A couple of months ago, we wrapped a truck with our logo­. There are countless reasons to do this, but my colleague, Mark Willard, and I wrapped this truck (his company vehicle) to drive from Atlanta to Louisville for NAFA I&E 2019 displaying it outside the beautiful Kentucky Derby Museum during a dinner we hosted.

NAFA I&E was from April 15-17, and because of the 430-mile trip and following our company’s speeding standards (allegedly), we drove up a few days prior. During the drive and ‒ throughout the week ‒ one major thing I noticed was the number of people who took note of the wrapped truck.

It’s commonly mentioned that you (or your business) have only seven seconds to make an impression.

Count to seven: one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand, five one-thousand, six one-thousand, seven one-thousand. That’s all the time you have to grab someone’s attention. Elevator pitches take longer than that ‒ and you must get through the door in the first place.

Outside of the fleet and automotive industry, most people have never heard of LeasePlan ‒ I know I hadn’t. While driving, the truck turned heads. People looked at the truck, then immediately started typing on their phones. We gained impressions that we never would have otherwise, simply by overlaying our logo on a truck.

During our trip to Louisville, we parked on the street in downtown Chattanooga for lunch, and the truck was in view while we ate, seeing many people stop to take a second glance. Our intention was never to create leads or awareness with the wrap, only to add some flare and flashiness for an event. However, it amazed me that a simple wrap could do so much.

Since the trip, I started doing a bit of cursory research. I won’t overload you with statistics (there are so many out there), but one major thing stood out: the cost per thousand impressions was drastically lower from a wrap than any other source. It makes sense ‒ typically a fleet vehicle spends most of its time driving. With a wrap, the vehicle is essentially a moving billboard and your business receives impressions while your drivers go about their daily business, even when it’s not moving. Because of immediate data access, people can do their own research immediately and understand whether the company is a good fit for their needs. With contact info available, access is just a fingertip away.

One other thing that became apparent to me­—whenever I drove the truck, I had to be significantly more aware of my own behavior. All driving behavior I exhibited would be a direct reflection of LeasePlan. The whole experience of driving the wrapped car was eye opening for me. I also thought it was going to be more expensive than it turned out to be, so if the goal is to generate leads, the ROI is self-evident.

I’ll finish off by saying that Mark is still driving the truck wrapped, and his driving behavior has never been better! The truck still turns heads driven or parked, and is a conversation starter frequently as we grab lunch. I’ve stopped counting how many times people have asked us, “What’s LeasePlan? What do you do?”.

 

About the author

Frank Zhang serves as a product manager for LeasePlan USA. In this role, he focuses on delivering a superb user experience with intuitive, customer-centric and data-driven solutions. Frank has focused his career in the fleet and software industries, always focused on bringing value through client success. He served in the U. S. Army for six years and earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Georgia.

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Originally, I posted a response to a blog post written by my colleague, Felipe Smolka, that really grabbed my attention—definitely give it a read here. I decided I’d elaborate my response further and give it some more thought outside the confines of a comment post.

Bear in mind that this post is a response to the aforementioned article and it should be read first.

I’ve always valued user experience (UX) and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), so the idea of the iPhone prevailing based on UX is always a great anecdote to me. It’s easy to say, 11+ years after its initial release, that it’s the most popular mobile device by far. The iPhone paired with other Apple products provide a great and inclusive ecosystem… but I think that looking back to 2007 really shows the importance of UX vs. feature-set.

In 2007, before iPhones released, everybody had a Blackberry or a Razr in their hands–and these phones were GREAT (by 2007’s technological standards). They could send MMS, take videos and utilize Bluetooth to share files (videos, music, etc.) … and then the iPhone released.

The iPhone, when it was released, couldn’t share files over Bluetooth. The iPhone could NOT send MMS. The iPhone couldn’t even take videos!

… but the UX was just too good to ignore.

Does look and feel outweigh feature function?
Losing those features was an okay trade-off for the population of users. It didn’t take much to weigh the gains against the losses—the iPhone was sleek and new. It utilized an incredibly smooth touch screen. Apple’s use of scrolling through lists was ahead of its time (and even now, higher performance machines still struggle with a good touch scroll). The phone felt good while being held, partially due to the rounded edges. Apple took it one step further and even gave the app icons rounded edges!

Apple positioned the phone in a great way as well. The iPhone’s predecessors were iPods that completely took over the digital music market. Utilizing the experience and integrating the iTunes and music experience into a phone made it so fewer devices were being carried around. It was a phone that was also your music player (that you wanted) and also your camera!

These little pieces of HCI made the user feel good to use the iPhone, even if it was very rudimentary at the time. The ease of use paired with the smooth navigation between screens outweighed the lost features that were becoming integral to mobile devices at the time—and it wasn’t until years later that those features became available from Apple.

