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Understanding the future of the car industry

By Graeme McLean - Posted on 28 November 2019

Motor dealership Arnold Clark is partnering with Strathclyde Business School to carry out research into the future of the automotive industry. Dr Graeme McLean outlines the opportunities available as a result.

Who is the customer of tomorrow and what will they want? That question is central to a research partnership that Strathclyde Business School has set up with Arnold Clark, one of the UK’s largest motor groups.

I work in the Department of Marketing and have already established a good relationship with Arnold Clark through a number of initiatives within our MSc Digital Marketing management programme.

Now Arnold Clark has decided to work with the Department to pioneer the company’s 2030 strategy. In the ambition to be the front runner in the new transport industry by 2030, Arnold Clark recognise that the customer of tomorrow is likely to have different buying habits and needs to the customer of today. Accordingly, the Arnold Clark 2030 project will examine future customer behaviour and how this reflects on Arnold Clark’s business model. More specifically, the research will examine the use of advanced technology as part of the customer journey, understanding customer needs through artificial intelligence and understanding the complexity of electric vehicles and the demands on the wider infrastructure and business opportunities.

Arnold Clark has partnered with the University to offer five PhD scholarships in pursuit of understanding the future of the automotive industry, looking at the future of electric vehicles and the digital customer experience.

One PhD area will look at the digital customer experience – the customer’s experience is critical to business success and this has been recognised by Arnold Clark. Changing demands of customers is resulting in higher expectations – customers are no longer just comparing their experience with firms in the same product category, they are comparing firms across industries. Technology is continuing to advance at an unprecedented rate and understanding the impact of new technologies on customer attitudes and behaviours is essential for Arnold Clark to stay ahead of the competition.

Another area of research will be future customer purchasing behaviours. The way in which consumers purchase cars, music, movies, clothing, insurance and education has been transformed and further transformation is likely to occur as technology continues to reshape business models and services. As consumers become more familiar with different ways to do business and own physical products – such as subscription based services and the sharing economy – Arnold Clark wants to be at the forefront and in a position to respond to such demands.

Our third area of research will be on customer data and artificial intelligence. As individuals interact with technology and engage with companies via technology, the digital footprint means companies can paint a clearer picture of customers. Big data enables informed decision making and the ability to predict customer behaviour. The technology can enable personalisation of products and services for firms but it also raises questions over privacy and consumer trust towards them.

Another two PhD topics will focus on energy infrastructure as society moves towards the adoption of electric vehicles and will look at the resulting infrastructure design, as well as the wider energy system as relates to Arnold Clark.

A first of its kind, the research will draw on expertise across three University departments including: Marketing, Computer and Information Science and Electronic and Electrical Engineering.

The PhD students will spend three days per week based on the University of Strathclyde John Anderson Campus and two days per week at Arnold Clark’s state of the art head office in Hillington, Glasgow, and we anticipate some innovative research will be the result of this new partnership.

For more information on the PhDs available, please click here 



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