It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day running of a fast growing company such as MicksGarage so sometimes it’s useful to engage in some blue sky thinking. I’ve recently become addicted to TED talks (highly recommended) and I’ve become fascinated with “what’s next for the internet?” I’m especially interested in “The Internet of Things” be they fridges, home heating systems or from our point of view here, cars. Now, I’m not talking about today or tomorrow but perhaps in 5 to 10 years companies such as ours are going to have to figure out how to market to an inanimate object. We are probably at an advantage in our core business of car parts given the fact that the average car fleet age is 8.25 years (Ireland) and 7.44 years (UK) but like the Frog in the pot slowly being boiled alive, we need to be aware of our surroundings and prepare for the not so distant future. For the purposes of this post, lets assume the security and other practical issues involving “connected” or even “self Drive” cars are sorted out over the coming years and that there is a reasonable level of adoption even if it makes our collective petrolhead blood boil. “The number of cars connected to the Internet worldwide will grow more than six-fold to 152 million in 2020 from 23 million now, according to researcher IHS Automotive.” Audi RS7 Self Drive Concept The big boys Tech giants are already deeply involved in the new generation of cars. Google Inc. announced an alliance with Audi, GM, Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co. and chip-maker Nvidia Corp. to bring the Android operating system to cars. Apple already is working with BMW AG, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, GM, Nissan Motor Co., Honda and others to bring its iOS operating system to cars through devices such as the iPhone. Microsoft Corp. has long provided the Sync system to Ford, other systems to Fiat, Kia, Nissan and are now also involved with Volvo. I have no doubt that within the Google self-drive car program there are plans for Google’s Android system to be an integral part of the cars operating system which utilizes google search in the research and/or purchase of the car’s needs. For example, a next generation connected car in need of a part and repair may search for the cost and availability of parts, delivery information and mechanics available to provide the repair (syncing their availability with the customers via their calendar). It might even drive itself there when you’re in work. This isn’t that crazy in the near future. Google Self Drive Cars A Juniper Research report projects that 20 million fully autonomous or self-driving vehicles will be on roads worldwide by 2025, with North America and Europe slated to lead adoption and consumers to start using such vehicles by 2021. This may be the point where Google monetizes their hold on the cars operating system by allowing companies to “bump” their products and services up the list. It may also be where Car manufacturers flex their muscle and insist on OEM replacement parts and genuine service, even for a certain period of time (warranty period). In some cases such as with routine purchases (service parts) or safety critical parts (brake disc) the car may make the purchase and book the mechanic itself. In other cases the car’s driver may make the final decision, but will almost always agree to the best priced available option unless given another compelling reason to. The role of the consumer may be to favor certain suppliers because of a previous experience, brand preference, unique selling propositions, etc. From our point of view, there will still be a compelling reason to stand out to the “final decision maker” without ignoring the process of getting our offer in front of them. The focus of our marketing may become two-fold. 1. Directed to the car in the form of offers, price and availability information 2. Directed towards the consumer focusing on brand awareness and customer retention. The goal of our marketing will become driving adoption and trial of our Mick’s brand in order to become a customer’s ‘preferred’ supplier and then minimizing the reasons they would remove us from that list by having great prices, delivery, customer service, product availability, returns procedures, etc. We work hard here at Mick’s Garage to ensure we strive to be “best in class” when it comes to looking after our customers and we don’t see that changing in the years to come even if our customers are inanimate. We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years and we intend to be industry leaders in the next 10. We also don’t want to become the Frog.