Digital car sales: Maruti Suzuki digitises 24 of 26 car-buying steps

Of these 24 touchpoints that have been digitised, the most complex was finance.

By:May 24, 2021 2:00 AM
Image for representational purposes only

Earlier this year when Maruti Suzuki launched its Smart Finance scheme for Arena customers (in addition to Nexa), the company claimed that it has digitised 24 out of 26 car-buying steps. Shashank Srivastava, executive director (Marketing & Sales), Maruti Suzuki India, told FE that in August last year the company had started digital car finance in partnership with four banks in select cities and only for Nexa customers. Now this has been expanded for all Nexa and Arena customers across India with 14 financers. “We are doing more than 10,000 sales a month using this scheme,” he said.

According to Maruti Suzuki, from the time a customer thinks about buying a car to actually taking the car delivery, there are 26 touchpoints, such as visiting the carmaker’s website, researching the car on the internet, asking friends and family, and so on. “Earlier, a lot of these touchpoints were physical, such as physically checking out the same model that maybe your colleague would have been driving. Now, while the number of touchpoints remains the same, the mode of getting information has changed to digital,” said Srivastava. “A customer now goes to online forums where thousands of existing users offer their advice on that particular model. Similarly, earlier if a customer used to visit a dealership to check out the car, the same now can be done using AR/VR tools.”

The two touchpoints that cannot be currently digitised are test drive and delivery of the car. However, he added that of these 24 touchpoints that have been digitised, the most complex was finance. “For financing, car-buyers had to go to a bank, produce physical documents, have a face-to-face talk with the banker, and then the bank used to offer loan. The aim to digitise that process was what led to the concept of Maruti Suzuki Smart Finance,” said Srivastava. “On this platform, a consumer has the choice to study the best offers from financers. The required documents can be uploaded digitally and the loan extended.”

Going forward, Srivastava added that during the second wave the primary focus is to build trust with the customers, “so the right communication is very important at this time,” he said. “We are committed to safety measures at dealerships and we are communicating to customers that it will be safe to visit our showrooms (after the lockdown). We are also observing how consumer behaviour is changing due to the pandemic; for example, we think car subscription will pick up so we are offering such subscription products also. At the same time, different people are affected differently by the pandemic, and so we have multiple EMI schemes, such as step-up EMI and so on,” said Srivastava.

Car-buying steps

1. Searches the car on Google;
2. Asks peers;
3. And/or asks on social media;
4. And/or checks on WhatsApp groups;
5. Visits OEM website;
6. Checks the brand’s social media pages;
7. Views product photos;
8. Gets influenced by online ads;
9. Browses print media ads;
10. Watches YouTube videos of the car;
11. Watches video ads of the car;
12. Searches on smartphone;
13. Uses loan calculator on third-party website;
14. Sees TV ads;
15. And/or sees OTT ads;
16. Reads professional reviews;
17. Locates a dealer on smartphone;
18. Visits dealer website;
19. Requests a price quote online;
20. Uses car-comparison tool;
21. Visits automotive expert websites;
22. Reads consumer reviews;
23. Takes a test drive (physical activity);
24. And/or uses AR/VR tools;
25. May or may not visit dealership;
26. Takes car delivery or home delivery of the car (physical activity).

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