Key takeaways

  • Connected cars offer a solution to providing a seamless retail experience
  • Early in-car apps focus on fast food delivery
  • Payment technology set to make transactions from the driver’s seat even easier

In my recent article, How the connected car will steer the futureI looked at the potential outcomes of hooking cars up to the internet.  Wireless connectivity in vehicles isn’t simply a case of enabling access to streaming radio stations or real-time traffic maps – the impact goes far deeper than that.

Connectivity is already disrupting the traditional approach to car ownership. It challenges the concept of office space or work time. It could influence insurance premiums, road safety statistics or urban planning policies. The car could even become your ‘personal assistant’.

The possibilities enabled by the connected car are almost limitless. Much of the technology is already available and it is estimated that by 2020 there will be 220 million connected cars on the road.

Now, retailers and technology companies are racing to leverage business opportunities from the connected car – plugging into both the consumer in transit and the car in stasis to create simple and enticing commercial transactions.

Retailers and connected cars

One of the first steps has been in mobile food ordering.  Since 2014, drivers of Ford models installed with its Sync AppLink technology have been able to order a Domino’s pizza directly from their dashboard using voice activated controls. That technology is powered via a connection to the driver’s smartphone.

A significant move forward is to grant a vehicle with the capacity to make automatic payments. With mobile payment already an option on smartphones using Google Wallet and Apple Pay, it’s only a matter of time before cars will feature the technology that allows the consumer to buy something in just a few taps of the dashboard screen.

Visa is pushing ahead in this space, having teamed up with Pizza Hut to develop a system that’s able to make in-car purchases. With an app that’s programmed to automatically open when the car is within range of a store, voice-activated technology enables the purchase of food from the driver’s seat. As the car pulls up at the restaurant, beacon technology notifies staff, who bring the order to the car at that moment.

A seamless experience for the connected consumer

Fast food is just the convenient start to this model, which can be easily extended to cover parking or fuel, for example. The payment industry plans to eventually extend the technology to include any retail offering, meaning you could order and pay for an item, and collect it on your way home – no need to leave the car and more importantly, no need to wait.

Vehicles could gather and feed information back to retailers, including traffic conditions and travel details to prepare for the arrival of a customer to enable the curated offer. By making cars smarter and more convenient, retailers are plugging one further device into the seamless experience demanded by today’s connected consumer.

Volvo’s Roam Delivery service, launched in early 2014, employs ‘digital keys’ technology to allow access to their vehicles for a limited period that can be monitored in real time. The upshot of this service is that food and other deliveries can be made to the car or items collected from it. Once the pick-up or drop-off is complete, the digital key ceases to exist. Volvo’s pilot programme results were significant, revealing that 92% of people found it more convenient to receive deliveries to their car than at home.

As the expectations of the connected consumer grow, successful businesses must adapt. The opportunities surrounding the technology of connected cars are considerable, particularly for those offerings where convenience is key.

Part one: How the connected car will steer the future



John Riccio

John is PwC’s Global Design & Deploy, Experience Consulting partner.

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