Powersports and Recreation: How a Digital-First Customer Experience Can Sustain Industry Growth

Digital First Customer Experience

Shifting consumer behavior has dealt powersports and recreational manufacturers a winning hand. Focusing on a digital-first customer experience can sweeten the pot.

It’s the pandemic paradox, as one publication puts it. While unemployment has been at record highs throughout the COVID-19 crisis, some industries have seen sales soar. Do a quick search around the web, and you’ll find sources citing pent-up demand for new activities that cater to a new socially distant world. 

A shift in consumer spending has dealt powersports and recreational manufacturers and dealers a winning hand. How these industries respond, by providing outstanding customer experience in sales, service and ownership, can keep them in the game long after demand from the pandemic fades. Quick hint: A focus on a digital-first customer experience is going to play a major role.

We sat down with Jodi Searl, J.D., PhD, Medallia’s new solution principal for powersports, to gather her insights on what’s ahead for the industry.

First and foremost, welcome to Medallia, Jodi! We couldn’t be more excited to have you join the team. Can you tell us a little more about your career in motorsports?

I joined Harley-Davidson in 2013 in the product compliance division where I was able to leverage my background in regulatory law to build out the product compliance strategy for Latin America. In 2015, I took over the global dealer training organization within H-D to transform the way Harley trains its global dealer network to provide exceptional customer experiences throughout the dealership journey. As an iconic 118 year-old company, Harley has a deep and loyal customer base (which I have personally been a part of my whole life) and an incredible dealer network, so it was an amazing opportunity to dig into what our customers were expecting and then operationalize it around the world.

What about Medallia attracted you?

While I was with Harley, we partnered with Medallia to help us get better intelligence from our customer feedback throughout the customer journey. I was continuously impressed, not only with Medallia’s capabilities that helped us move further faster, but with the great partnership we had immediately with the Medallia team. When I was approached to help build out this work for the powersports and recreation industries, it was too good to pass up!

Thanks for sharing your passion with us! Let’s talk about some opportunities in the industry. Why should understanding and operationalizing customer experience be a focus for manufacturers and dealers? 

Consumer shopping and engagement habits have changed. New consumers are entering the powersports and recreation lifestyles as other pursuits have been unavailable for the past year due to pandemic response requirements. Investing in customer experience helps drive customer engagement, retention and loyalty. Keeping people engaged in a sport or lifestyle helps all brands grow — regardless of whether someone is a new entrant or a lifetime ambassador.

Disruption is ongoing, and in many cases accelerating — and business conditions will continue to change.

COVID-19 has definitely changed the world to digital first. Will things get back to “normal” ever?

I love this question! As competition has increased for customer attention and discretionary spending and buying habits of consumers have changed toward digital opportunities, manufacturers and dealers understand that buying “toys” is a passion-led choice. To win the attention and loyalty of consumers, outstanding customer experiences throughout the buying, servicing and ownership processes must exist across all channels. 

Interestingly enough, manufacturers in these industries are seeing incredible growth as consumers turn their discretionary spending toward activities they can do both individually and with their families in a safe, socially-distanced way. Many manufacturers and dealerships are reporting best ever years. Digital is not going away, and customers are going to continue to look to digital first. That means companies that want to stay ahead of the competition will put some serious thought into their digital strategies. In order to sustain this growth and keep customers in sport, manufacturers and dealerships must prioritize gathering the signals and insights that inform the behaviors necessary to deliver outstanding customer experiences.

Let’s talk more about that digital experience. While some customers still prefer to go to dealerships, many have turned to shopping across brand and dealership websites. So, just who owns the digital experience anyway?

I think the answer is both the manufacturer and dealerships own the digital experience. Generally, consumers don’t necessarily see a distinction between a brand and a dealership, so both sides need to work together to make the experience as seamless as possible. For manufacturers and dealers who offer online purchasing, this is even more critical.

We hear a lot about how companies should personalize digital experiences for their customers. But what does that really mean? How can powersports and recreation companies do that?

As a result of the types of products purchased by consumers in these industries, there’s a great amount of data collected that would allow a brand to personalize how they will approach existing customers. This creates an opportunity to target each customer based on what their known preferences are. There is a tendency to rely on dealer management systems or customer relationship management systems data, and it’s important for system interfaces to personalize how that data is actually leveraged.

Digital is not going away, and customers are going to continue to look to digital first.

The world has turned contactless. With that in mind, what do you believe is the most important action for powersports and recreation leaders to take to stay connected with their customers?

I believe they need to constantly monitor and understand where their customers are and what they expect. This requires commitment to listening via all channels and the ability to act and change direction as necessary. They also need to listen and understand what it takes to attract and retain the right talent to deliver for customers.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us. Final question: What lessons do you think leaders have learned from the disruption of last year, and do you think they will be better prepared for rapidly changing business conditions in the future?

I think they have learned that the disruption is ongoing, and in many cases accelerating — and that business conditions will continue to change. As companies prepare for the “workplace of the future” and consumer buying habits evolve, signal capturing and insight operationalization has become a critical enabler of agile responsiveness of successful companies.

Interested in discussing how a digital-first customer experience strategy can help future proof your business? Connect with a Medallia Expert on Demand now!