NAME KEVIN GASKELL
POSITION MANAGING DIRECTOR
WEB SITE BMW.CO.UK
This issue introduces a new column - Net heads. Each month we will ask the person responsible for a major company's internet strategy about their surfing habits, where they think the net is going and what their business is doing on the web. The result will be a guide to the internet written by those who know it best and use it every day. We kick off with Kevin Gaskell, managing director of BMW (GB).
When did you become interested in the internet?
In a business sense BMW has had a significant web presence for a number of years, so I have therefore been involved with business usage for some three years. On a personal level, my usage has grown during the past two years, and I now consider the net as a source of info on a daily, no, probably hourly, basis. It is now my first port of call for any significant data or research.
How much time do you spend surfing each day?
I spend on average half an hour using the internet each day. However, this varies dramatically and may range from nothing to four hours if I am seeking specific information.
Which sites do you use each week?
Rather than use regular sites each week, I see the internet as a massive resource library sitting on my desk. I use a range of sites that provide information on business, commerce, financial data, travel, holidays, etc. In addition I use the internet to assist with information on areas of personal interest, for example, sailing. Sites I find particularly useful for rapid information include the BBC's (bbc.co.uk), FT.com and the Sunday Times' site (www.sundaytimes.co.uk).
Who are your advisers?
AKQA designs our web site. We have no internal programmers working on the web site as such. Our team is more involved in designing the application strategy (what will the net do for us and let us do etc).
What is your company's web strategy?
At BMW (GB) we are working hard on moving ourselves from being a product-led organisation to one that is service-led. In fact we want to become the most respected and admired service organisation in the country; and by 'organisation', of course, I mean our dealer network as well as BMW (GB) itself.
Clearly the internet has a huge role to play in this. In simple terms we believe it will help us to know our customers as individuals and meet their needs accordingly. As you might expect, our current focus is on using the internet to help people order vehicles and other products.
They can already choose a new car, specify options, price it and submit a purchase or test-drive request to their chosen dealer totally online.
Alternatively, customers can search our network's used-vehicle stock for a specific model and see a digital picture of the chosen car. But this is only the start of a process that could re-engineer our whole business over the next few years.
What is the most significant change the internet will bring about?
The most significant change the internet will bring is that we will all operate in a worldwide market where information for our customers is spread by 'word of mouse'! Any business that does not recognise that it is owned by its customers will simply disappear into the infinite marketing space of the web.