I worked on this project during my Spring 2019 semester at UC Berkeley, through Berkeley Innovation, a design consultancy I belong to on campus. I served as the project mentor for our Suzuki project where I established clear milestones with the client, oversaw the weekly assignments of five consultants, and provided feedback and critiques on my consultants' work. In this project, my team and I conducted research about Gen Z car buying habits to shape Suzuki’s strategy for re-entering the U.S. market and winning the international car scene. We provided Suzuki executives with a Facebook Messenger chatbot prototype and a comprehensive research brief to help guide their decisions for re-entrance.
Suzuki suffers from a disconnect with Gen Z customers car buying habits, expectations, and wants in car ownership in the U.S.
How might we better understand and improve the car purchasing experience of Gen-Z in the U.S.?
With our starting research question, in hand, our next step was to gather information across the entire car buying process for Gen Z, while keeping in mind our client’s problem statement. From there, we would decide what solution we should explore.
We compiled three questions that encompass as much of the process as possible:
1) Does a younger generation user want to own a car? Why or why not?
2) If they want to own a car, what are their expectations of the complete process? i.e. how to consume the ads, research, pay, finance, sell, etc.
3) How do the other technologies in the life impact or change their decisions or expectations?
After understanding our objectives and research goals, we chose the following methods to help us better understand Gen Z buying habits, knowledge of car buying, and areas they struggled with when trying to do so.
In order to better understand the car buying process ourselves, we went through the process of trying to buy a car at a dealership and gained a first hand experience of the issues and nuances it entailed.
We sent out public surveys to supplement the interviews in further understanding people's pain points in the car buying experience. We were able to gain metrics and insights from over 150 people.
We researched the competitive landscape to identify selling strategies towards tech-savvy Gen-Z customers and new innovations in the current market.
We interviewed 10 people about their experience with buying a car. By doing so we gained a better understanding of their knowledge of the car buying process and areas they felt lost navigating.
People have issues with trust when interacting with IVRs because they do not provide concrete solutions.
People prefer to not speak with an agent, but struggle to place complex solutions into simple categories
People want to have their problem solved during their first call and do not want to be passed around.
The time that people are willing to wait depends on their patience and importance of their problem.
Based on our extensive research, we made three different personas and journey maps with varying levels of knowledge on the car research and buying process. Throughout our design process, we made sure to always refer back to these personas when making our design decisions.
After synthesizing our research, user personas and journey maps we discovered that there are three main phases in the car buying experience: pre-research, research, and buying. Since many of our Gen-Z users do not own cars yet, a majority of their painpoints stemmed in the research phases. During this phase users search for educational guides and preliminary information via Google, word of mouth, or third party and company sites.
From here, we decided to narrow our HMW question to focus solely on the research phase of the car shopping experience.
Educational Guide: Digital platform that consolidates all the research and information needed to shop and own a car
Marketing: A marketing campaign that aims to educate and engage users more about the car buying process
Mobile Suzuki Showrooms: An experiential design of "pop-up" Suzuki cars that bring interactive education to consumers
Suzuki Gig Car: "Gig" cars branded by Suzuki with infographics and educational materials within. These cars would be parked around towns with colleges, exposing more students to learn about Suzuki and car buying.
Educational Redesign of Dealerships: Physically redesign dealerships to make it more of an educational and interactive space.
Ultimately, we decided to proceed with an educational guide because the lack of education and overwhelming informational research was a major, common painpoint among all our user personas. Furthermore, this idea would be a highly feasible solution for Suzuki to implement.
We decided that Facebook Messenger was the best platform to engage our users with our chatbot since our target demographic is Gen Z, who are heavily on Facebook due to various college events being organized on the app. We used Chatfuel to build out the chatbot and create our high-fidelity prototype to test with out users. You can engage with Suzi, the Car Expert by searching her up on Facebook Messenger and interacting with our prototype.
Snippets of the Chatbot Flow
After creating our high-fidelity chatbot prototype, we went out and tested it with students on campus to get their feedback for improvements to be made. Users expressed that they liked the idea of a chatbot for learning about cars, the informal and causal tone of Suzi, and the ability to trust the information Suzi provided. The only critique we received was the desire for even more information which correlated with the need to build out further options and flows.
To wrap up our deliverables we also decided to compile a comprehensive brief of all the research that we completed throughout our process. By doing so we hoped that we would be able to clearly and effectively convey the useful information we gathered on Gen Z consumers. To our delight, the brief was presented to Suzuki executives at the World Innovation Lab (WIL) in Palo Alto following our project.
Throughout this project one thing my team and I learned is that the car buying process is very complicated. It can be confusing and scary for those who are unfamiliar with cars and can deter many from even attempting to buy a car in the first place. My team and I were very happy with our final product because not only we were building a product for Gen Z consumers, we were also designing a product that we actually believed in and would use if we wanted to buy a car ourselves.
This was my first user research heavy project I had been apart of and I was pleasantly surprised to figure out that I enjoy working on such projects. Having worked on various other projects I felt like I my user research skills were pretty strong, but once my team and I went in depth in our research I realized that there was much more to user research than I was seeing in my previous projects. I felt that this project added a lot of to my research skills that I can carry on to use in future projects.
Throughout my life I have always enjoyed being a leader in anything I worked on. This was my first project where I was not a consultant and the transition to project mentor was an exciting one. This project further solidified my interest in leadership roles on projects. I enjoyed the pressure and challenge that came along with being responsible for my team's work when presenting to our client. I also learned that being a leader requires more than just delegation, but also requires me to actively participate in helping my team throughout the various design sprints.