Empowering customers making high value purchase decisions

Buying a house, choosing a university, adopting a pet, or purchasing a car are complex, time consuming decisions that impact our life significantly. They are decisions that involve extensive research and consideration throughout the customer journey.

How can brands and organisations play a meaningful role in this decision-making?

By empowering customers in these high stakes, high involvement purchase decisions, brands can outperform their competitors, especially in the face of economic uncertainty and more cautious consumer spending.

Liquid Interactive helped its client Isuzu UTE Australia achieve this through a complete website rebuild using Sitecore and taking an education-led approach to content and customer engagement.

Key takeaways:

  • Isuzu UTE Australia launched its new brand website, built on Sitecore, and focused on putting customers in control of their decision journey, which helped make the brand more resilient to contracting market conditions.

  • The new website incorporates a strong educational lens to content, features enhanced comparison and configuration tools, and uses simple but effective personalisation to empower the customer's decision.

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A decade of sustained growth

Isuzu UTE operates exclusively in the large utility and SUV vehicle segment. It has two models: the D-MAX and the MU-X.

Although Isuzu utilities had been sold in Australia prior, and Isuzu Trucks continues to service the heavy commercial market, Isuzu UTE Australia, a separate venture, launched in 2008.

Liquid has been Isuzu UTE's digital agency partner for more than a decade. Over the years the partnership has contributed to ten consecutive years of growth and high customer satisfaction. The D-MAX is now the number five selling ute in Australia.

As a challenger brand, Isuzu UTE had differentiated itself in a crowded market through a focus on customer experience. This single-minded vision has consistently driven Isuzu UTE's brand philosophy and it was at the foundation of the company's most significant marketing initiative for 2019a complete top-to-bottom rebuild on the Sitecore Experience Platform (XP).

A decade of working together

In the ten years we've worked together, we've designed three iterations of Isuzu UTE's brand website and developed sophisticated digitally-led lead generation strategies that have evolved with market trends and customer behaviour.

We've progressed from developing sites with simple HTML and custom content management systems to the current iteration, which leverages best-in-class technology to create personalised experiences for site visitors.

In 2013, we helped Isuzu UTE become an early adopter of mobile-responsive design, so that they could tap into a growing audience who were using their phone to research the car purchase.

Along the way, we've received recognition from AMY and MSiX Awards, as well as a case study by Google on the effectiveness of Isuzu UTE's website.

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WHAT IS SITECORE?

Sitecore is a digital experience platform (DXP). It enables businesses to orchestrate and manage the digital experience delivered to customers, prospects, employees, and other stakeholders. For eleven years in a row, it has been a Leader in Gartner's Content Management and Digital Experience Platforms Magic Quadrant for its ability to execute and completeness of vision.

Implementing Sitecore

In March 2019, we launched the next generation of Isuzu UTE's brand website.

Like most modern platforms, websites utilising Sitecore are built using a component-driven approach: atomic, reusable parts that come together to form pages, tools and applications.

What sets Sitecore apart is that it combines customer data, analytics, and marketing automation capabilities to nurture customers throughout their journey with personalised content in real-time, across any channel.

For Isuzu UTE's website, we designed and developed 20 different components, some leveraging Sitecore's templates, SXA, which enabled us to assemble over 200 unique pages (excluding listing pages for individual dealers).

We also redeveloped three complex features:

  • Compare Models
  • Build and Quote (a configurator); and
  • Find a Dealer.

What powers all of this is a complex product database built in Sitecore that lists every vehicle feature from drive type and transmission to audio and sat nav.

Understanding the auto buyer's needs and circumstances

Customers are making fewer trips to dealerships and delaying visits until the very end of the decision process, in favour of doing more research online.

Customers don't necessarily overlook detailed specs, but they won't waste time engaging with them if they're not easily digestible.

Customers are weighing up multiple brands and rely on third-party review sites in a decision cycle that continues to get shorter and shorter.

Customers want to walk into dealerships confident in their knowledge of the vehicle and how it can enable their lifestyle needs.

Customers value ways that brands make complex information easy to understand.

Customers build trust in brands whose information is tailored to their needs and situational factors.

Empowering the purchase decision

Three key facets guided the evolution of the brand website:

Taking an educational lens to content

For high value, high involvement decisions like buying a car, customers need to feel confident, capable and informed. They need to feel like they're in control and that they're making the right choice.

For Isuzu UTE, we deliberately dialled down the hard sell tactics typical of the automotive sector and instead went to great lengths to help people understand the choices they have to make in buying utility vehicles.

