Autonomë: Re-contextualizing the car-buying experience
1 project, 4 team members, and 10 weeks of UX III at UCLA Extension
In 2020, the world was upended by the novel Covid-19 pandemic. Economies around the world came to a halt as countries issued stay-at-home mandates. This economic and societal downturn has caused industries to rethink existing business models and adapt to unparalleled changes. The car dealership business is one such industry hit hard by the pandemic.
The traditional car buying experience has been disrupted. Whereas before customers could shop in-store for their vehicle, negotiate, then finance their payments, global shortages in labor have now interfered with automotive supply chains, reducing automotive supply. Stay-at-home mandates prevent buyers from shopping in-store and social distancing measures have discouraged buyers from traditional face-to-face interactions.
Automotive dealerships must adapt if they are to survive, and if the emergence of Covid-19 and its variants are an indicator of the future, then dealerships must adjust to a new reality. Our design challenge was to consider a holistic solution for a car dealership.
Our process was split into five parts: discovery, research, ideation, prototyping, and our final outcome. Using an array of different tools, such as MURAL, Slack, Trello, and our trusty guide, “This is Service Design Doing”, alongside different methods we put into practice over 10 weeks, we were able to understand the problem we were solving and come to a holistic solution based on quantitative and qualitative research, ideation, and prototyping.
We began by creating an Assumption Grid and Empathy Map. Before beginning our research, we wanted to identify what we knew as a group and what problems we needed to look deeper into during the research phase. Not only were we able to collect valuable information, it also helped us understand the perspectives we could each bring to the group for the next 10 weeks. From here, we were able to group our assumptions which guided our desktop research.
To validate our assumptions, we had to begin desktop research. We started by using the groupings from the empathy exercises to guide our research. We utilized different methods of research: online ethnography, user interviews, auto-ethnography, and secondary research. Exploring different learning areas such as the effects of Covid-19 on the auto industry, the digital experience, test driving, negotiation, and inclusivity helped us discover emerging patterns, goals, and pain points of the car-buying process.
We continued to corroborate our desktop research with customer and stakeholder interviews. After each teammate contributed to a Google Doc with information they found, we met via Zoom to discuss our findings and synthesize the information. Using this information, we were able to create personas and journey maps for both the customer and dealership side, define our human and business problems, and create a research report with all our findings.
When going in to purchase a car, many potential customers feel uninformed due to a lack of clear resources. Once entering the dealership, this lack of information can lead to salesman intimidation, especially during negotiation, and even issues with accessibility.
“I was really confused about the entire process so I brought my father with me. He knows cars better and would help me avoid being intimidated during negotiations.”
There is a huge problem with miscommunication between salespeople and customers. Many customers come in not ready to buy, increasing frustration for salespeople and creating a negative dealership culture. Additionally, not having access to customer information prohibits salespeople from creating a more personalized experience, therefore decreasing sales.
“It is really frustrating when customers come in and just wander around aimlessly… are you going to buy or not?”
You can view our deliverables and research decks here:
- Week 2 — Desktop Research & Defining the Problem
- Week 3 — Preparatory Research & Interviews
- Week 4 — Data Visualization & Synthesis
- Week 5 — Research Report Deck
- Research Report
We began this phase with pre-ideation methods to find the root causes of our problem statements and begin forming potential solutions. Here, we really wanted to know how we could transition from identifying problems to creating solutions. We used the 5 Whys, Crazy 8’s, Dot Voting, and Future State Journey Mapping methods to identify crucial themes that we would further evaluate in the ideation phase.
From there, we moved on to ideation methods to narrow our focus and generate new and innovative potential solutions. Our main goal here was to develop our takeaways from pre-ideation into potential solutions using the 10x10, Brainstorming, Big Idea Vignettes, and Mash-Up methods. We converged from a wide range of ideas to refine our focus on ideas such as a dealership kiosk, an online portal for customers, experience facilitators, and pay structure changes for employees.
To help us decide on which ideas we wanted to pitch, we used the evaluation strategies, Octopus Clustering and Idea Portfolio to familiarize ourselves with prominent ideas and evaluate feasibility and impact. In this stage, it was interesting to assess the ideas we had come up with — some proved to be less impactful or doable than we originally thought and we were forced to pivot or reevaluate.
Finally, it was time to pitch our ideas. Using the methods above, we were able to come to three ideas: the Customer Advocate, Multi-Touchpoint Kiosk, and Web-Assisted Purchase & Bidding. After some feedback, we decided that our research and other findings supported the idea of a hybrid of the three. We came up with this core concept:
Incorporating both the digital interface and customer advocates inside of the dealership, our approach gives customers a flexible experience that can start and stop at their choosing.
You can view our deliverables and presentation decks here:
Once we had our core concept, it was time to begin prototyping. We used several different methods to expand and validate our core concept, explore specific key elements, and assess the holistic experience. Our chosen methods were investigative rehearsals, sketching, wire framing, service advertisements, and a desktop system walkthrough.
Prototyping helped us work out all the details of each piece to create a seamless, holistic process. Problems with our initial core concept were revealed during this stage and gave us the opportunity to improve and increase the validity and applicability of our process. All our prototyping methods provided different perspectives and modeled different scenarios for customers and employees, allowing us to pivot based on new insights.
You can view our deliverables and prototyping decks here:
Our final idea incorporated both the digital interface and customer advocates within the dealership to give customers a flexible experience that can start and stop at their choosing. After piecing together different touch points and evaluating the process as a whole, we were able to create a holistic experience that addresses our customer and employee goals and pain points.
After creating a workable final prototype of Autonomë, we conducted usability testing with real subjects to ensure people could use our product with little to no prior knowledge. Our testing revealed that we accomplished the goal of creating a product that is usable and approachable for the average consumer. While the System Usability Scale (SUS) average for a “usable” product is 68, our results yielded a score of 77.5. Additionally each task we asked users to perform received above a 5.4 out of 7 in regards to the Single Ease Question (SEQ). This information gave us confidence to move into our final steps.
Here is our final video presentation of Autonomë:
You can view our final presentation deck here:
Utilizing each team member’s strengths, along with our great team dynamic, we were able to acquire new skills, apply previous knowledge, and produce deliverables, presentation decks, and a creative but practical solution in just ten weeks. While we learned some of these methods and more basic design thinking in previous courses, this class took us from theoretical concepts to practice-based learning. Being forced to work in the middle of a pandemic presented the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with online collaborative resources. Small decisions made can have a huge impact on a customer’s experience, so this in-depth analysis allowed us to create a car-buying experience that will leave customers feeling supported and confident in their new vehicle.
Thank you for taking the time to read about our project. If you’d like to learn more about us or connect with us further, feel free to reach out!