Main content

Adobe Summit - General Motors drives personalization up a gear with Experience Cloud

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels March 23, 2023
The automotive giant is using a range of Adobe tools to bring its disparate data sources together and to target customers with value-adding experiences.


General Motors is using Adobe Experience Cloud as the foundation for a data-led approach to personalized marketing across a range of channels.

In an innovation keynote at Adobe Summit in Las Vega, Ajay Kapoor, Global Director of Performance-Driven Marketing at General Motors (GM), explained how Adobe’s technology helps the automotive firm develop a unified and real-time view of customers, boost awareness of electric vehicles (EVs), and hone the next generation of in-vehicle experiences.

GM CEO Mary Barra announced her long-term vision for ‘zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion’ as far back as 2017. Almost six years on and Kapoor says the three-zeros vision is key to the company’s strategy for EVs:

It’s been the catalyst for our investments in electrification, software and self-driving capabilities, which are not only redefining our company, but also redefining the industry. We need the world to embrace EVs, but we also want to redefine the vehicle experience and what that looks like for the individual and their passengers.

Kapoor says the “next leap forwards” will involve GM developing EVs that are more like a software platform than traditional cars. He says the company is increasingly capable of using the data it collects to personalize every aspect of the driver and passenger experience to their comfort and their preferences:

We have decades of first-party data. And as we think about the vehicle as a software platform, it is just going to multiply. This data provides us both the opportunity and the challenge as modern marketers to bring additional new value-add experiences to our customers and, as a by-product, to create growth.

As GM moves towards its goal of growing capacity to one million EVs annually by 2025, Kapoor says the ability to personalize each customer interaction will be critical to educating consumers about the benefits of EVs. In addition to GM’s overarching three-zeros vision, the marketing organization has its own zero-focused ambition: 

We want to deliver zero friction in our customer experiences across our marketing platforms. We must drive omni-channel experiences that create value for our customers. Zero friction should extend across touchpoints and paid media to our website and app, all the way into the future of our in-vehicle experiences.

Personalizing customer experiences

According to Kapoor, GM has made “significant strides” in unifying its marketing technology stack. He says the core of this stack is Adobe Experience Platform (AEP). The company is running a series of applications on top of AEP, including Real-Time Customer Data Platform (CDP), Journey Optimizer (AJO) and Customer Journey Analytics (CJA), to bring customer insights together and to orchestrate experiences across online and offline touchpoints:

That investment in AEP – coupled with the necessary tools around that, from our use of Real-Time CDP to Journey Optimizer and onto Journey Analytics – helps us to understand what our consumers are doing from their signals and intents, and we can then start to provide personalized messages and communications.

AEP is used to unify customer data across the entire organization under a common data model, while also implementing strict governance and security controls. The company uses this single source of truth about GM owners to create and develop personalized marketing messages for customers through AJO and CJA. Kapoor explains: 

We're using AEP meets AJO to orchestrate these journeys in real time. We're then enhancing that with our first-party customer data to understand what is really occurring. Then we’re bolstering that insight with CJA to understand what's working, what's not working, and then we’re using that insight to provide the next, best experience for our customers. 

The auto industry has shifted its marketing approach from a focus on the next big campaign to a more subtle awareness of the requirements of customers who are buying vehicles. In light of this, GM’s data-led approach is all about listening and developing two-way conversations that help the company deliver the features that customers want. Kapoor says: 

We know the journey across vehicle purchase, software upgrade or vehicle enhancement is deeply personal. We’re trying to pull in as much of that intent signal as we can and then we’re allowing our practitioners to get their fingers on the keyboard and drive the relevant experiences our customers are looking for.

Sharing key lessons 

GM’s strategy to develop frictionless customer experiences has elucidated the importance of managing cultural change. The automotive industry is undergoing a huge transformation as the shift to EVs gathers pace. Successful manufacturers will ensure everyone in the company understands the scale of transformation in the auto industry, says Kapoor: 

We're going to see more change over the next five years than we've seen over the last 100. Think about gas stations, charging stations and all of the things that need to be put in place. So, we think from an organizational standpoint that this is a team sport. And we need to drive inclusivity across our organization.

To ensure everyone in GM makes the most of Adobe’s tools, Kapoor ensures his team acts like a center of excellence (CoE) and shares its knowledge through a hybrid approach, with specialists deeply embedded into each of GM’s brands and business lines:

They're the practitioners that help to bring these tools to life. Behind them is what I like to call our bazooka – it’s all the CoE firepower. So, if you think about the folks that are embedded, they're responsible for unleashing these tools, while the centre of excellence continues to drive refinement and build out innovation.

Kapoor says there are four key lessons that his team has learnt during the the shift towards zero-friction customer experiences, which he’s keen to pass on to other marketing and digital leaders:

  1. Harden your foundations – “It's hard work getting your first-party data cleaned and in a place that you can activate against, but it’s also necessary work.”
  2. Put consent and privacy at the core – “You need to build customer trust through how you manage, leverage and utilize first-party data.”
  3. Personalization is what really matters – “We spend a lot of time looking at where we get the biggest bang for our buck as we go through this journey.”
  4. Experimentation needs analytics – “Measure consistently and constantly iterate within the organization to drive speed, increase adoption and bring innovation to the forefront.”
A grey colored placeholder image