Eric Chaniot and John Reed from Microsoft joined the .metaverse podcast to discuss how the metaverse is driving digital transformation within the automotive industry by allowing companies to engage with their customers where they are.
During CES, Eric Chaniot and John Reed from Microsoft joined for a live recording of the .metaverse podcast to discuss the pivotal moment that the automotive industry currently finds itself in and to explore how the metaverse is driving digital transformation within the industry by allowing companies to engage with their customers where they are.
Eric Chaniot is the Chief Digital Officer, General Manager of Automotive, Mobility, Transportation at Microsoft. Eric has over 20 years of experience in the technology business and has created a plethora of turnkey solutions to help transform international businesses to become more digital, innovative and automotive.
John Reed is Solutions Leader, Automotive, Mobility & Transportation Industry at Microsoft. John has worked at Microsoft on their automotive team for over five years and is an active author on Microsoft’s Automotive Industry Blog. Read his latest articles here.
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Read the full transcript of this episode below.
Hi, I'm Ziv Navoth and welcome to the .metaverse podcast. Today's episode is one of a series of fireside chats recorded live at CES 2023 surrounding how the metaverse is revolutionizing the automotive industry and the customer buying journey. In these conversations, we'll hear from a variety of leaders from Microsoft, Accenture, Fiat, Tekion, CNH Industrial, Wejo, PwC and ZF.
We're here at CES 2023. It's an exciting event post Covid. The energy is very high in the room. There's so much innovation in the automotive area. We're here at the Microsoft booth and I'm joined by Eric and John from Microsoft who have been our partners on this amazing journey to transform the way these automotive companies are communicating with their customers. And John, I believe you have a dream of how the future might look and I feel it's starting to happen.
At Microsoft, and with my background in customer experience and systems, both the manufacturer and the dealer, we've been looking for a decade or more for the industry to drive the kind of end-to-end transformation that begins at the top of the funnel, early customer interest in a vehicle, and takes it through an opportunity to engage the customer end-to-end where he or she wants to be and when he or she wants to be engaged.
And I think that we're starting to see that. I know in our discussion here, we'll talk a little bit more about what we're doing with Touchcast and Sitecore and Annata from a capability standpoint to deliver that. But it's an extremely unique opportunity for us to provide the industry with the transformative capabilities that are in the market now.
Maybe share a bit of background on yourself and your journey in the automotive industry.
I was a kid raised in Detroit, grew up in the city of the Ford family. But I've been with Microsoft for a long time, spent some time away with two large automotive software companies that are involved in dealer systems.
“ That market pressure has surfaced over the last 10 years as this, until now, largely unmet need to drive different points of engagement in an integrated digital journey that moves seamlessly between the digital and physical.” - John Reed
And the feedback that I, in my career and Microsoft and the other companies that I worked with as a product lead was that customers were looking for different types of engagement. Dealers are looking to transform. Manufacturers are looking for different points of engagement. And that market pressure has surfaced over the last 10 years as this, until now, largely unmet need to drive different points of engagement in an integrated digital journey that moves seamlessly between the digital and physical.
This industry really is at a pivotal moment. It's a make or break moment for so many of these companies.
Absolutely, it is.
“ This industry really is at a pivotal moment.” - Edo Segal
And where what, in the past may be a luxury - for those that wanted to be progressive is now a survival necessity. Eric, how do you see digital transformation affecting this industry?
What's very interesting to me is that when you talk to Chief Digital Officers - and I have good network of Chief Digital Officers - they all want to achieve four things. Every company wants to get much closer to their customers - their consumers - want to be much more intimate with them. That's one. The second thing that they want to do is they really want to raise the bar for their employees and make sure that their employees become digital. Then with the connection with their consumers and the employee being at the right level, then they want to be able to transform. So usually they transform their product, their services, their business model, and potentially their distribution channels.
And then the last one is that with digital, you can transform your operation, make it seamless, more effective, simpler, et cetera. So what's very interesting to me, and why I was so excited by what you have been working on and what we have been working on together, is that it looks to me that what we're building and what you are building is checking all the four boxes.
Clearly now with your solution I can be sitting in, my whatever, in my bathroom, and then I'm able to talk to someone somewhere and I will be able to have a lot of intimacy, a lot of human connection, while at the same time I will be able to understand all the complexity of a car, whatever.
The second one is that I really believe that for the employees, it's amazing, right? They're used to using the sales guy who is in the room behind that (screen). He is using teams. He has an appointment.
Yeah, let's pull him up on the screen here. Yeah, we can.
Tim, can we see you?
Tim, can you hear us? Oh, here he is.
Hello? Hello. I am here.
So Tim, he looks like he's in a showroom. He's using the tool that he's used to. So for the employees, I think it's an amazing experience. It could be anywhere, right? Easy, it could be anywhere. And it's a trusted platform.
And then you really transform. If we think, and I'm sure John could give more examples, the OEMs want to transform the way they distribute cars. Guess what, this technology will really enable them to transform their business model. And last but not least, in terms of operations, and we talked about that with the Fiat CMO, a dealer, either he has hundreds of cars on the car lot to be able to show all the options or he could have a beautiful wall like that, and then you can show all the options and then, okay. By the time I will order the car manufacturer will send me exactly the car that I'm looking at.
