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Strategic Opportunities for 
an Iconic US Automaker

Humanistic worked with an iconic automaker to help them more deeply understand the behaviours, relationships, pains, and hidden opportunities in the commercial automotive aftermarket upfitting/modification industry. I co-led this engagement, which necessitated careful manual recruiting of hard-to-reach industry insiders, as well as stakeholders in closed tightly-knit communities who were extremely secretive or distrustful of outsiders.

A generative image of commercial van autonomous sensors on a construction site

Co-leading a team of researchers, we employed an "arms-length" approach as a 3rd party to the automaker, which enabled us to learn about diverse aspects of the value web and ecosystem, some of which might have been challenging to glean otherwise. As a result, we gained deeper insight into equipment choice/use, management approaches, processes, systems, software, pains, and other key phenomena that actors experience throughout their daily work/life (and across the value web).

Our team prepared the recruiting, scheduling, incentivization, and facilitated in-depth virtual interviews with a variety of upfitting professionals. As a result of this 360-degree human interview-based research, we uncovered several deep structural relationships, latent market dynamics, entrenched industry orthodoxy, legacy procedures and tools—as well as hesitation, secrecy, or fear of disruptive technologies (and change as a whole). These learnings helped form the foundation of numerous intervention opportunities that take advantage of, or disrupt the status quo—not to mention lead to immense monetary value and market share capture. 

In parallel to the interviews, our team performed an immersive business deep-dive to size the market, tease out tacit industry knowledge, map out key experiences or processes, and enumerate and analyze the actors/factors competing in the commercial upfitting landscape.

a screenshot of information gatherings on a digital canvas
a screenshot of academic literature analysis with digital sticky notes
a large digital table showing information about automotive competitors
a screenshot of all the ethnographic findings notes
a screenshot of the ethnographic insights with relevant images
a redacted sample of the ethnographic findings from the presentation deck
a redacted sample of an ethnographic finding from the presentation deck
a selection of redacted opportunities from the presentation deck
a pair books from the final presentation on a marble countertop
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When combined, the insight garnered from this immersive business deep-dive and our in-depth human interviews uncovered subtle nuances and critical gaps in the current state where our client could make key strategic investments. We provided directionality on ways the client could innovate on new products, services, procedures, technologies, and data sets, eventually leading to the creation/ownership of new industry-disrupting marketplace platforms.

We also delivered structured strategic recommendations that take into account the behaviours and needs of a myriad of upfitting ecosystem actors; a comprehensive snapshot of the market landscape, and where their competitors stand; a system-level depiction of the entire industry value web, including which organizations to approach for partnership or acquisition; and (most importantly) a detailed array of turn-key opportunities for them leverage in the aim of developing novel marketplace platforms, products, services—and massive stakeholder value.


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