Here it goes. I have being a loyal BMW customer for many years now. From time to time I need to go to my local dealer to service my car or cary regular checks before long journey. Sometimes they event send my some brochures or leaflets about new events they are hosing or new hot deals etc.
So I was thinking. Who is typical BMW customer in this country? He or she is probably successful young (middle 30s) professional or respectful elderly people. Most likely all of them or at least significant part have some sort of mobile communicator or smartphone as they are called this days. So why not create an app for them?
The first thing is motivation or reasoning for that. BMW is a car manufacturer. But for majority of their clients it is much more than that. Of course, loyalty rate of their customers probably not as high as for VW, especially Golf community, but it is still impressive. For example, I own my second BMW and my next car would be its more powerful sister.
Having that app in place creates direct channel between the company and the client. You can you use it as marketing tool from company's side and as useful something from user point of view. For example, the app can notify about coming service, featured events of hot deals as well as provide services like user consumption stats including price per mile for different kind of petrol customer has used recently etc. These pieces of functionality are very easy to implement and you always extend them.
Of course, such project is not just developing mobile app for a few popular platforms (at least iOS and Android). It also requires back end infrastructure and that is more expensive and complex task.
So why are benefits for the company? Keeping connection with all current customers is important but not sufficient to invest reasonable amount in project like this. Having such in place the company can solve the main marking problem - extending customer base and exposure to potential new customers. It is not as straight forward as with social networks but can be even more effective.
Let's assume that you can collect anonymous data from the client's apps about preferences in petrol. For example, I like Shell V-Power very much. Long time ago I preferred petrol from Sainsbury's. It was cheaper and I was satisfied with car performance. So let's assume that 15% of customers prefer V-Power. Than BMW can start some parter program with Shell. It has many of them around the world.
Now consider yourself as, let's say, Audi's driver who also likes V-Power. One day you notices poster which promises some goodies to BMW owners on you local petrol station. That might trigger some train of thoughts in you mind and later you might think about getting a try to new BMW rival rather than old good Audi.
I know that make sense, I have experienced that many times with different things.
Now about partner's programs. BMW has lots of them including being sponsor of Olympic Games in London in 2012. How about another app specifically devoted to the London 2012? You can put detailed information about all sport's events, optimal ways of travel between venues (including maps and train schedules). Also such app can provide handy information about hotels, cafes, pubs, sightseeing, and other stuff visitors can find useful. You can engage local business and you can event generate some profit out of this app if you do your marketing right.