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Guide | October 25, 2021

The long road ahead for in-vehicle commerce

In-vehicle commerce sounds like something from the space age, or a buzzword some enthusiastic marketing types at Tesla made up after one iced latte too many, rather than anything of substance.


On the contrary, in-vehicle commerce is very much becoming a reality, and you could be ordering your coffee for pick-up via your Tesla before too long.


In fact, in-vehicle payment value could hit $86 billion in less than five years, according to Juniper Research. By 2030 the market could be worth more than $625 billion, research from Ptolemus Consulting Group found.


Sirius XM boasts a Connected Vehicle Services eCommerce platform that offers the ability to pay for parking, food and road toll fees all using the car’s digital wallet. It even provides “contextual offers” to allow “the user to receive contextually relevant eCommerce opportunities through the audio and navigation interfaces” by leveraging customer insight data garnered from the use of the digital wallet.


The possibilities are intriguing, especially as part of the Covid-accelerated contactless payment revolution (a Visa study found 67% of consumers now expect brick-and-mortar stores to accept contactless payments), but it’s still worth wondering just how likely mass adoption of in-vehicle commerce is. After all, the same Juniper Research study pegged the market’s value at just $543 million last year, which is a far cry from $86 billion.


Let’s take a look at what exactly in-vehicle commerce is, as well as its plus points and drawbacks.


What is in-vehicle commerce?


In-vehicle commerce, unsurprisingly, consists of two elements, the vehicle and commerce. For a vehicle to be commerce-ready, it has to be connected. This generally means a car that can connect to the internet and while few cars being sold boasted this capability just a few years ago, more and more cars are getting connected. “By 2030, about 95 percent of new vehicles sold globally will be connected, up from around 50 percent today,” a McKinsey report revealed earlier this year.


Carmakers are the big players in the in-vehicle commerce market at the moment, which makes sense as they have the greatest stake in growing the market and simultaneously the ability to make it happen. OEM, meaning original equipment manufacturer, is an acronym thrown around a lot in the in-vehicle commerce space, as these manufacturing companies are those driving the innovation. A car is made up of thousands of parts produced by hundreds of companies, so the connected part of a car may not necessarily be made by the same company that has its name on the finished product.

 

car assembly 600x400

Car manufacturing is an intricate process with a lot of moving parts.


One way connected cars enable in-vehicle commerce is via smartphone mirroring where the driver’s phone is connected to a screen in the car’s dashboard, but this is fast falling out of fashion, as drivers need to keep their eyes on the road for safety, not a dashboard display. “Forward-thinking automakers understand that screen mirroring is not the long-term solution required to meet driver’s expectations,” reads a blog post written by Parkopedia, a car parking space payment and look-up app. 


So far with regards to connected cars, services related to actual driving are by far the most popular among drivers. That means parking, traffic, directions and weather information. So for commerce, paying for parking and fuel have made the greatest inroads, whereas drivers are less interested in buying the food and media services companies have been trying to sell. Juniper Research has forecast that fuel and electric vehicle charging payments will account for “77% of payments by value in 2025”.


Payments companies are trying to cash in though, and Visa has launched in-vehicle commerce for fuel, food, parking and toll fees, according to infotechlead.


3 reasons in-vehicle commerce will drive revenue


Convenience


Convenience is the number one, two, and three selling point for in-vehicle commerce when it comes to consumers. It gives drivers the ability to order and pay for what they want without having to use a device, as long as smartphone mirroring isn’t being used. Jaguar Land Rover rolled out in-car payments via touchscreens back in 2017, though they were limited to fuel payments at Shell filling stations. When launched, the system was compatible with PayPal and the Apple Pay wallet and allowed drivers to fill up without getting out of their car.


There are also convenience benefits for a business too with in-vehicle commerce. As it’s another form of contactless payment you’ll reduce the amount of cash your employees have to handle, which reduces all sorts of risks. In addition, the average contactless payment value has consistently increased over the years. In the UK, for example, the average value per transaction using contactless cards almost doubled from £6.9 in 2015 to £12.4 in May of this year, according to Statista.


It’s embedded


As mentioned above, OEMs are leading the charge with the development of in-vehicle commerce capabilities and this brings its own unique advantage. As the benefits are so potentially lucrative for carmakers (remember that $625 billion prediction?) and connected cars are taking up a larger share of the overall market, in-vehicle commerce capability has become the norm with new cars. Just as seat belts became standard issue in 1964, the same has happened with connections, as 91% of new passenger car sales in the US in 2020 were connected.


