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Share of miles per lifetime: how GM is using connected cars to redefine loyalty

Technology & Data

Share of miles per lifetime: how GM is using connected cars to redefine loyalty


GM OnStar manager of enterprise decision management Travis Bradburn explains how the technology engages consumer loyalty.

General Motors’ OnStar subscription service connects drivers to a network of advisers and capabilities designed to provide real-time service, advice and emergency management. From simple app capabilities like remote start and remote locking and unlocking, to driver recognition and a dedicated call-centre of advisors, the smart car technology is helping GM keep consumers engaged in a world where car ownership is being disrupted and redefined.

At the PegaWorld event in Las Vegas in June, Marketing spoke with Travis Bradburn, manager of enterprise decision management at OnStar about loyalty, the technology and how it’s helping GM remain relevant in an evolving world.


Marketing: So you’re connecting with drivers verbally via the call centre of advisors, and also tracking their use of the technology. Are you building a body of data with this, and what are you using it for?

BRADBURNTravis Bradburn: We have live advisors, that you push the button and say ‘I need a particular thing’ or if your vehicle gets in a crash, it’ll initiate a call. They’re trained in emergency dispatch and we’ve got relationships with the public service answering points of the emergency services. We can contact them, feed them information, get them the right location.


We start to build event histories and interactions. One of the things you can do is – this is where the AI comes in – start to do adaptive analytics. Start to pick up patterns. That’s very good from a marketing standpoint. If there’s a new product that’s never been out, we want to see what customer reaction is to it, to find patterns.

That’s where adaptive analytics is very powerful.

In AI machine learning we establish a feedback loop in the system where it’ll recommend we deliver a particular message: ‘did they click on it or did they not?’ We feed that information back in, so that the system can recommend the next best action.

The feedback loop starts to develop. The adaptive analytics can say ‘I’m seeing one thing is responding really well for female drivers of this particular vehicle’ but if we show the same message to a truck-driver, they don’t respond at all, for example.

We start to use those insights, even in how we describe certain products.

We can look at the driver’s engagement history, so, ‘these are the engagement points that they had’ and see that they’re really interested in the capability to remote start their vehicle, so when we talk to them, and try to retain them or get them engaged, those are the points that we’ll pick out and stress.


M: One of the focuses for GM is building loyalty. When it comes to car companies, loyalty to a particular brand may only mean one or two actual purchases in a lifetime. That definition perhaps doesn’t fit in with the way it’s discussed nowadays. How does GM define and pursue customer loyalty?

TB: GM’s done a shift where we’re looking at percent of miles travelled for the customer. Share of miles travelled. What we mean by that is – when you look at Maven, Uber, and all the different ways a customer can move with a vehicle – we’re interested in building loyalty around those miles travelled.

It may be somebody else driving the vehicle, but if a consumer’s got a choice and they like the way a GM vehicle behaves, don’t have any problems with it, know it’s got features, and WiFi in it and know they can keep working while somebody’s driving them, they’re going to pick that vehicle versus another one that doesn’t have that.

It’s about building the loyalty for the time that you’re travelling in a vehicle, because if you go into the future, vehicle ownership’s not going to be the same. Think about the options that people have now.

From a personalisation standpoint, look at an individual consumer. When they get in a vehicle, it recognises them so their favourite stations come on, the apps that they might have put in a particular vehicle come across. Those kinds of things make it feel comfortable, they know how it’s going to behave.


M: How has your satisfaction been with the level to which drivers and passengers engage with the system? How do you measure the effect it’s having on the loyalty or the miles per lifetime?

TB: It’s been an evolutionary process. OnStar’s a part of the bigger GM but we need to make money the way anybody else does. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re finding the things that really resonate with customers, and doing that to drive loyalty – not only to us but to GM vehicles.

A number of years ago we were doing OnStar services for other companies. For Lexus, for Honda and others. GM found that it was really a service that resonated with customers, that they saw value in. They asked ‘does it really make sense, then, that we’re providing this to other car companies?’

The interactions can be far apart from a vehicle purchase to the next interaction with it, but with a lot of our customers, we have daily interactions. That makes it – in some ways – easier for us to start to look at engagement, messaging and those kinds of things, because we have more opportunities to connect, versus somebody buying a car: maybe they’ll go in for a service, maybe they won’r and then you never see them again.

We’ve got a mobile app that allows you to check on your oil, your tyres, remote start the car, unlock the car, lock the car.

We were able to see huge correlations between engagement with that and retention. It really goes down to that daily relevance, a real use for it – think about the number of  apps that you download then use once and never go back to – it’s about driving that relevance. In winter and in the heat of summer we see huge numbers for remote start of vehicle, because people want their vehicle to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Believe it or not, the second most popular one is actually ‘lock’. A lot people go ‘did I lock the vehicle, did I not lock the vehicle?’

So they can just do it with their app. They don’t have to walk back out and lock it.

What that means, then, is if you see customers that aren’t engaging, from a marketing standpoint, we’ve got to say ‘hey did you realise that there’s this mobile app – MyChevy or MyBuick for example – that can do these things with your vehicles.’

That starts to drive the engagement and the loyalty. We’ve had people come and say ‘yeah, I looked at others but they didn’t have the app that let me do that.’ That is a clear indicator.


M: Is there any talk of OnStar entering the Australian market?

TB: There’s constant discussions around what regions we expand to. I don’t have a date for it, I know there have been discussions around it. It all depends on what the market indicates that it is interested in and wants to do. Everything ends up being a business case evaluation. It’s about when it makes sense to pull that particular trigger for it.

We’re finding two very distinct customers. There’s the one that wants to talk to somebody. They’re concerned about the safety of the vehicle.

Then there’s another group of customers that just want the tech. They want to figure it out on their own. They don’t necessarily want to talk to anyone. We’re looking at ‘what’s the right message?’ What’s the right engagement for each.

You may be extremely loyal and never talk to us at all, but you’re using those services.


M: Do you have a rough idea of how many cars are on the road with the technology at the moment?

TB: There’s probably over forty million vehicles on the road with it just in US and Canada. We’ve expanded to Europe, Mexico, China. Not all of them are lit up with us. There’s a trial period. We find opportunities, then to re-engage customers and pull them back and find what went wrong and do corrections on that.

It starts to become a very significant kind of ecosystem to work in for those with a lot of capability.


M: 40 million cars on the road. How many behind the scenes?

TB: There’s bout 2000 advisors. We’ve got multiple call centres. To be clear, there’s probably only about 20 million vehicles that actually have the connection with us that we’re still interacting with. The other ones are vehicles that have the capability but maybe they’ve changed hands and the new owner hasn’t adapted it. We’re not servicing all 40 million vehicles.



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Ben Ice

Ben Ice was MarketingMag editor from August 2017 - February 2020

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