The Future of the Digital Experience for Automotive, Marine, and Beyond

Episode 6
December 5, 2022

Episode Summary

Bill Thompson, Sr. Director of Mobility at Rightpoint, returns to Point B to finish his discussion on the digital user experience. How can connected vehicle data help unlock new features, customize services, and increase brand value as technology continues to evolve in the automotive industry and beyond?

Key Highlights

0:50 What will the automotive industry look like in five years?

3:36 Customizing the vehicle ownership experience

6:25 Digital user experience in the marine sector

9:02 Barrier to entry in the marine and recreational vehicle sectors

12:00 Unifying the digital experience to advance humanity

Meet Our Guests

Bill Thompson
Bill Thompson

Bill Thompson is Sr. Director of Mobility at Rightpoint, a digital experience company in a relentless pursuit of a world that works better for people. In his current role, Bill is focused on growing the mobility centered business responsible for creating connected experiences that move humanity across Land, Sea, Air, and Virtual environments.

Before Rightpoint, Bill spent 17 years at General Motors primarily focused on digital experiences from web, mobile and In-Vehicle. As leader of the In-Vehicle User Experience team, his responsibilities included team building, discipline growth, guiding strategic design, brand development, cross-channel collaboration, and implementation of digital interfaces across the global product portfolio.

Over multiple generations of products, he has helped to bring industry-leading technologies such as Autonomous Cruise, Advanced Park Assist, Augmented Reality, Google Built-In, Apple CarPlay, Realtime 3D, as well as enhanced drive modes like Watts-to-Freedom and CrabWalk to market.

It was in the In-Vehicle realm where Bill honed his belief that unified digital experiences are as critical for users as they are for brands; especially while moving to a future of electrification, automation, and endless mobility options connected through the digital frontier.



Welcome back to another episode of Point B, a Sibros podcast where we interview industry experts about the latest innovations and trends in automotive technology and the connected vehicle industry. Tune in to learn about topics ranging from the next generation of electric vehicles to advances in connectivity and micro-mobility.

Steve Schwinke: 

Welcome to Point B, an original Sibros podcast. Joining me again is Senior Director of Mobility at Rightpoint, Bill Thompson. Welcome back. I'm excited to complete our conversation about creating a user experience for mobility products.

Bill Thompson:

Steve, me too. We had so much fun last time. I look forward to continuing today.

Steve Schwinke: 

What trends do you see? I mean, can you give us any insights into what this space is going to look like five years from now without divulging too much information?

Bill Thompson:

Sure. Yeah, we'll keep it at an industry level. How about that? So, and we'll sort of sub-sect it. If you think about what's happening, obviously there's a huge investment in the EV infrastructure and architecture, and we see companies sort of starting to split those businesses out so they can leave old models and practices behind and emerge into the new world of that. And what does that infrastructure look like? 

There's companies that we engage with where we're having conversations around entertainment during charge times. We see those things out there today. But really what it comes down to is how are you adding value as things become more autonomous, as things become more connected. If you think about the life cycle of vehicles or boats, for example, those are getting longer and longer and longer because the technology has gotten better and better and better. And now your vehicle ownership might be 10, 12 years. So the issue with that is the only way historically there was for you to update your vehicle was to buy an accessory from a dealer to enhance your exterior or get aftermarket things to hang on the interior to do whatever. 

Where I see the biggest opportunity I think, where we see the biggest opportunity, is in that connected space, in the OTA space. In how you're going to add a component of what we refer to as relevancy over time to a platform that you may have purchased three, four, five, six, seven years ago. And maintain that relevancy for that duration of time that we're describing. So I think the marketplace opportunities are huge. I think the ability for third parties now that we're starting to see more and more OEMs and manufacturers unlock third-party integration on their systems, that's a big deal. 

That opens the world for, if you think about these off-road communities in the context of the automotive space that historically had managed through something separate, now they can bring that into their in-vehicle experience, they can bring that into their mobile device, and they can connect with all of these folks in a way that provides valuable insights to their networks and what they're doing, allows them to share information. But also helps businesses to understand how customers are actually using their products.

