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Kia: Enhancing customer experiences and positioning itself for automotive market leadership with Google Cloud

About Kia

As a global company, Kia produces in excess of 2 million cars a year across a wide range of vehicles including passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and buses which can be seen throughout the world. Today, Kia has become a household name, with an ever-expanding range of models sold through a network of dealers in 172 countries and over 44,000 employees across the globe.

Industries: Manufacturing
Location: Korea

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With Google Workspace and Google Cloud AI and machine learning services, Kia is executing a digital transformation to support a new focus on mobility services and vehicle electrification, connectivity and autonomy.

Google Cloud results

  • Kia car manual mobile app helps car owners quickly locate important information about their cars, enhancing the safety and convenience of Kia car ownership
  • Live Stream Showroom helps Kia realize its ambition of staying “ahead of the curve” in digital sales and marketing during the transition to a digital business
  • Live Stream Showroom enables Kia to provide a better customer experience and drive new car sales by meeting demand for online product research and purchase decision-making capability

Kia aims to increase new car sales by creating a channel that offers a safe, intuitive digital experience to prospective purchasers

For Kia, innovation is key to positioning the business to assume leadership of the fast-changing automotive industry. The global organization—which produces 2 million+ passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and buses per year—last year announced a long-term strategy, Plan S, to embrace mobility services and vehicle electrification, connectivity, and autonomy, to realize its vision.

This strategy—supported by a digital transformation program that aims to provide a unique customer experience, create new business opportunities, and deliver efficiencies—impacts an expanding range of models sold through dealers in 172 countries and 44,000+ employees across the globe.

Digital technologies and online services are prompting automotive companies to comprehensively recast sales strategies, and Kia is no exception. The organization conducted a customer survey that revealed digital channels had a positive impact on profitability: 83% of consumers preferred to undertake product research online before making a purchase, while 47% of customers wanted to utilize an online platform for their future purchase.

Furthermore, the use of digital devices increased the intention to repurchase from the same brand or dealer by 4%–13% on average.

The survey echoes the results of a growing body of research that quantifies the link between customer satisfaction, reduced costs, and increased revenue. A recent McKinsey report states that a 20% rise in customer satisfaction could lift revenue by 15% and lower the cost of serving customers by 20%. Furthermore, businesses that create a loyal customer base benefit from the fact customers are 5x more likely to repurchase, 5x more likely to forgive, 4x more likely to refer, and 7x more likely to try new ideas. Overall, the management consulting firm states, a 10% increase in customer experience can translate to $1 billion in revenue.

“Live Stream Showroom demonstrates our continued commitment to tailor the car-buying journey to the demands of our customers with virtual viewings. By launching this new platform, we aim to stay ahead of the curve in digital sales and marketing in this time of transition.”

JT Hong, Vice President, Purchase CX Design Sub-division, Kia

Kia turns to Google Workspace

To improve profitability by meeting consumer demand for online product research and purchase, accessible via digital devices, Kia opted to develop a new online channel for the business and its dealers to engage customers—and the coronavirus pandemic increased the urgency of the initiative. The business turned to Google to help enable its response to the pandemic, and the cloud services provider responded by suggesting how a range of its solutions could assist. The Kia team was interested in how a virtual showroom could engage customers and the Google Workspace team proactively put forward a virtual dealership concept that could be rolled out quickly and easily.

The Google Workspace team created a compelling customer journey for the virtual showroom proposal that commenced with a customers’ reservation request made through a dealers’ website and concluded with the capture of customers’ feedback and intention to proceed through a digital survey created in Google Forms.

The innovation and alignment of the proposal with its requirements convinced Kia to proceed and the business elected to launch the Live Stream Showroom—a 1:1 streaming video call over Google Meet between dealers and customers that allows prospective buyers to view vehicles for sale.

The service combines convenience with a personal touch, while minimizing disruption caused by the pandemic and enabling dealers to sell to consumers in the market for new vehicles. Customers can use the Live Stream Showroom to discover the designs and features of Kia vehicles from the comfort of their own homes through live one-on-one consultations and on-demand demonstrations. The customer journey is shown in the image below.

Customer journey diagram

Once Kia gave the project the green light, the Google Workspace team in Korea worked closely with the Kia customer experience team to deliver the Live Stream Showroom to dealerships around the world. This included working with Kia regional headquarters in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific, as well as team leads at each dealership, to demonstrate the service through Google Meet. These demonstrations included how to use Google Meet on smartphones on selfie sticks to showcase the features of a car and how to use associated Google Workspace features to connect closely with customers. The team also showcased how the robust security features of Google Workspace protected digital consultations and associated data.

