TechCrunch reports that General Motors is launching an in-vehicle shopping portal that will allow drivers to make purchases and reservations through the in-dash infotainment system installed in new GM vehicles. With cars increasingly becoming mobile computing devices themselves, is this just the first step toward a vehicle-centric coalition loyalty program? Stay tuned.
By Rick Ferguson
The new commerce portal, called GM Marketplace, will be pushed out as a software update for 2017 models to Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles—even if the owner hasn’t paid for an in-car data subscription. At launch, drivers will be able to leverage Marketplace to make purchases from partners including Applebees, Dunkin’ Donuts, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Wingstop, with Starbucks slated to come on board in 2018. Drivers can also use the system to make reservations at TGI Fridays, as well as reserve and pay for parking spots in advance. Marketplace will even enable drivers to addition to buy GM vehicle upgrades, accessories, and services, as well as Wi-Fi top-ups. As a sweetener, data used while accessing Marketplace won’t count against Wi-Fi plan limits.
Why, you may ask, is Marketplace necessary, when you can already do all of these things on your phone? Marketplace differentiates by allowing drivers to make purchases while driving, with a UX designed to facilitate commerce even as drivers remain focused on the road. Money quote from GM Director of Global Digital Experience and Connected Vehicles John McFarland:
“Rather than having somebody have to, if they’re going to engage on their phone, pull over and get in park while they’re doing it, which causes you to lose valuable time, or even worse, the temptation for people to try to use their phone while driving which is something that we definitely don’t want… we believe in doing everything we can to make it available while making it safe while in motion.”
The key, of course, is whether Marketplace really provides seamless commerce that allows drivers to engage without distraction. Given the increasing problem of drivers distracted by their devices, this is no small consideration—the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that distracted drivers represent 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 17 percent of all accident-related injuries. A system that actually contributes to this problem, rather than helps alleviate it, is a PR disaster in the making.
Assuming that Marketplace works as advertised, however, the possibilities for customer relationship-building are tantalizing. Imagine a future in which GM has built a driving-themed coalition loyalty program in which drivers earn rewards for shopping through the Marketplace portal. Surprise-and-delight geolocation offers and exclusive events seem like a natural evolution; throw in a credit card, a travel partner offering a highway driving-friendly hotel brand or two, and perhaps even a grocer offering drive-through pick-up, and you’d really have something. With Marketplace, GM has the potential to build an entire loyalty ecosystem centered on GM vehicles—one that not only encourages repeat purchase of GM vehicles, but could also become a profit center in its own right.
That, my friends, is the future of loyalty—with a lot riding on whether GM can nail the in-vehicle UX. Here’s hoping they do.
Rick Ferguson is Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer Group and a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).