Steve Schwinke: 

As part of that ability to create new experiences for customers, is there an opportunity to customize that experience for that individual? So I think about, my analogy is in the 1950s, the hot rod vehicle, right? Is there an opportunity with these digital experiences to create custom experiences for the individual and let their personality come through and let them have an experience that they want to create for themselves in the vehicle?

Bill Thompson:

Yeah, and I think when we think about that in terms of what that means to the value for a brand, brand doesn't mean here's our badge, here's our standards, here's our go execute. Brand means something different to the individual. If you think about your hot rod days, if I think about my Chevy truck days, if my wife thinks about her Jeep Grand Cherokee days, right? Those kinds of formative things stick with you over time. 

And now what we're seeing is technology enabling unprecedented levels of personalization and customization and OEMs relinquishing that hard fast control over pieces of their system where they had really very strict rules before. If you think about the Google Automotive Services adoption that's happening throughout the automotive industry and you think about CarPlay and how that's happening. So now you're saying, everything that you've customized that's in the palm of your hand every day can come with you. And oh, by the way, now here is an experience on your in-vehicle platform that's relevant to you because they're your apps, they're your wallpapers, they're your choices. They're things that you went through to select to make that experience yours. 

And where I think that has an unprecedented degree of value to the OEM is by digging into those things that need to be specific to the experience of, let's just use a car for an example, your towing experience, your off-roading experience, things that have to do with driving dynamics that allow you to go in and customize and fine-tune your suspension or your braking or whatever the case may be, and apply that to your vehicle. So, not only are you getting a digital personalization but you're getting a manifestation of physical properties on your digital experience that you could customize before you even get to your vehicle or your boat or whatever that is in terms of lighting and in terms of driving dynamics. So, when we think of personalization there's so many depths and layers to it now than there ever has been throughout history.

Steve Schwinke: 

Interesting. And now, Bill, you brought up boating a couple of times too. Which is really another version of a mobility product right? Boating. Recreational vehicles. Are you seeing the same level of interest to create these great digital experiences within the boating community?

Bill Thompson:

Yeah, it's interesting. So there's this sort of loosey-goosey equation that I use where if you consider consumer electronics as an industry driver for things like new tech and digital interface and downloadable content. And that tends to drive the automotive industry by three to five years as a leader. Where we see like the Marine and the RV and sort of recreational sports is they're laggard to the automotive industry, maybe about seven to 10 years. They have different types of requirements and they have different types of restrictions. 

And they also, where we're starting to see things pick up is historically you didn't have the economies of scale in those industries that you did in the automotive space. You weren't building 250,000 Cadillacs a year. You were building, you know, 2,000 boats. And what we see there is, as we spoke about in the beginning of this podcast, was a lot of purchasing happening from the Garmins, the Raymarines, the Simrads, the Lippert components of the world to enable their connected futures. And they're getting more and more presence on those devices. Like in the marine industry, if they can tap into the NMEA 2000 compatible network, they can display gauges, they can display some characteristics of the boat. 

We're seeing companies like Brunswick who owns Sea Ray and Boston Whaler build out a huge investment in their digital infrastructure by acquiring companies like Simrad and building out mobile-connected devices to interact with their helm control. So there's a huge push for that in the marine space. We're seeing things like Starlink enable internet offshore, connectivity offshore. So that's always been an issue historically, you could only provide as good of a connection as your cellular telematics device did to that platform or whatever the case may be. 

And in the RV, in the recreational vehicle space, we're seeing a lot of those similarities. You know, we sort of consider marine and RV to be kind of on par with each other in terms of the technologies and the availabilities that want to have a mobile experience, that want to add value to an additional pipeline once you're outside of your vehicle or of that experience.

Steve Schwinke: 

Bill, what I see happening in our industry is that the barrier to entry is now significantly reduced. And that's why we see so much opportunity that's out there. And I'm assuming that it's applying to both the RVs and the marine industry. You have things like Google Automotive Services where they're able to build on top of an Android framework and really just focus on the digital experience that they want to create for their customers. Is that what you're seeing in the industry as well, especially, you know, in the marine and RV areas?

