Car manufacturer Audi will later this year launch a personalised Web site for owners of its luxury marque.
The myAudi customer relationship management (CRM) service will be available in Germany shortly - and, if successful, rolled out elsewhere in Europe later.
Audi's head of CRM, Christoph Wargitsch, said that initially, myAudi will be based on personalised Web content. But Audi is aiming much deeper than this in the medium term, and sees its CRM strategy as the centre of an integrated e-business approach to sales, IT, brand, and dealer distribution.
Audi has spent a lot of time and money trying to get its CRM strategy right. Working with SAP and Deloite Consulting, it now has pilot projects running in Brazil and Italy.
As the principle luxury car marque of Volkswagen, Audi has to compete with BMW and Mercedes Benz, both of whom use CRM, said Wargitsch at the recent CRM Summit in Warwickshire. "We knew our customers -- but not well enough" he said, referring to the perennial problem for CRM architects -- disparate, disconnected databases.
"At Audi HQ we found we had sixty customer databases... and we only have contact when we are selling the car - every four years". Wargitsch says this realisation was uncomfortable for Audi. "We don't outsource company care... we treat it as a core competence for our business."
Improving the view of the customer, therefore, became vital to Audi's strategy and has now enabled it to develop what Wargitsch describes as a "holistic ... whole customer life view." This seeks to track the key life events of the customer, plotting their potential for auto purchasing around this "holistic" timeline.
Speaking to ZDNet after his keynote address, Wargitsch refuted suggestions that this centralised e-business approach would falter at the dealer network level - and would lead, eventually, to a direct sales approach, a sort of Audi-Dell.
"We have the best quality dealers ... they will be fully capable of delivering our CRM plans," he said.
The auto industry's failure to offer personalised Web sites to car buyers