From tiny engineering details to the I-Venture Club, which offers off-road driving classes in beautiful, adventurous locations, we made it easy for consumers to learn about Isuzu UTE vehicles, but also have a clear sense that they were learning a lot.

These needs aren't obvious, unless you ask buyers or look at buyer behaviour in car forums online, in which case it becomes very clear how much value is placed on this research.

Taking an educational lens to content and product information can be a challenge though.

Educators and marketers often approach information in different ways, but a good starting point to create content that is not only emotional but also informative is to walk in your customer's shoes.

Human-centred design (HCD) enables this.

Human-centred design is a field of practice where anything from physical products to service delivery and digital experiences are developed in close collaboration withand tested bythe community and the users.

By working to understand the customer's situationtheir experiences, needs, perceptions, challenges, wishes, abilities and expectationscontent is imbued with the sorts of qualities that people look for when speaking to a trusted advisor.

Creating decision support tools

Regardless of a customer's existing knowledge or research under their belt, the automotive purchase journey presents a significant amount of complex information to weigh up and process.

Online tools such as Build & Quote and Compare Models allow customers to interact with product features without pouring over laborious details. They feel like they're in control and are on the way to making the right choice.

For this iteration of the site, we focused on making the experience smoother for site visitors, ensuring fast load speed between steps on the Build & Quote tool.

To achieve this, we developed Build & Quote as a separate single-page application and integrated it with Sitecore. In this single-page application, all necessary code resources are dynamically loaded and added to the page as necessary in response to the user's actions, instead of loading all at once.

We managed to reduce the average load speed by as much as 10 seconds, consequently achieving a 45% increase in the number of users completing the tool. Build & Quote is a key touch point for buyers who are weighing up their options. It connects vehicle features with costs, which helps customers determine value for money.

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Personalising the journey

High involvement purchase decisions can be deeply personal and emotive.

Car purchases are often fueled by changing life events—growing a family, retirement, or gaining independence.

Personalisation helps put customers in control because they feel like their interests, preferences and lifestyle factors have been taken into account and they are receiving information that is tailored to their needs.

One way in which we employ personalisation for Isuzu UTE is to segment visitors to the site by vehicle: D-MAX, MU-X, cross-shopper, and owner. Each user accrues a score towards one of these profiles based on their interactions with the site.

When a user who has accrued enough points to be put in one of these categories returns to the homepage, they are served a personalised version of it.

Users profiled as a 'D-MAX Considerer' or an 'MU-X Considerer' receive deals and accessories relevant to each vehicle. Owners, on the other hand, get served relevant training events and servicing options.

Once personalised, users have average website session times that are 2 minutes longer and a conversion rate over 100% greater than users who do not receive a personalised experience.

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Business resilience in the face of market downturn

Sometimes market conditions are so tough that the good news is that the bad news wasn't worse.

Australia's 2019 new car sales tally finished almost 8 per cent down on the previous year, making it the worst sales year since 2011.

After a decade of sustained growth, Isuzu UTE Australia's sales were down -8.5% year-on-year too.

Isuzu UTE was impacted, but so too were its biggest competitors. Many of them took bigger hits. Only Ford and Toyotaboth with much bigger budgets and more established market presenceoutperformed Isuzu UTE.

2019 Percentage change of total vehicle sales for Isuzu UTE Australia and its major competitors

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In this same period, the new Isuzu UTE website improved its performance by attracting users and by keeping them more engaged than the previous version:

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In turn, this helped strengthen the brand's position and build resilience to the market changes.

November 2020 was the first time that Isuzu UTE was on the top-10 list of best-selling car brands in Australia. In that same month, D-MAX sales equalled that of the Amarok, the Navara and the BT-50 combined. Cementing Isuzu UTE's continued growth in the market.

What brands can do in tough economic conditions

In highly competitive sectors like automotive, there are clear opportunities for a brand to leverage its website to empower existing and future customers.

  1. In declining markets and those impacted by COVID-19, a customer-centric strategy is the key to engaging cautious customers. A brand website built on an experience platform like Sitecore is an ideal starting point for this.
  2. Customers are already extensively researching online especially in high involvement purchase decisions. The website is a powerful complimentary tool to support their need for genuine and timely information.
  3. Combining content with Sitecore's personalisation capabilities are two useful levers for brands to simplify complex information and empower customer experience.
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Isuzu UTE Australia's website was recognised with an Honourable Mention in the Most Intelligent Content Optimisation (APJ region) at the Sitecore Experience Awards 2020