I think the automotive industry has taken a blended approach, overall, to adopting this methodology. They’re making a shift towards a better UX, but sacrificing some of the things people (maybe enthusiasts) love about cars. With a computer controlling more processes behind driving, it really doesn’t feel as personal as it used to. I’m in the dwindling population of drivers who prefer manual transmissions, and every tech-infusion for the consumer electronics show (which has become increasingly automotive focused) or the Chicago Auto Show, or any other litany of car shows has meant losing more of what I love about driving in lieu of technological progress.

Low-cost commodity vs. high-cost commodity
Another point of distinction is that phones and cars are in distinctly different price ranges. Phones were traditionally a low-cost commodity (but not so much in the recent years!) with short lifespans and could be replaced quickly and relatively easily. On the other hand, for most people, cars were (and still are) long-term commitments. For these people, cars aren’t replaced annually or biennially. Phone plans used to allow the buyer to choose a new phone every two years. Because phones were low-cost commodities, carriers didn’t mind eating the cost of them, as the cellular plans would more than cover it.

Cars, however, were not. There was no subscription for which you paid for continued use. Cars have always been quite expensive, and thus the ownership aspect was meant to go for a long time. These were meant for longevity, for continued daily use, and for reliability in commuting.

With that in mind, over the last decade, features in cars have increased drastically while features in phones lagged in innovation. The secret sauce of what made the iPhone great didn’t need to be changed—just improved using better ingredients. And feature changes in phones (the iPhone in particular) weren’t as noticeable, as they could be updated over the air, resulting in many minor incremental upgrades pushed over short time windows through the course of many years.

With new features in vehicles, though, it wasn’t the same. The car you’re driving doesn’t receive upgrades in the same way. It’s the nature of software vs. hardware. Most feature changes in vehicles have resulted from improvements in technology, but if you drove the same car for a decade, upon the purchase of a new car, the shock of seeing everything can be overwhelming.

Turn keys evolved into push to start. Vehicle idling received start-stop technology. Engines shut off half their cylinders while cruising to conserve fuel. Back up cameras became mainstream. Autonomous driving is becoming feasible. Remote start is becoming a common option.

The cost of these upgrades come with inherent differences.
These features all came through advances in technology that couldn’t be pushed at no cost to somebody driving a car currently—thus it’s no surprise that manufacturers are looking to the industry where frequent turnaround for new devices annually or biennially was not only expected, but embraced. The incremental upgrades that manufacturers are now touting that show up annually during these auto shows, consumers embrace. Finding a model by replicating what was done with iPhones for years is the next step—and as everything transitions to the “as-a-service” model, vehicles-as-a-service seems increasingly feasible.

The industries are shifting business models.
The iPhone, though, seems to be undergoing the reverse as we look at it now. Users are keeping their phones for longer periods of time, no longer opting to change them out annually. This shift can partially be attributed to higher costs of the phones themselves, but also because of carriers no longer subsidizing them.

Seeing both the automotive and mobile phone industry undergoing these changes, almost opposite to one another, is an intriguing shift. It’s important to note that the massive shift to the iPhone came about when the industry was burgeoning—but now it’s saturated. Meanwhile, the auto industry has been saturated for decades and is looking towards the model that the iPhone took during its insurgence.

Either way, both are commodities relied upon almost daily by every person in the United States and all of us will be affected in one way or another. But what I learned from 2007 when I got my first iPhone and switched carriers to boot (remember when it was exclusive?) is that UX overwhelmingly means more than all the features that can be touted. This, in fact, is the most valuable business lesson I’ve ever learned: do what’s best for your user’s experience. After all, features can always be added later.

Let me know what you think. Contact us here.

About the author

Frank Zhang serves as a product manager for LeasePlan USA. In this role, he focuses on delivering a superb user experience with intuitive, customer-centric and data-driven solutions. Frank has focused his career in the fleet and software industries, always focused on bringing value through client success. He served in the U. S. Army for six years and earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Georgia.

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Data is king.* These three words are often repeated across many industries, but there is truth to the statement. As consumers and businesses progress into a more connected ecosystem, it’s crucial to optimize and maximize efficiency—and to do that, utilization of data in the proper way means the world.

Data makes the world go ‘round

Today, in the palms of our hands, we have access to nearly all the knowledge in the world. Our mobile phones can do things we would never have dreamt of just 50 years ago. We’re able to consume information at an astonishing rate, and it has created a visible shift in how we communicate.

As technology rapidly improved, our methods of communication shifted: from written letters, to fax, to email, to real-time communication in text messaging and chat programs. And this shift has made information available for us on demand. Companies spend a lot of money to ensure what shows up in social feeds or ad-based marketing are targeted to the desired audience —and they do so using data science – because it works.

Introducing the connected vehicle

It’s no wonder that in the time we moved from the wired telephone to being able to group video chat on our phones that another consumer item also became increasingly connected. And it’s not one that you might think of first: your car.

Cars, and subsequently drivers, hold a breadth of data—and in a world where data is king, not utilizing it is a travesty in and of itself. Our vehicles hold a wealth of information that, to most, is hidden under a sheen of mystery. We know it’s there, but we don’t quite understand how it works.

When our check engine light comes on, we panic. Our tire pressure notification light highlights and we feel inconvenienced. And we, as drivers, occasionally find ourselves going a bit faster than we should… and then we’re angry when we get a speeding ticket. Perhaps, you sit in your car to finish a call, letting it idle so you don’t need to deal with the inconvenience of your Bluetooth disconnecting.

Data is vital for fleets

Currently, utilization of data is crucial for proper vehicle performance and driver efficiency… and it holds even truer for businesses with fleets. If you’ve ever tuned into performance racing, you see people in pit crews holding a tablet with charts, graphs and figures moving about. Gone are the days where this is specific to just that demographic. As vehicles become more connected, understanding what data points are meaningful is as important as the data itself.

It’s important to monitor peak engine performance at all times for a race car to ensure the vehicle can continue driving safely at upwards of 100 MPH. However, you probably don’t want your drivers trying to go that quickly in your fleet vehicle. But if they do, it’s important to know that it occurred. And that’s where data collection from the vehicle comes into play.

Not all kings are created equal

If data is king, understanding and ingesting the data is queen. With tens of thousands of data points available, wading through the noise and excess to extract important and actionable insights is proven as a valuable service – perhaps from your fleet provider.

But the value in understanding data metrics extends beyond simple revenue generation. It’s understanding key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure how impactful certain datasets are. However, in a world where data is king, not all kings are equal. For instance, by understanding your specific behavior patterns, targeted ad campaigns can leverage KPIs to highlight the items most important for you.

Targeted ads show relevant products or services based on your prior search behavior and browsing patterns. Utilizing a vast pool of data across a large population, these advertising campaigns utilize machine learning and neural networks to target the people who are most likely to click the ad. All this data is accrued just by using your search engine or online shopping.

Much like search engines, vehicles provide data in spades—engine hours, engine temperature, diagnostic trouble codes, speed, acceleration, braking, location, fuel economy, distance traveled—and that’s just to name a few. The deluge of information can easily be overwhelming, and the vast amount of data must be corralled and normalized to be useful.

Data normalization, in essence, takes those tens of thousands of data points and derives the data into separate events. Events can be meaningful or meaningless—and the meaning is dependent on your fleet’s goals. For example, if increasing safety is your goal, the data will enable you to see how each driver performing. Then, you can target specific situations as necessary to reduce risky behavior such as, speeding, aggressive acceleration or harsh braking, which can lead to preventable incidents such as rear-ending.

Unfortunately, there’s no cookie cutter solution that fulfills a one-size-fits-all approach. And determining the right event data to optimize your fleet requires a thorough understanding of both the fleet and the data.

Not all data is created equal

Another point of distinction is that not all data is created equal, and should not be treated as such. Different OEMs provide different data points. And all of them use their own specifications to remain proprietary. Some OEMs provide more data than others, and the further back in history you go, the scarcer data becomes (across all OEMs).

It’s unrealistic to expect that a fleet is made up of all brand-new vehicles conforming to a uniform make and model. So, it’s important to understand that discrepancies in data and extrapolating the meaningful bits hangs in a fine balance. This balance is important to maintain through bringing data in from the best source possible for each vehicle.

The ultimate goal: to be data agnostic

Another term thrown around the data conversation and business intelligence utilization is data agnostic. What that means for the world of vehicles becoming more connected is: by sourcing data from different OEMs and from different vendors who make it their focus to bring that data to life, you can see a better picture of the fleet at large rather than conforming to a single data source.

Data agnostic insights are important because it shows the best possible data for each individual vehicle. This alleviates the problem of mixed fleets and tailors actionable insights to the best of each vehicle’s ability—regardless of manufacturer.

In a world where data is king, finding the right queen to reel it all in and give it meaning is a paramount decision. Find out how the power of data via telematics can help your business through our eBook, “How – and why – telematics drives value.”

 * LeasePlan is committed to ensuing we handle customer, business partner and employee data to a high and compliant standard. We were one of the first companies to introduce a set of binding privacy rules across the whole of our organization, and we have established a dedicated Privacy Office to make sure those rules are upheld. But this does not make us complacent. As technology develops and our use of data changes, LeasePlan is continuously working to improve our data protection policies, processes and systems.

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