So, imagine you’re driving along a meandering suburban road. It’s a cool summer day, the sun is peeking over the clouds and a gentle breeze rustles your hair. You’re relaxed, listening to your favorite playlist on Spotify (or any of the other popular music streaming services) when suddenly you hear the familiar “ping!” of a new text message in your inbox.
Because you’re a responsible driver, you stop in a parking lot, pause your music, check your messages. Uh-oh, it’s your mom/spouse/whoever pays the cell phone bill in your household texting: “Chill out! All your music streaming is going over our data limit and driving us into poverty!”
If listening to the endless options of streamed music, watching YouTube videos to entertain yourself or the kids, or replaying Snapchat stories from your smartphone while you’re in a car is eating up too much of your data plan, then fear not! In their 2015 models introduced last fall, General Motors started to offer a premium high-speed internet service in the form of Wi-Fi in several of its car models within the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac lines.
Was this enough help General Motors, following several years of being embroiled in the ignition recalls and related legal wranglings? After all, CivicScience data in our InsightStore™ shows that General Motors’ brand favorability among U.S. adults has dropped from 43% in Q1 2014 to 38% in Q2 2015.
But Wi-Fi? According to those answering CivicScience’s web-based polls, 84% of those Internet-enabled adults had a Wi-Fi connection in their homes at the end of 2014. Wi-Fi is also becoming a must-have at public destinations such as hotels, coffee shops, stadiums, and fast-food restaurants. So General Motors may be on to something.
In early July 2015, CivicScience asked over 2,000 U.S. adults whether Wi-Fi as a feature would be compelling enough to lure more test drivers who normally wouldn’t look at that particular car brand.
As the graph above depicts, 31% of U.S. adults indicted that they would be either somewhat or very interested in looking at a car brand they were previously not interested in, if it included Wi-Fi as a feature. Let’s call these the “interested consumers.” That’s a pretty healthy share of the market.
Perhaps this type of “tech friendly” offering has helped encourage those previously not interested in General Motors brands to take a second look. According to General Motors’ investor sales report, the company has experienced positive growth and profits in the retail sector since unveiling this new feature, topped off by the most successful June since 2007. Total retail deliveries are up 7% since 2014, powered by strong Cadillac sales, a 9% increase in GMC sales, and a 12% increase in Chevrolet sales. All this has contributed to 2.8% increase in market share for the company.
While this data doesn’t directly tell us that consumer interest in vehicle Wi-Fi has led to increased sales for General Motors (and we could not find any data available about sales attributed to this feature), we can use CivicScience’s InsightStoreTM to more deeply understand these drivers for whom Wi-Fi-integrated car brands are most interesting.
First, let’s examine the gender breakdown when compared against the average:
- Car Wi-Fi plays a little better with women, who are 29% more likely to answer “Very likely” and slightly more likely to answer “Somewhat likely.”
- Of the respondents who answered “Very likely,” 63% are women and 37% are men.
Now, let’s look at how parental status plays into the mix:
- Parents are slightly more likely to answer “Somewhat likely.”
- Grandparents are slightly more likely to answer “Not at all likely”
It seems as though grandparents are more cautious to adopt this new technology and parents slightly hesitant, but more open to the idea. This may be caused by qualms to using one’s phone or devices while driving, especially with children in the car.
In other demographic measures (age, education, income) the data did not diverge from the average in a statistically significant way. It seems interest/disinterest in car brands with integrated Wi-Fi is not specific to a certain age group, educational status, or socioeconomic bracket, but instead is more closely linked to personal preferences and attitudes.
Let’s start with technology attributes. When compared against the average…
- Interested consumers are 44% more likely to follow trends in electronics and technology very closely.
- Interested consumers are 35% more likely to say that they like mobile phone/tablet apps.
- Interested consumers are 71% more likely to be very likely to buy Apple products in the near future.
- Interested consumers are 33% more likely to use their smart-phone to make mobile payments.
Car brand manufacturers like General Motors can tap into this group for their technophile tendencies, as these consumers are much more likely to value Wi-Fi in their cars so that they can connect mobile devices while on-the-go.
Let’s also take a look at these consumers’ entertainment preferences. When compared against the average…
- Interested consumers are 59% more likely to closely follow trends and current events in the TV and movie industry.
- Interested consumers are 56% more likely to say that they love Netflix.
- Interested consumers are 48% more likely to closely follow trends and current events in music.
- Interested consumers are 37% more likely to use music streaming services.
Not only do these insights highlight areas where these consumers (hopefully as passengers) may take advantage of a mobile Wi-Fi service in a vehicle, but also provide great insights for how General Motors’ marketers and advertisers could reach this potentially ‘convertible’ audience to promote such car features.
Lastly, we noticed that consumers interested in checking out a car brand for its Wi-Fi also fall into a category we call ‘Market Mavens.’ When compared against the average…
- Interested consumers are 28% more likely than average to try new products before other people do.
- Interested consumers are 30% more likely to tell others about new brands or technology.
Market Mavens are extremely important to companies that sell consumer goods because they tend to have a powerful effect on the purchasing decisions of other consumers. Market Mavens tend to branch out more often and try new products that they have never tried before. If they like a certain type of product, they will often blog or talk about it, greatly influencing the opinions of others.
As far as a profile of the average consumer who has most likely been drawn to these new Wi-Fi-enabled car models over the last year, she is more likely to be female, and slightly more likely to be a parent. She is very interested in technology/electronics, especially mobile devices like tablets, eReaders, and smart phones. She also pays attention to trends in the TV, film, and music industries, and uses streaming platforms for her visual and audio entertainment. Finally, she also has some Market Maven tendencies, which may encourage her to test drive these models before her peers, and then share her opinions of it with others.
The inherent danger with car Wi-Fi is the distractive effect that it may have on the driver. In 2015, 26% of consumers admitted to texting behind the wheel, and texting and driving is now seen as a bigger problem than drunk driving. If car manufacturers plan to set a new standard of technology for automobiles in the U.S., it would be prudent to consider ways to dissuade the driver from using Wi-Fi services via a cell phone while behind the wheel.
Note: This blog post was researched and authored by CivicScience’s summer market research analyst, Matt O’Connor.