How Suzuki Uses AI to Drive Innovation
Suzuki is among the world’s largest automakers, with almost 70,000 employees and over 30 billion dollars in annual revenue.
Since their 1909 founding, Suzuki has been steadily growing and expanding around the world, now with distributors in 192 countries. Suzuki’s product teams are tasked with creating feature-rich products across a variety of verticals—including automobiles, four-wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), outboard marine engines, and even wheelchairs—that need to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction.
Creating new products, services, and features at this scale requires in-depth customer research in order to achieve a deep understanding of the customer’s wants.
Traditional Customer Research
Traditionally, Suzuki engaged in tedious, manual methods of customer research, such as face-to-face interviews and market surveys, which led to limited customer insights. For a company with over 30 billion dollars in revenue, it’s likely that millions are spent on customer research.
Research is tremendously expensive for large business titans looking to expand. In 2018, for instance, Amazon spent nearly $23 billion on R&D.
Not only is traditional customer research extremely costly, but Suzuki wanted to know more about what type of features or functions should be added to their products, and which pain points, requirements, product usage and expectations their customers had.
This led Suzuki to Commerce.AI’s consumer research approach, starting with a joint feasibility study and Proof of Concept project, and resulting in a commercial relationship.
AI For Customer Research
After approaching Commerce.AI for a feasibility study, it turned out that Suzuki had plenty of data available to initiate an automotive use case, so Suzuki started an AI pilot project.
Suzuki and Commerce.AI started a small scale but fully paid Proof of Concept phase in the form of a short-term, 3 months SaaS agreement. During the Proof of Concept, a number of test users at Suzuki would have access to the dashboard of Commerce.AI.
To start, Suzuki selected one specific car segment, including 6 to 7 car models in two markets, Japan and India, for the scope of the Proof of Concept. Japan and India are Suzuki’s two largest markets, which meant that there was a significant amount of data to analyze and gain value from.
To ensure that the outcome of the Proof of Concept could be evaluated properly, Suzuki engaged the Chief Engineer of the car segment and other team members of the product planning team who tested Commerce.AI’s Solution.
Although the product planning teams were not used to using dashboards of that kind in a SaaS model, they were impressed by the amount of data and insights available, and Commerce.AI trained them to optimally utilize the solution.
After the first phase, Suzuki finalized their evaluation and presented the results to their senior management. The technology showcase convinced the company to use customer research for product planning in the future. The product planning teams then defined action items based on their findings.
Ultimately, Suzuki will be able to translate these findings into a prioritization of product improvement and development initiatives.
Innovation doesn’t happen overnight, and this case is no different.
In June 2019, Suzuki met Commerce.AI at an event at Plug and Play, a startup accelerator, which selected Commerce.AI as its hottest startup.
Based on Suzuki’s interest in better, AI-driven customer research, follow-up conversations occurred, and from September to October 2019, Commerce.AI confirmed that applicability of the solution would be feasible in the automotive space during a market data review.
From January to April 2020, after successfully confirming feasibility, the Proof of Concept phase was agreed and started.
Suzuki and Commerce.AI selected a small scope with limited car models and markets for the Proof of Concept that would help to evaluate the solution. Suzuki’s test users tested the dashboard and insights that the solution provides.
In April 2020, Suzuki’s management team was convinced that the customer insights of Commerce.AI’s solution could actually help with product planning and confirmed the continuation of the engagement.
Product planning teams at Suzuki are now exploring the use of Commerce.AI in their daily work, as well as how the engineering team may implement these findings in their development efforts, with an expanding scope over time.
How it Works
We’ve explored how Suzuki uses AI to enhance their customer research efforts. Let’s dive into how the AI actually works.
Commerce.AI automatically scans the web – including customer reviews and feedback – to identify new and trending products and category attributes, across own and competing brands, that can be used to deliver a more relevant and satisfying customer shopping experience.
These insights are built on a framework that supports multiple data formats to provide a robust understanding of the product quickly and efficiently.
Commerce.AI’s solution gathers public opinions about products in forums, on YouTube, or in articles. The results are visualized in a self-service dashboard. Based on that reports can be created that show insights about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and trends of specific product segments.
Product teams today have a harder job than ever before, and are tasked with creating successful products in a highly-competitive market.
Customers have more choices than ever before, but are also generating more data than ever, which means that AI-powered product teams can conduct better market research to understand customers, and stay ahead of the curve.