[Feature] New Mobility: The connected car, a new sales channel.

The connected car, a new sales channel.
Photo credits: image created with Midjourney

Digitised from the wheel rims to the seats, packed with apps and sensors, boosted by algorithms, the connected car can transmit data in real time and communicate with any digital platform, including e-commerce sites. A new horizon is forming in the distance for retailers.


According to the study “Monétisation des données automobiles” (Monetisation of automotive data) carried out in May 2023 by the audit and consulting firm KPMG, the global automotive data market could be worth between $250 and $400 billion by 2030, depending on the growth in the volume of data from the connected car fleet, which has been steadily increasing over the past ten years. According to Counterpoint, following a 12% increase in global sales in 2022, connected cars now represent over 50% of new and used vehicles offered for purchase. According to the McKinsey study Unlocking the full life-cycle value from connected-car data, 95% of new cars brought to market by 2030 will be connected. Eventually, there could be almost a billion internet-connected vehicles on the road around the world. A very tangible rise in popularity. 

The car is therefore set to become a fully-fledged part of the web and an additional link to the digital world. Ever more autonomous and service-oriented thanks to AI and IoT, in the near future it will no longer be a simple means of transport, but a place where it will be possible to find information, consume online content, discover new products and make purchases. In fact, everything points to the connected car becoming the new sales channel. What can we expect? 


New automotive deal.


Today, most new cars in the US are equipped with build-in internet access. There are now almost one hundred million connected cars on the road in North America, each generating 25 GB of data per hour, the equivalent to an average of 2 months’ web browsing. But this is only the first step, as Soumon Mandal, a Counterpoint analyst, points out. “The transition to digital cars is accelerating at a rapid pace. This market is expected to grow by 13% per year over the next ten years. For now, it’s dominated by 4G. By 2030, more than 90% of cars will have faster 5G connectivity, which will generate even more data.” Furthermore, the digitalisation and electrification of vehicles has led to the creation of specific IT structures, with secure, high-bandwidth networks that guarantee both data protection and navigation speed. 

Such a volume of data, both perfectly usable and fully protected, can find countless applications. This is why car manufacturers, digital giants and fintechs have joined forces to develop on-board payment systems, an essential prerequisite for further data monetisation. Back in 2016, Alibaba began a collaboration with Chinese car manufacturer SAIC Motor Corp to integrate the Alipay payment service into the group’s new vehicles, enabling drivers to pay for their full tank of petrol from inside the vehicle. In the same vein, Ford has integrated Amazon’s Alexa assistant into some of its models, Volkswagen has acquired the PayByPhone application, and Daimler has done the same with PayCash Europe to offer the “Mercedes Pay” solution. 

For car manufacturers, it’s also a question of designing vehicles capable of running new applications over time, without having to change their IT structures. To do this, Peugeot has developed the Smart Antenna box, which can both broadcast DTTV and connect to the network. “This Wi-Fi box in the vehicle acts as a link with the outside world. It is compatible with existing technologies: 4G, 3G, DTTV or Bluetooth, and will be able to accommodate new technologies in the future without touching the vehicle,” explains Laurent Dizambourg, Innovation Project Manager at Stellantis. 

Perfecting the technology and increasing the number of offers will enable these new offers to be made more widely available. For mobility and digital players, connected cars represent a potentially huge opportunity. The same is true for retailers. 


The era of “in-vehicle commerce”. 


By 2030, according to the McKinsey study Unlocking the full life-cycle value from connected-car data, 45% of new cars worldwide will be equipped with data-driven technology to offer a personalised service and content offers based on passenger preferences, enabling passengers to benefit from tailor-made promotional and entertainment programs. 

For example, in the US, the Google-owned GPS application Waze recently collaborated with McDonald’s on an advertising project involving over 300 digital billboards. Waze users passing near the billboards received offers on their smartphones, as well as directions to the nearest McDonald’s. In eight weeks, this campaign reached 1.9 million Waze users, and encouraged 8,400 people to stop for a burger. To date, in addition to Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon are also looking to tap into this new resource. 

More generally, connectivity is creating new business models centred around customer experience, loyalty programs, in-vehicle concierge services, mobile payments and the sale of goods and services. “In-vehicle commerce” is a concept that opens up a host of possibilities. 

It already enables customers to purchase new products using voice recognition, while keeping their hands on the wheel, as well as booking tickets for a show or delivering meals to their door. This is already available on the app, which can be used from a vehicle’s dashboard screen, enabling instant purchases thanks to the OnMyWay™ payment and delivery solution. The app connects the driver to e-commerce platforms, then manages the order and delivery timing based on data transmitted by the car. 

For its part, Qualcomm, the American mobile tech giant aiming to accelerate the digital transformation of mobility, is offering retailers an “in-vehicle commerce” solution based on the Snapdragon IoT solution, which is also accessible from the dashboard and already found in certain Volvos. But there’s more to come. 


The autonomous car, the future temple of e-commerce.


By integrating more and more digital technologies to simplify and support driving, such as parking assistance, anti-collision systems, blind spot detection, driver attention control and speed regulation, connected cars are constantly gaining in autonomy, until one day they will become fully autonomous. This is the goal for most car manufacturers. In France, Level 3 autonomous cars, capable of driving on their own thanks to advanced detection and perception equipment, but under specific conditions and with human supervision, have been authorised to drive since 1 September 2022. This is also the case in Germany, the US, China and Japan. Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Peugeot already market models of this type, while BMW, Fiat, Opel and Citroën are currently working on their own models. For their part, Jaguar and Range Rover have announced that, from 2025, all their new models will be equipped with a “sophisticated digital environment”, designed in partnership with Nvidia, the world leader in computing, which will enable this kind of performance. Going even further, Tesla is already offering Autopilot Full Self Driving (FSD), a fully autonomous system without any human intervention, on the American market and soon on the Chinese markets. 

This trend is bound to reconfigure vehicles, particularly the passenger compartment, which will become, far more than it is today, a space entirely dedicated to socialising and content consumption, leaving more room for digital devices. No longer required to drive, passengers and drivers can devote their journey time to leisure activities, creating an opportunity to offer even more services. There is every indication that the autonomous car is going to be a powerful accelerator of “in-vehicle commerce”, both in terms of boosting purchases and optimising deliveries, from one end of the retail chain to the other. Carrefour, for example, is betting on an autonomous shuttle, designed with start-up Goggo Network, to develop an e-commerce offer for rural areas, where home delivery is generally not profitable. 

To accelerate this movement, Amazon Web Services (AWS) enables car manufacturers to create “serverless IoT applications” that collect, process and analyse data from connected vehicles, without having to manage any infrastructure. 

The close collaboration between digital, mobility and retail players can only accelerate the growth of “in-vehicle commerce”, even more so when the majority of cars are autonomous. 

For all of these reasons, in the near future, the monetisation of data generated by connected vehicles will become the foundation of a new mobility-based economy. Eventually, every car brought to market, whether electric or fuel-powered, will be equipped with an internet connection, on-board payment systems and voice-activated technologies. Given that the average European spends 9.35 hours per week behind the wheel, and the average French person 10 hours, the impact on e-commerce will be enormous.

This article is part of our ‘New Mobility’ special feature, examining the revolutionary changes sweeping through the automotive industry: