The commuter consumer is a very real phenomenon that is on the rise. A quick look at the latest edition of the PYMNTS Digital Drive report shows that commuting is a $230 billion connected commerce experience.
Driving all that commerce is connection: 73 percent of commuters said they connected to the internet while driving, adding up to about 99 million people. And those 99 million are leveraging those connections to all sorts of ends while they are on the road.
About half — or 47.2 percent — of commuters used their connectivity during their commutes in the past week to find a gas station. Over one third — or 35.3 percent — used it in the past week to order food and pick it up at a drive-thru. A little over 30 percent used their connectivity to order coffee to be picked up at a drive-thru, while 14.5 percent ordered groceries on the go for pickup.
And that’s just today: The latest edition of the PYMNTS/Visa How We Will Pay Report strongly indicates that the trend still has a long way to grow. Connected consumers will likely be a group that is no longer called out as separate from consumers in general – because increasingly, all consumers are connected consumers.
And those consumers are more than connected: They are also highly enthused to leverage those connections into seamless commerce experiences in a variety of contexts, with the car being an area of specific interest.
Given the demand, the revenue already up for grabs and the potential for some truly impressive gains in the not-too-distant future, it is not too surprising that the biggest names in tech and automotive are lining up to nab top position when it comes to making the right connected car offerings.
And this week at CES, the auto offerings were coming out fast and furious.
Visa and SiriusXM Pair to Bring Commerce to Cars
SiriusXM Connected Vehicles Services have officially announced that they will partner with Visa to offer the SiriusXM eWallet to auto manufacturers that deploy SiriusXM’s connected-vehicle services. The new system will allow drivers and passengers with Visa accounts to shop and pay directly from the road for things like coffee, gas, parking, movie tickets and tolls. Payments will be activated and authenticated using biometric authentication, like voice and touchscreen commands, to eliminate driver distractions during the transaction.
The wallet runs on the Visa Token Service to protect data security, and on the Visa and SiriusXM APIs.
“Our work with Visa is a significant step in establishing the next generation of vehicle-to-everything connectivity, transforming the vehicle into a ‘hub’ that provides for real-time, convenient transactional services to drivers and passengers,” said John Jasper, senior vice president at SiriusXM Connected Vehicle Services.
To implement these services, SiriusXM is developing new protocols to establish real-time connectivity and in-vehicle interfaces with a broad variety of personalized content and data aggregated from a network of platforms. Visa, meanwhile, will be establishing virtual payment relationships through its network of retailers and providing secure authentication capabilities.
The suite of services will be showcased to automobile manufacturers during 2019. So far, neither Visa nor SiriusXM have offered any guidance on when the service might go live.
"Teaming up with SiriusXM is a big step forward in Visa's quest for connected commerce across the automotive ecosystem,” said Olabisi Boyle, vice president of IoT platforms. “SiriusXM's solid network with automotive manufacturers and established consumer interfaces, combined with our payment expertise, will help fast-track the endless opportunities for drivers to safely and securely accomplish tasks during their commute."
Honda Expands in-Vehicle Commerce Capabilities
Visa and Sirius were far from alone in pushing their early vision for car-based commerce in early 2019. Honda is currently demoing a line of connected cars at CES that will not only let drivers transact as they motor around, but also be rewarded for their purchases.
The Dream Drive prototype doesn’t just offer connected capacity, but also a dashboard that rewards drivers and passengers. Consumers earn points for using the connected dashboard to do things like pay for gas, food or movie tickets, or for using the cars navigation system to reach the next stop on their agenda. Said points can then be applied toward discounts or freebies from retailers.
Consumers, when they use the program, must opt into allowing Honda to share their data with its (as yet unnamed) partner retailers.
“We want to provide a better window into how to serve our customer through that data,” said John Moon, managing director of strategic partnerships at Honda. “It’s something retailers don’t get to see — that ‘last mile’ to their retail destination. The majority of commerce is done through physical retail locations, and because we’re able to tie that to transactions, we’re able to provide some rich information.”
The prototype is on display now, but Honda has some plans for deployment, having announced that it intends to begin rolling out the new connectivity and reward systems in the Honda Odyssey (its minivan line) next year.
In addition to the Dream Drive prototype, Honda announced last week that it will partner with Alibaba to offer online services to drivers in China.
And Honda isn’t the only big automotive name looking closely at the Chinese market as it rolls out its commerce-centric connected car efforts.
BMW’s Big Partnership With Tmall
BMW Group in China has announced that Alibaba’s Tmall Genie will launch in select vehicles by the end of this year. The integration, according to the firms, will give drivers access to in-car entertainment and shopping options while on the road.
“As Chinese consumers have come to expect a seamless, digital experience both at home and at brick-and-mortar retail spaces, they should expect the same experience in their car,” said Dieter May, senior vice president of digital services and products at BMW Group. “With the integration of Alibaba’s Tmall Genie in BMW vehicles in China, we are adding a digital ecosystem, which will open up new possibilities that customers can access quickly and safely from the car.”
The latest announcement comes as an expansion of last year’s integration of “BMW Connected,” the German automaker’s connected car app, with Tmall Genie, which allowed customers to remotely monitor their cars (windows and lights, for example) via Tmall Genie. The new system will enable them to operate vehicle functions through the in-car Tmall Genie.
“We launched the ‘AI+Car’ solution last year to provide a more intelligent and connected experience for Chinese car users through Tmall Genie’s AI-powered voice interaction and service capabilities for cars,” said Alibaba Group Vice President Miffy Chen, who serves as general manager of Alibaba A.I. Labs. “Among our collaboration with premium automakers, we are very glad that BMW will be the first premium auto brand to bring selected car models that fully integrate Tmall Genie to the China market.”
BMW may be the first full integration, but it is one of many international automakers trying to capture the mobile payment-friendly Chinese market. Volvo, Daimler and Audi have also built in integrations to some extent over the last year.
Echo Auto Pulls into the Lane
The world was first introduced to the Echo Auto last September as one of a slew of new Alexa-powered devices. But the eight-microphoned device, which pairs with a user’s phone to bring Alexa to their ride, is now on sale and available – to a selected few, anyway.
According to reports, the Echo Auto started shipping a few weeks ago to a "small" group of customers, who also got it at the sale price of $24.99. It will be on sale to the general public later in 2019 for $49.99.
"Demand is through the roof," VP of Alexa Auto Ned Curic told media, noting that there have already been one million requests for the car assistant, which is designed to let consumers use voice commands to control their music, navigation, podcasts, eBooks, smart home appliances and more while on the road.
The device works with third-party apps like Google Maps and music options like Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM and NPR, with Apple Maps and Apple Music expected to be coming soon. It doesn't work with in-car infotainment platforms like Apple's CarPlay or Android Auto, however.
Some brands – including BMW, Ford, Audi and Toyota – have direct integration between Alexa and their infotainment systems. But for those who are not willing to upgrade the whole car to tie in with Alexa on the road, there is a much more cost-effective option.
Who will be the winner in an increasingly crowded field? The second week of 2019 is still probably a bit early to call it. But it seems the race will be swift, as consumers will soon start getting used to talking to one voice or another while they are on the road – not to mention counting on a bunch of expanding commerce capabilities to make the ride go more smoothly.