Making the customer journey seamless is a well-established eCommerce commandment and OEMs have the opportunity to do that, seeing as they are in control of the purchasing environment. As Parkopedia puts it:


“A deep integration of in-car commerce with these systems differentiates the in-car solution from any external smartphone app and creates unique in-car user experiences. The interaction between vehicle sensors and payments drives user engagement and transactions, for example, the vehicle prompting the driver to pay for parking or to charge at a specific location based on the destination arrival time or available range.”


Voice technology


With smartphone mirroring out, voice assistants are key to making in-vehicle commerce work. We know voice commerce is a rapidly growing segment, with voice assistant eCommerce transaction value is expected to exceed US$19 billion worldwide by 2023, while almost 40% of the US population is estimated to have used voice assistant tech monthly in 2020. As voice commerce technology improves and becomes more common, in-vehicle commerce will only benefit, from both the tech upgrade and consumers’ familiarity with the shopping method.


The importance of voice technology for in-vehicle commerce is best illustrated by a Buick commercial, which features a couple arguing over whether their car is a Buick, or an Alexa.

 

 

The inference is obvious, that a Buick car and Alexa are so inseparable as to be almost indistinguishable. Alexa, show me synergy!


3 reasons to pump the brakes on in-vehicle commerce


Safety 


The automotive industry has a big stake in connected cars becoming a big hit, which explains the deluge of articles talking up their safety benefits. An oft-cited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that 94% of the 40,000 fatal traffic accidents in the US in 2015 were caused by human error. With cars connected and communicating with each other, the theory is that a huge swathe of these accidents will be eliminated.


However, car manufacturers have been quieter about the cybersecurity threats connected cars face. A 2019 Consumer Watchdog study with the dramatic title ‘Kill Switch: Why Connected Cars can be Killing Machines and How to Turn Them Off’, outlines the vulnerability of many cars’ computer systems. It outlines how the part of the car connected to the internet is typically also connected to the CAN (Controller Area Network) buses.


“CAN buses are a technology dating to the 1980s that links the vehicle’s most critical systems, such as the engine and the brakes,” the report reads, adding that as these buses and the head units that house the internet connectivity aren’t designed for security in mind they are extremely vulnerable to hackers.

 

car crash 600x400

Connected cars are a huge safety risk, according to some analysts.


The report is mainly concerned with hackers controlling a car’s driving systems remotely to cause a crash and while the implications for eCommerce aren’t life or death, we all know how much financial damage a payment system hack can cause. Worryingly, Consumer Watchdog also warns that “fleet-wide” hacks are a possibility with connected cars.


Limited utility


Remember that Juniper Research stat from above? That 77% of in-vehicle payment value will still be fuel and electric charging payments in 2025? That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for anyone outside of gas and charging stations to cash in on. In addition, with the focus on voice commerce and that medium’s inherent need for simplicity, it’s hard to see the use of in-vehicle commerce to order anything with much complexity, as why wouldn’t the consumer just wait till they pull over to use their phone?


Imagine trying to talk your car through a complex food order for the whole family in rush hour traffic. It doesn’t exactly scream “good user experience”.


Fragmentation


Cars are mobile, at least the cars that work are, so in-vehicle commerce has to work anywhere a car can go. That can be a problem for a couple of reasons. First, as a mobile internet-connected device, connection strength can be spotty. However, with the advent of 5G this is going to be less and less of an issue moving forward.


A greater concern though is how many different systems in-vehicle commerce will need to be compatible with to give drivers a seamless customer experience. As Parkopedia puts it:


“For vehicle-centric services such as parking, EV charging, fueling, and tolling, a North American or a European-wide solution can easily mean having to deal with hundreds of merchants in dynamic markets.”


End of the road


It’s clear to see the potential is there for in-vehicle commerce, even if a lot of development is needed before it can drive a lot of revenue for anyone outside of car manufacturers, payments platforms, and gas stations. 


We all know how fast eCommerce moves though, so don’t let the rise of in-vehicle commerce sneak up on you like a silent electric car.


Before you hit the road, why not schedule a chat with one of our eCommerce experts to find out how SmartOSC can help get your business in fifth gear.


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