So I think it's a perfect example. A solution checking all the four boxes, which is very unusual. Not all of them are able to do that.
And you bring a unique perspective as well, maybe a few words on where you were before Microsoft.
So just before Microsoft, for six years I was the global Chief Digital Officer at Michelin.So I was leading the digital transformation of Michelin and now just in front of you, there is my successor who is leading that now from Michigan.
It's been an amazing journey together with Microsoft and I think one might look at the different cloud providers as commodity providers, but it's probably important to note what distinguishes Microsoft as a partner, at least from our perspective - and I would say that there's multiple layers to that.
One we touched on which is Teams. If we want to facilitate human communications in an enterprise environment, there is no better platform that’s trusted by all the customers that we aim to accommodate. They're already customers. So we're just extending what they're doing with that estate and that investment and that tenant.
The other I would say is the ability to scale on Azure. So what you're seeing behind us is effectively rendered on a server and streamed into the browser so that any user can use it - totally democratizing this Triple A Metaverse experience at a time where people are thinking that they need a VR headset, they don't. They can benefit from this today.
The other elements have to do with the ability to leverage the amazing AI capabilities that's coming out of the investment that Microsoft has made with OpenAI. So at the show, we've actually unveiled for the first time what we refer to as ManualGPT, which is the ability to use this kind of ChatGPT capabilities to converse with the manual of your vehicle.
Which is just groundbreaking. I can't overstate how foundational that is to the relationship with information because it's also supporting these salespeople. You're doing a call, if I ask you a question, it'll give you the answer - making a superhuman really.
And the last thing I'd say is that Microsoft is also facilitating this ecosystem of relationships, like you mentioned, Sitecore and Annata, that really allow the customers to come in and have a turnkey solution as opposed to them needing to hunt for all these different vendors and stitch things together with tape and spend years. They don't have those years. They have to make the transitions now. It’s an unique opportunity to restart their systems with electrification.
“With Touchcast, you've got a great set of experiences that integrate with a rich set of technologies like Teams, that can create a rich customer experience regardless of device type without specialized hardware at the end point.” - John Reed
Absolutely. You hit on a key point. When we think about the feedback we get from customers to build on the point that Eric had earlier, from a business side, it's totally drive revenue, drive profit, decrease cost, increase customer and employee satisfaction.
From a technology standpoint, the feedback we've consistently gotten is, we don't want to invest in projects that take quarters or years to deploy, what can we do now with the assets that we have? And what was really instrumental in bringing this sort of solution to market was that on one hand with Touchcast, you've got a great set of experiences, that as Eric mentioned, integrate with a rich set of technologies like Teams, that can create a rich customer experience regardless of device type without specialized hardware at the end point.
But what we've done with Touchcast, Annata and Sitecore is to be able to show from a practical standpoint how these assets snap together. So upstream from a customer engagement standpoint in a digital marketing platform, Sitecore can create a rich set of experiences. We bring the shopper or the buyer into the Touchcast environment in an immersive fashion, but importantly, we can actually take the customer into the dealership, sign a contract, collect money, and then service the vehicle all with technologies that are so to speak on the truck right now.
Yeah. That's incredible and for those of you that are not from the automotive industry, it's an incredibly complex process to get all these datas from. There's over 300 vendors of different systems, and having Microsoft as a trusted partner to help these companies navigate towards the best of breed solution, I think is honestly a godsend when we engage with these big customers. So thank you so much.
I have a question for you. I went to several booths at CES and I see amazing things right at CES and then I ask the question - a simple question - which is, can I buy these things now? And usually I receive a fuzzy answer…like yeah, probably in 18 months, 20, 24 months from now. So I think a question for you. I'm sorry to put you on the spot…
Can we buy that now?
"What we have built together is a solution that's ready to scale today at Microsoft scale with amazing partners." - Edo Segal
What you're seeing behind us is in production. Fiat is selling cars in the metaverse. It's a bit of a historic milestone when you look back at the 2000s. We moved to e-commerce. We took our paper catalogs and put them online. In the beginning, people were skeptical. Asking “Will people ever buy anything in a browser?” Oh, maybe they'll buy books, but that's where it's gonna stop. Here we are. And what's happening with the Metaverse, I think is an accelerated version of that.
But unfortunately a lot of folks are running down blind alleys. And I think what we have built together is a solution that's ready to scale today at Microsoft scale with amazing partners. Also SIs like Accenture and others that are working with us to allow companies to make this transition. So this is all available. This for me has been probably - I’ve been to many trade shows - this has probably been the most productive one I've been at in terms of the economic impact of seeing how we are connecting with a kind of product/market fit that is available today for a market that's very eager to innovate and do things differently.
So it's been an incredible journey and thank you for making it possible for us.
We recognize the big investments, the big risk you take with partnering with a company like Microsoft. So thanks very much for the partnership and we're very much looking forward to 2023 and accelerating the progress here and driving transformation for our customers.
Can you imagine how this is going to look next year with 2024.
Because look at this, that's live. We are talking to robots with GPT and it’s unbelievable the pace of innovation that we're seeing.
Absolutely. So exciting.
Thank you so much. Thanks.
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