Incite Group: For 2019 Incite Group has made a bold statement ‘Customer First. Digital Second’ what are your thoughts on products role to leverage the voice of the customer to build impactful product experiences?
CarMax: One of CarMax’s core values is “We Put People First,” and we believe the only way to create a differentiated and impactful customer experience is to see this experience from the perspective of the customer. The voice of the customer is central to everything we create.
While technology is a prominent enabler of customer experience in today’s digital world, innovative solutions don’t always involve technology. In many cases, we need to look beyond digital for the best solution to meet customer needs. Customers who are shopping for a large, complicated or emotionally-driven purchase (a car is all these things!) are often looking for a real human connection in addition to an enabling digital experience.
Ultimately, I believe that Product’s role is to discover, validate and build the iconic experiences that truly solve customer problems -- whether they are digital, physical or a combination of the two. – Ann Yauger
Incite Group: For 2019, we have identified the importance of building impactful experiences that add value to consumers lives beyond a transaction – what are your thoughts on this?
CarMax: The car buying transaction is an inherently complex and emotional experience – this is the second largest purchase most of us ever make, after a home. Knowing this about our customers’ journey, we focus on enabling our customers digitally alongside building a relationship with the customer that transcends the transaction.
For example, the center point of CarMax’s new omnichannel experience (which allows the customer to do as much or as little of the car buying process from home as they’d like) is our customer check out process we call the customer hub. The customer hub allows customers to take control of their shopping experience and progress digitally. Customers can see all the steps they’ve taken, whether that’s saving their favorite vehicles, getting prequalified for financing, or receiving an offer on their existing vehicle. Most importantly, the hub allows customers to easily seek out help from a CarMax consultant when and how the customer prefers (through text, e-mail or a phone call). CarMax consultants also have visibility to the hub, which enables us to know exactly where the customer is on their shopping journey and provide customized support. As we continue to build and evolve this product, our goal is to enable customers digitally, while continuing to build the relationship that’s critical to the experience transcending the transaction. – Bryan Ennis
Incite Group: What new technologies or trends do you see impacting digital product and the wider industry this year?
CarMax: Technology advancements, particularly in areas like AI and machine learning, are allowing ideas that have been percolating over the last few years to finally come to reality. We’re focused on leveraging all these technologies to deliver a digital experience that feels – and is – uniquely human.
CarMax product teams have found success in leveraging machine-learning recommendations to enable the customer’s search process and deliver personalized, real-time recommendations.
The vast majority of our customers start their car search online, and we have approximately 50,000 vehicles for them to search and find “the one.” We’ve worked to organize our data on the cloud, and democratized the data by making it accessible to product teams and the data science organization. We developed a machine learning algorithm that is based on collaborative filtering which uses our vast proprietary data set of millions of car page based views. Now, CarMax generates 50 million recommendations every day that help customers narrow and curate their car search. – Bryan Ennis
Incite Group: As consumers engage across multiple channels, mobile remains a critical customer touchpoint. How are you differing your mobile experience for 2019?
CarMax: The future of mobile is as much about designing for attention as it is for screen size. We’re no longer designing just for ease of use across platforms but designing to enable customers to progress on their customer journey with the appropriate level of immersion. Mobile has also forever changed the way customers pursue answers, so we’re focused on building a mobile experience that delivers the exact solution the customer is looking for, when and where they are looking for it (whether that’s through a search engine, voice, text, chat bot, native app, etc.). – Bryan Ennis
Incite Group: What is your main goal for 2019? And how are you going to get there?
CarMax: This is the year we give our customers the ultimate control over shopping for a car on their terms. In December 2018, CarMax launched our new customer-driven omni-channel buying experience in Atlanta, giving customers the choice as to how they want to buy a car – from home, in-store or a seamless integration of the two. We are now scaling nationwide and anticipate having the omni channel experience to the majority of CarMax customers by February 2020.
Our product teams are particularly focused on the transition between online and in-store to make it as smooth and frictionless as possible. Customers don’t want to engage with just one channel – they want to be able to walk into our 200+ stores and expect our associates to be able to pick up exactly where they left off online. Our product teams are working to enable that. – Bryan Ennis
Incite Group: How do you see product’s role changing in the foreseeable future?
CarMax: Nothing in this world is slowing down. The pace of technology, innovation and customer expectations continue to accelerate at unprecedented rates, and it’s becoming increasingly challenging for companies to keep up. To press ahead of customer needs, our product teams will expand beyond problem solving and master the art of problem forecasting. They will move beyond improving the customer experience of today and focus on the next wave of innovations that drive the business strategy of the future. – Ann Yauger
Incite Group: Customer Journey Mapping is being spoken about more and more, what changes are you making to understand your customer more deeply and integrate these findings into your product strategy?
CarMax: We view customers not just as consumers of our tools, but drivers of our future product innovations. Customer Journey Mapping is something CarMax has been doing on both a micro and macro level for a long time. Our strategy is centered heavily around service design and examining every aspect of the customer journey. For most people, the car buying journey can carry a lot of emotional weight. In order to understand our customers on a deeper level, we’ve shifted our focus to identifying and solving for the “moments that matter” – those emotional peaks and valleys along the way that truly define the customers’ experience. Our product teams work to uncover our customers’ problem spaces by observing and talking with customers in natural context, when they are actively engaged in shopping for a car. Then, we prioritize getting those moments right. Through this process, we’ve also discovered the importance of not only mapping the customer journey, but also the associate journey in interacting with the customer.
To truly invest in understanding our customers more deeply across all of our product teams, we’ve established a discovery coaching practice, where a dedicated discovery coach works alongside product teams to help them level-up their discovery skills and accelerate their customer learnings. Our discovery coaches have been particularly effective in helping teams avoid the easiest thing to do – and the hardest habit to break – falling in love with our own ideas. – Ann Yauger
Incite Group: What advice would you give to brands trying to accelerate their digital product initiatives?
CarMax: Start by taking a look at your company culture. Are your teams siloed? Is your leadership review process causing delays? Do your associates not have a voice? Are you too focused on perfection? If you’re answering ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it’s likely time to take a step back and identify where culture is holding you back.
In order to accelerate digital product initiatives, or any initiatives for that matter, there needs to be a company-wide cultural shift. At CarMax, our associates are given the opportunity to think freely and creatively. All product teams are co-located and, rather than being held to rigid agendas, leadership provides strategic goals leaving teams to decide the best course of action.
Above all else, don’t let your ego become a roadblock to innovation. While having the flexibility to ideate is important, empower your associates to be humble enough to recognize when to abandon an idea. Have humility to avoid falling in love with every idea if it isn’t seeing customer traction – the only way to move up is to move on. – Ann Yauger
Incite Group: Can you share in one sentence why you are looking forward to uniting with innovative product, digital and marketing leaders at the Open Mobile & Digital Experience Summit to share your vision?
CarMax: I’m excited to see how other industries are tackling the remote customer, always-on and digital shopping experience. – Bryan Ennis
There is no one recipe for success, and I’m looking forward to feeling inspired by the ingredients that make up other companies’ accomplishments. – Ann Yauger