Bill Thompson:

Yeah, absolutely. What we're seeing at Rightpoint, we see and we believe that every company is an experience company or is going to need to reinvent themselves to become one because of the accessibility of all of the things that you're talking about. Things that were once out of reach are now here. Industries that were once adverse to making investments in digital infrastructures can now do that more with significantly less investment and with significantly more intelligence in. 

To go in there's a whole industry that you can benchmark to understand what your competition is doing, to understand where people have been, what are the early adopters struggling with and what are people growing into now from a technology and experience perspective? And I think it's our responsibility as stewards of great experiences to help move humanity along its journey. And when we say humanity, it doesn't just pertain to the end user, it pertains to the people that make up the companies that are building the technologies, that are putting these things out there in the world for other people to use. 

We see, you know, you mentioned the ability for or the scale of startups, there's so many more startups out there. We see startups making pivots that were focused on, let's say a solution for the automotive industry, that have now pivoted to say, “Okay, well that's probably not going to make much sense but our technology is relevant to the marine, the RV, and the off-road industry in different types of platforms. So, can we transition our technology to fit there?” And yeah, you can. 

We see that regulations in places like California, where they're starting to outlaw gasoline engines on open waterways, that's causing a huge transition. And there's more electric boats on the market now than historically there ever have been. And we see that penetration actually happening a little bit more quickly with the amount of investment and the amount of incentive that there is to keep everything green and keep everything safe and keep pollution to a minimum and minimize your carbon footprint, but in a real way, not in a way that you're buying carbon credits from somebody and passing 'em off as your own.

Steve Schwinke: 

Right. No, and you talk about also humanity. I mean, there's sustainability and there's moving humanity but then there's also, I think about the digital experience for a 20-year-old versus someone much older than that. And to unify that. I don’t know if you have anything to say about that. It's just interesting, you know. A lot of the problems that we're solving today are advancing humanity, which is great.

Bill Thompson:

Absolutely. And I think you hit the nail right on the head and it's bigger than being able to enable an aging community or somebody who may be disabled and not have a support system in place to help get them from A to B. When we think about mobility, that includes everything from your waking moment and how you transcend through your life to how you get back through there. And those moments could be tapping into understanding what you have to do that day, what’s the most effective way for you to get there. And that way for that person could be an Uber, it could be a Lyft, it could be a service, like a medical type service that comes through. 

Any types of those things they need to integrate into your daily life as enablers, no matter who you are, no matter where you live on the spectrum, no matter your age, no matter your demographics, that needs to help empower and enable everybody. And mobility is such a powerful word and it's something that we even debate internally, is it mobility? Is it transportation mobility? And to us, mobility just represents more. It represents greater, it represents a bigger commitment to propelling humanity forward through those connected experiences to help enable their lives. 

And we recognize there's scale, there's an element of scale. Somebody who may be interested in all of those features, great. Somebody who just wants to get from A to B, that's great too. But you need to take into account all of those considerations and design for those personas and have those personas provide you live active feedback on a regular basis. Because things change overnight these days. It's not like you can launch a product and then it's like, great, we'll get to the enhancements next year. And then we'll do the mid-cycle the year after that. You can't do that. It's a world of constant evolution and connectivity.

Steve Schwinke: 

That's interesting. Yeah, and we always talked about time is our most valuable commodity, right? We always talked about being more productive, but I think it's not just productivity it's the time that you do spend in a mobility sense. You want it to not be wasted.

Bill Thompson:

Yeah. Safety, productivity, and entertainment are the three key tenants to a successful mobility experience.

Steve Schwinke: 

Bill, I'm going to wrap up this conversation. I really enjoyed talking with you. Thanks for being here with us today and sharing your thoughts on the industry.

Bill Thompson:

Steve, I welcome the opportunity. It's been great reconnecting and I look forward to having another deep discussion.


Thank you for tuning in to Point B. Join us next time for more auto tech innovations and trends. Point B is brought to you by Sibros.