Automotive > In-Vehicle UX Blog

On GM Marketplace, Knowing Your Users, and the Difference Between "Can" and "Should"

by Chris Schreiner | Dec 07, 2017

This week GM announced the release of Marketplace, a new platform allowing consumers to conduct a variety of commerce-related interactions from their car.  Services developed with GM’s list of partners include reserving tables at TGI Friday's, placing orders at Starbucks or Wingstop, paying for a Dunkin' Donuts order, finding or paying for nearby parking, and locating nearby petrol stations, among others.

This move by GM is just the latest in a series of industry attempts to monetize the infotainment system.  And indeed, certain scenarios could potentially benefit from an in-car commerce platform.  The advance of mobile payment means that consumer demand for fast and easy interactions at low-touch points of sale (such as quick-service food and drink, petrol stations, and toll booths) will only increase.  And in our worldwide consumer research efforts, parking finders and payment consistently rate as among the most desirable connected services for in-car use cases.

However, the execution of Marketplace thus far has been questionable, the messaging has been terrible, and the pushback from a safety perspective has been rightfully forceful.

In its announcement, GM stated that "Marketplace is designed to be used while driving" and that it adhered to "industry distracted driving guidelines."  This framing is problematic at best, outrageously false at worst.  The guidelines to which GM refers are likely NHTSA's voluntary guidelines, which (while better than nothing, and informed by a wealth of on-road research) are woefully out of date.  As we have explained previously, these guidelines are largely irrelevant in this new age of connected in-car UI.

Moreover, Marketplace provides no value to the actual driving task, and the tasks it enables are normally done while not driving. What’s worse, GM is creating (and arguably encouraging) new non-drive-related glance behavior that would not normally be done.  This violates the spirit of the distraction guidelines GM cites.  In response, several entities have already slammed Marketplace as an unnecessary distraction risk.  National Safety Council president Deborah Hersman notably expressed concern by saying "there’s nothing about this that's safe."

Even if distraction arguments could be alleviated via lockouts or other methods, we strongly recommend a more thorough examination of services offered through Marketplace.  Low-or-no-speed scenarios such as payment at quick-service establishments or finding a parking space could certainly benefit from some type of in-vehicle platform.  In-vehicle scheduling for maintenance, or payment for subscription services, might also add value for some users.

But most of the other tasks GM promotes for Marketplace such as menu ordering and restaurant reservations are already long and difficult tasks on purpose-built smartphone apps.  The idea that consumers will delight in using an in-car touchscreen to perform these tasks (browsing a food menu, browsing available reservation times, reviewing a "cart" of goods, and so forth) is unrealistic.  And more importantly, these are not services consumers are demanding for the car.

GM was a connected vehicle innovator with their embrace of OnStar.  The leveraging of an on-board connection for drive-relevant value-adds such as emergency calling and navigation showed that the automaker cared about the needs of its users, and saw them as more than cashflow providers.  By contrast, Marketplace leverages the on-board connection to sell goods to users in a way they do not want.  Just because something can be done, does not mean it is something that should be done.  In a narrow-minded quest for marketing dollars, GM is quite literally creating solutions for problems that do not exist.

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