IT decision makers in all sectors must be alert to the power of digital disruption and retailers can learn lessons from the way car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover is innovating to boost customer experiences.

James Drake-Lee, head of InControl operations at Jaguar Land Rover, explained to the audience at the recent DataIQ Future Conference in London how his firm is responding to rapid change in the automotive sector.

He said car manufacturers must address the engineering challenges associated to key trends, such as connected cars and autonomous vehicles, while continuing to innovate and create new business models to generate value-driving services for the organisation and its customers.

“Our competition is doing it – and if we’re not equal to the rest, we’ll be left lagging behind,” said Drake-Lee. “Our market insight also suggests that our customers want us to embrace new technologies and we have to respond to those needs. We’re determined to be at the forefront of innovation.”

Drake-Lee, who has worked with Jaguar Land Rover for nine years, is currently responsible for the team that manages the roll-out of Jaguar Land Rover’s connected car features to different markets around the globe.

Improving the in-car experience

He pointed to research that suggests the average European commuter spends as many as 52 minutes in their car for each journey, twice a day. His organisation hopes to use technology to improve the in-car experience. 

“Customers want to use their time more effectively and we need to respond to that,” said Drake-Lee. “Consumers are saying that the more connectivity you give me, and the more useful things I can do, the more I’ll be prepared to look at your products.” 

He explained how the firm is already making progress. Connected car services are available on 78% of production vehicles across 33 markets. Drake-Lee suggested that several technical features are crucial, including Wi-Fi connectivity, infotainment services and networking.

The firm, for example, offers a product called Protect, a smart phone app that allows customers to connect to their cars remotely through a smart phone. An SOS Emergency Call feature in the app sends information to the emergency services automatically, including location.

Drake-Lee said business leaders looking to make the most of connectivity should avoid making prescriptive technology decisions on behalf of their clients. “We’re device neutral,” he said. “The customer should be able to use whatever device they want. We want our customers to make their own choices while they own our vehicles.” 

Data allows Jaguar Land Rover to deliver services that the firm had not previously envisioned, said Drake-Lee. He also suggested that innovation is not just about improved experiences. Retailers should note smart use of technology on behalf of customers has a direct impact on the bottom line.

“The use of advanced technology is also about profitability,” said Drake-Lee. “By offering new services, and connecting customers, we can start to deliver the services of the future that people demand. We need to keep up with the pace of change and innovate to deliver new services for customers.”