Aston Martin and its 30 year customer conundrum

The focus at the London leg of Salesforce’ world tour last week was very much the idea of ‘the age of the customer’ and the importance of creating engaging experiences throughout the whole of the customer journey.

One company that Salesforce gave a lot of air time to at the event was Aston Martin, one of the most iconic car brands in the world and the only remaining British independent car manufacturer.

The somewhat unusual conundrum the company has is that an Aston Martin isn’t something you just pop out to buy one day; a V8 Vantage will set you back around £87,000 or you’ll be £140,000 out of pocket if you opt for a DB9. These cars are things people aspire to own and spend years saving up for, meaning the customer journey is very different to that of most other products.

The cars are bought for “largely emotional reasons,” said Aston Martin CEO Dr Andy Palmer, stemming from having a poster in your bedroom at 14 years old, potentially 30 or 40 years before the actual purchase takes place. This means “the relationship doesn’t start and end with the transaction of the car” and Aston’s challenge is to be there throughout this whole journey. Dr Palmer said “whilst I’m utterly sure the car won’t let you down, it’s really, really important that the experience doesn’t let the customer down either” and the company needs to know it’s current 7,000 customers a year as “intimately” as it did when it only sold 100 cars a year.

Aston Martin is currently using Salesforce technology to create one-to-one customer experiences through “personalised, targeted, automated communication” and provide an increased level of insight so that “we can be there when it feels right.” A lot of this comes down to data analytics to provide a three-dimensional view of customers and empower employees to make smarter and faster decisions.

This was echoed in a meeting I had with Melissa Di Donato, Salesforce' SVP of Analytics, who spoke about using data to “make decisions and take action” and "getting to know your customer better and enabling every employee to have a deep level of decision making capability with the right data in context."

This helps businesses "make the right decisions at the right point of time” and get “full visibility of the end-to-end customer journey,” which, for Aston Martin, could mean 30 years or just a few weeks.

The company also uses social media to give users access to the brand without having to actually own a car, which so far has generated a substantial fan base of over 6.5 million on Facebook and 951,000 on Twitter.

Aston Martin’s ultimate long-term challenge is to maintain its exclusive feel whilst also making the brand as accessible as possible and, in this age of the customer, data is going to have a big role to play.

Image source: Shutterstock/VanderWolf Images