FordDirect: An Indispensable Marketing Partner
In the competitive vehicle market, dealers who can anticipate when consumers are ready to buy have an edge.
For Ford Dealers and Lincoln Retailers in North America, a unique partnership makes that possible. FordDirect, a joint venture between Ford Motor Company and Ford Dealers and Lincoln Retailers, serves as their trusted advisor and digital marketing solution provider.
“There really is nothing like FordDirect in the automotive industry,” said Tom Thomas, Vice President of Data & Analytics at FordDirect. “Our mission is to be an indispensable partner to the dealers and retailers and drive more sales and service for them and Ford.”
AI for More Personalized Customer Experiences
FordDirect launched its Customer Journey Platform with the goal of creating a 360-degree view of the customer journey. The platform captures thousands of customer signals – from web visits, calls, chat interactions, and other touches – across Ford, dealers, retailers, and third parties in near real-time.
To help make sense of the data, FordDirect relies on the DataRobot AI Platform, which integrates with Microsoft Azure and Databricks.
“DataRobot is our AI platform of choice. Together with our Customer Journey Platform, we have a unique ability to identify, communicate, and engage with our consumers through highly personalized touchpoints,” Thomas said. “We’re doing things like AI-powered recommendations, optimizations, and direct signals that our dealers, retailers, product partners, and Ford’s digital marketing teams rely on.”
Marketing and advertising partners tap the insights to create more personalized experiences for current and prospective customers.
From Start to Implementation 75% Faster
As FordDirect and its data science partner RXA @ OneMagnify tackle each step of the data science process, DataRobot automates the machine learning process. The platform helps prepare data, determine features, move models into production, validate them, set governance rules, and monitor and measure models to improve continuously.
On the front end, DataRobot connects to FordDirect’s data platforms to help prepare the data. Automatic data readiness checks assess data input, saving data scientists time. Then, the platform automatically derives hundreds of features to use.
“One of the things I love about DataRobot is the ability to actually model against different feature sets,” said Jonathan Prantner, Chief Analytics Officer at RXA @ OneMagnify. “You can model against all the features plus the ones that DataRobot has derived, or use the platform’s predictive powers regarding which features are most important.”
Then, DataRobot automatically trains potentially hundreds of models, enabling data scientists to zero in on the winning ones.
Once in production, the platform provides detailed insight into model performance. Data scientists spend less time on maintenance and more time on new projects.
Finding Prospects 18X More Likely to Buy
FordDirect runs several large-scale models for use cases such as forecasting, multi-touch attribution weighting, media mix modeling, customer and dealer/retailer segmentation, natural language processing, and propensity scoring.
One of its top-performing models identifies customers with a likelihood to purchase within the next 90 days. Using this propensity model, FordDirect found that the highest-scored leads are 18 times more likely to buy a vehicle. In fact, 90% of all buys happen in the top 20% of scored customers – a segment valued at an impressive $6.5 million.*
Moreover, they find that model performance is five times faster than the original model, allowing the company to score more customers and service vehicles over time at the dealerships.
Ultimately, this model and others help FordDirect score records to create journey profiles regarding propensity to buy and service, and other preferences and predictions to determine next-best actions.
“We continuously feed these individual customer signals into DataRobot’s automated machine learning platform to calculate and refine each customer’s likelihood to purchase or conduct service over the next 90 days,” Thomas said.
Testing and Monitoring New LLMs with Generative AI
By adopting DataRobot in combination with the Customer Journey Platform, FordDirect was able to replace legacy technology systems. This move decreased their technology debt by approximately $3 million* – all while improving agility, efficiency, and effectiveness.
Next, FordDirect looks forward to scaling with generative AI use cases to add additional value, and unifying workflows for both predictive and generative AI. The platform offers the ability to test and try new large language models quickly, and rapidly build, securely operate, and confidently govern the performance of those LLMs in one place.
It also helps the company safely extend its proprietary data with LLMs and maintain ownership over its intellectual property as it continues to deliver value to Ford, Lincoln, and their dealership networks.
“The combination of DataRobot and FordDirect has really given our dealers and retailers an advantage in the marketplace in terms of increased sales, service, higher ROI, and stronger customer loyalty,” Thomas said. “What we’re able to do is unprecedented.”
*Figures provided by FordDirect based on their own experience.