Coronavirus Impact: Automotive firms shift gears to online platforms; roll campaigns online to drive sales

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Published: May 20, 2020 10:00:01 AM

From Hyundai to BMW and Honda, auto brands are banking on digital campaigns to connect with the consumers

A EY study indicates that post the COVID-19 crisis, online car sales are likely to gain tractionA EY study indicates that post the COVID-19 crisis, online car sales are likely to gain traction

In the times of Covid-19 when following the rules of social distancing has led to a massive drop in retail outlets, auto brands have taken to online sales platforms to enable potential buyers to complete their entire purchase journey digitally. From online demonstrations to door-step test drives, digital launches, online financing options, the automobile sector is making a shift to provide a unified seamless experience virtually.“90% of Indians research online before buying cars and over 40% consumers are willing to purchase a car online,” Brijesh Gubbi Suresh, AVP and group head- New Business Strategy, Hyundai Motor India said. Hyundai launched its ‘Click to Buy’ platform in January this year integrating more than 600 dealerships across the country.

Hyundai isn’t the only lone ranger. BMW, Volvo to Mercedes, Tata Motors and Honda among others are also betting big on digital with the launch of their online platforms. “The digital model is aimed at minimising the amount of physical contact that the traditional model requires,” Vivek Srivatsa, head, marketing, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors, said, adding that the online model wouldn’t completely replace the traditional model of purchasing.

A recent study conducted by EY indicates that post the COVID-19 crisis, online car sales are likely to gain traction as customers would lean further towards contactless modes of purchasing. “The fear of infection and lack of hygiene is likely to move people’s preference back to personal mobility, which in turn is likely to reverse the trend of declining car sales,” the report said citing the need for automotive retail to become virtual, lean and flexible to align to the sudden accelerated change in consumer behaviour. And so the process has begun. According to Suresh, customers are able to navigate through the website to get all the information, receive a quotation, following which a relationship manager is assigned to them. “From receiving on-road prices from the manager to discounts as well as loan is being approved online,” he added. The auto brand also claimed to have seen a large number of queries online post-March, especially for their recently launched Creta.

Even as the move to online has enabled auto companies and retail generate consumer interest, it is fairly a new one. Hence, industry stakeholders believe that it would take some time before the idea is completely accepted by the aspirational Indian consumers. For Partha Datta, president and managing director, FCA India, digital tools make the car buying process very easy and comfortable but it’s a new paradigm. “An automobile is a big investment and customer’s typically like to touch, feel and experience the product real-time in order to make the purchase decision.” Earlier this month, FCA India too launched a touch-free Jeep retail experience to connect with consumers virtually.

Even as the concept is novel currently to the Indian consumer thanks to the lockdown – it seems to have found its ground and who knows might even play a bigger role in the future.

Read Also: Tata Motors salutes truckers who are away from home during Ramadan

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