, and their ecosystems, market and sell to SMBs in the CV market since he founded Cargo in 2006. He’s now brought that 15+ years of experience to Cargo Strategy, the new Global marketing consultancy and CX testing center based in Amsterdam.