The Google Workspace team also highlighted the user-friendly experience of using Google Meet and other Google Workspace services as prompting customer engagement with and take up of the new service.

Kia initially rolled out the Live Stream Showroom to dealerships in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and has now expanded the service to 45 countries across Africa and the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. “Live Stream Showroom demonstrates our continued commitment to tailor the car-buying journey to the demands of our customers with virtual viewings,” says JT Hong, Vice President, Purchase CX Design Sub-division, Kia. “By launching this new platform, we aim to stay ahead of the curve in digital sales and marketing in this time of transition.”

Post-rollout enhancements

Following the initial rollout, Kia and the Google Workspace team worked to enhance the Live Stream Showroom by developing a scheduling feature on the organization’s website and integrating the automotive manufacturer’s customer relationship management tools with Google Workspace. Through this integration, a dealers’ customer relationship management system would save meeting information when a customer visits Kia’s homepage and submits an application for a one-on-one online meeting with a dealer.

Through a script provided by a Google Cloud partner, the same data is automatically flowed to the dealer’s calendar, with user name, meeting detail, and meeting subject information appearing. Further details, such as contact information, country, and vehicle are saved in Google Drive as a Google Sheet.

“The Kia Owner's Manual App offers a unique customer experience with our products. Kia drivers can enhance the safety and convenience of ownership with the app, which provides easy and intuitive information on the various functions of their vehicle and our latest technologies."

Pablo Martinez Masip, Global VP, Ownership & Product Experience, Kia

An AI-powered digital manual for Kia vehicle owners

Kia also demonstrated its commitment to innovation and an improved customer experience through the creation of a digital Kia owners’ manual, accessible via a mobile app. Every year, customer demand for more convenient vehicle control and passenger safety had prompted the organization to add new content to the physical manual, resulting in a thicker book. However, at the same time, customers wanted to locate the information they needed much more easily.

The business elected to work with Google Cloud to develop the app, due to its leadership in cloud, AI, and machine learning. Kia used AI Platform, TensorFlow, Cloud Storage, and Firebase. Consultants Megazone developed the models using TensorFlow for object detection and AI Platform for model training and evaluation, with the mobile app created using the Firebase development platform.

The business had provided augmented reality mobile apps to customers in some markets, but the requirement to measure all layouts and switches for each new Kia model restricted the organization’s ability to roll them out more widely. Kia, Google Cloud, and multinational managed services provider Megazone focused instead on recognizing symbols on the switches in vehicles—with the universality of these symbols ensuring the app’s compatibility with any new models. In addition, the partnership with Google Cloud and Megazone means the app can easily be tailored to the requirements of a range of markets.

Owners of compatible vehicle models can use the AI-powered app and camera on their smartphones to identify the names and functions of features found inside Kia models. Google Cloud’s AI Platform-based image learning technology ensures the app’s Symbol Scanner function allows accurate identification of in-car switch symbols from any angle. For example, if a user scans the cruise control symbol on the steering wheel with a smartphone, the AI Platform will recognize the image and initiate a video introducing the detailed functions of the cruise control system.

Launch of the owners’ manual app has been a considerable success, with the product helping reduce information delivery costs, improve the immediacy of market deployment and portability, give customers a more enjoyable mobility experience, and help improve brand awareness. The value of the innovation is demonstrated by the fact it won the Grand Prize in the Intelligent Application category at the 2020 Spring Conference of the Korea Intelligent Information System Society. Kia plans to develop further services incorporating smart technologies through collaboration with Google Cloud.

“The Kia Owner's Manual App offers a unique customer experience with our products,” says Pablo Martinez Masip, Global VP, Ownership and Product Experience at Kia. “Kia drivers can enhance the safety and convenience of ownership with the app, which provides easy and intuitive information on the various functions of their vehicle and our latest technologies."

*Prior to May 18, 2021, Vertex AI was known as AI Platform.

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About Kia

As a global company, Kia produces in excess of 2 million cars a year across a wide range of vehicles including passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and buses which can be seen throughout the world. Today, Kia has become a household name, with an ever-expanding range of models sold through a network of dealers in 172 countries and over 44,000 employees across the globe.

Industries: Manufacturing
Location: Korea