Merge Ahead: QSRs and Cars Connect

According to a recent survey, 62 percent of drivers order food or drinks to go at least once a week, and 71 percent of drivers said it would be useful if their vehicle's infotainment system allowed them to order food so it could be ready for pickup when they arrive—providing users with the choice to avoid lines and reduce or eliminate wait times.  Xevo, the connected car tech that powers in-vehicle commerce platform GM Marketplace, has partnered with QSRs such as Starbucks to provide consumers with these in-dash ordering and payment options, allowing them to pay before they arrive, pick up their ready-to-go order and get on the road.

Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine discussed evolving technology and QSR partnerships with Dan Gittleman, CEO at Xevo.

In the current age of convenience, why do you feel that in-vehicle commerce and services resonate so much with drivers?

Modern consumers expect their digital lives to evolve and stay relevant, even if the underlying delivery mechanisms are the same. Convenience in vehicles is something that has grown exponentially in the past few years, and isn’t showing signs of slowing down. In fact, there seems to be more urgency now than ever before to find ways for consumers to engage with their favorite brands while in their vehicles. 

Drivers are clearly interested in and actively using these helpful new in-vehicle features, such as ordering and paying for food in advance, making restaurant reservations, and paying for fuel, all from their in-vehicle touchscreen.

We wanted to better understand consumer purchasing habits and preferences, and how connected car technology plays into them, so we surveyed a broad range of drivers in the U.S. who frequently use connected-car applications on their smartphones. The results really drove the point home — people are eating, drinking, shopping, making reservations, and looking up information very frequently while they’re on-the-go. Vehicles are no longer just about getting from point A to point B—they’re a place to save time, plan ahead, and get things done.

Consumer demand for in-vehicle commerce features and services. Our survey confirmed that most consumers are eager for the convenience offered by in-vehicle apps. Seventy-one percent of drivers said it would be useful if their vehicle’s infotainment system allowed them to order food or coffee so that it could be ready for pickup when they arrive, and this feature is already live in millions of Xevo Market-equipped vehicles through partners like General Motors. 

For example, GM Marketplace – whose merchant experiences are powered by Xevo – offers a real-world example of the demand for in-vehicle commerce. The platform, launched in December 2017, was immediately deployed in millions of vehicles. GM Marketplace has experienced above-average user engagement and click-through rates for merchant partner experiences and offers. Drivers are clearly interested in and actively using these helpful new in-vehicle features, such as ordering and paying for food in advance, making restaurant reservations, and paying for fuel, all from their in-vehicle touchscreen.

Drivers are excited to have access to these features, and because they are already familiar with mobile ordering, in-vehicle commerce is the next logical step for both consumers and brands – especially with added benefits like increased security for payment information.

How does Xevo’s technology help Quick Service Restaurants and other eateries create more convenience for customers?

Xevo Market creates convenience by making it possible for drivers to find QSR locations, order food, and pay on-the-go with restaurant partners on the platform, all directly from the in-vehicle touchscreen. Brands also have the ability to safely deliver convenient, highly-contextual offers and promotions through in-vehicle touchscreens and vehicle-branded smartphone companion apps. 

By enabling payment transactions directly through the in-vehicle touchscreen, the payment process is now simplified for customers, and designed and optimized for driver safety by utilizing large buttons, large simple text, and minimal steps to complete a transaction. 

Over-the-air (OTA) cloud-based profiles allow settings, preferences, apps, and AI-based recommendations to move seamlessly from vehicle to mobile. Brands are able to deliver a consistent, tailored experience across both in-vehicle and mobile platforms. 

Xevo Market may be delivered to existing vehicles through mobile app projection or our lightweight, cloud-based, thin-client application, and can be deployed to vehicles already on the road. QSRs are able to join the platform and be up and running quickly, so they are able to offer the conveniences of Xevo Market to their customers, returning and new.

Which QSRs does Xevo currently work with? Which types of vehicles provide Xevo’s automotive commerce technology?

We are currently working with a handful of QSRs including McDonald’s, Applebee’s and IHOP, with more partner releases planned for the future. Regarding vehicle providers, Xevo Market can be found in select Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC vehicles, model year 2017 and newer.

What are some other features and benefits of Xevo Market?

One of Xevo Market’s biggest benefits is removing the “barriers to entry” that merchant brands previously encountered when trying to enter the automotive commerce space. Before this type of technology was available, merchants had to develop and deliver a consistent connected car experience to each automaker, at a significant cost to the merchant. Each merchant had to devote resources to developing relationships with each individual automotive brand and develop an app for each automaker, while vehicle manufacturers were responsible for managing all of the individual merchant brand relationships. 

Now, Xevo Market brings together automakers and merchant brands in a new business model, eliminating the complexity and redundant costs of merchants working directly with automakers by managing the relationships with both the automobile manufacturers and the merchant brands, and handling app development for the merchant brands. 

We recently announced our partnership with Yelp Reservations, giving users the ability to make restaurant reservations and skip the lines directly from the vehicle. 

When it comes to specific features, we are always trying to find new ways to bring even more convenience to the car, working with brands across a variety of industries to develop these new in-vehicle commerce experiences. For example, we recently announced our partnership with Yelp Reservations, giving users the ability to make restaurant reservations and skip the lines directly from the vehicle. 

Our technology also makes fueling-up an easier task for drivers. Within the platform, drivers can pay for fuel and receive discounts through apps such as Shell Pay & Save and ExxonMobil Pay for Fuel. We are aware that safety at the pump is a large issue, and Xevo Market in-vehicle payments eliminate swiping with a credit card at the pump, which reduces the risk of credit card identity theft.

We have also tapped into tollbooths – with our technology, drivers can automatically pay for tolls with the BancPass electronic toll pay app, PlusPass. 

Finally, parking seems to be an issue that most drivers deal with on a regular basis, so we’ve partnered with ParkWhiz to help drivers easily find, reserve, and pay for a parking space before they arrive at their destination.

Where do you foresee the automotive commerce market headed in 2019? 

There is significant potential for the payments segment of in-car commerce, because there is such an increased demand from users. Connected cars represent a massive untapped market, as every connected vehicle is an opportunity to implement an in-vehicle commerce platform. As the year goes on, consumer use of automotive platforms will continue to grow, more merchants will introduce in-vehicle apps, and more OEMs may adopt the platform. 

In addition to features such as ordering food and paying for fuel, we expect the market to expand to services such as grocery and retail orders for curbside pickup. Retailers such as Office Depot and Target already offer curbside or in-store pickups for orders placed online, and in-car commerce technology gives drivers the ability to order their favorite items on the go and have these items hand-delivered to them at their vehicle upon arriving at the store.

We also believe that payment technology will very soon become a standard feature in the majority of new car models. As more automakers adopt in-vehicle commerce  technology, consumer demand will grow, and more automakers will want to hop on the train. Consumer preferences have increasingly been moving toward on-demand services and mobile ordering over the past few years, so adding these services to vehicles is the next natural step for mobile commerce.

To view Xevo’s full report and survey results, click here.