The shift to personalisation has led to an increased effort automakers towards building a brand identity that resonates with the consumer
By Vivek Srivatsa
Smartphone usage has shifted the purchasing journey to digital platforms, making it imperative for automotive OEMs to follow suit. Today, a customer starts searching for a product six months before purchasing it, thereby making the overall process longer and one that prescribes higher involvement, as compared to the car buying process of yesteryear which typically took three weeks. Therefore, the sales process is now more detailed and customer focussed.
Riding on digital
Automotive manufacturers are consistently increasing the share of digital media in their overall marketing budget, because digital is driving demand to grow businesses. Additionally, the shift from ‘one size fits all’ to personalisation has led to an increased effort among Indian automakers towards building a brand identity that resonates strongly with the consumer.
In light of the above, automotive marketing campaigns are now increasingly interactive, thereby urging the customer to constantly engage with the brand. An extremely creative example of this is the ‘Volvo Safety Sunday’ campaign. In football, a ‘safety’ can be a game changer. Volvo Cars rooted for safety and gave people a chance to win big on game day. If a ‘safety’ (when the defence tackles a player who has the ball on offence in his/ her own end zone), which is a rare phenomenon, was scored during the big game, Volvo Cars would give away $1 million worth of cars to select participants, to celebrate one million lives saved by its safety innovations.
The current pandemic has changed the way brands look at conventional marketing techniques. Due to the near complete shutdown of print media, and the implication of social distancing norms, brands are now leveraging digital platforms for product and message positioning. With an increased amount of population now working from home, the overall time spent online has surged, thereby moving a large portion of sales online. Brands have had to reposition themselves to be more of a resource to their customers, than simply a product search platform.
They have been doing so by discussing safety through the medium of providing vehicle maintenance tips, and keeping their customers engaged in a variety of interactive games on their social media platforms.
Automotive manufacturers have also extended warranty and free service periods for customers whose warranty was set to expire during the lockdown period. Moreover, to make product discovery convenient, automakers have launched end-to-end digital sales platforms, so that customers can not only explore their products from the safety and comfort of their homes, but also purchase and have them delivered without stepping out.
Certain OEMs are also expanding their already existing used car sales platform by adding newer vehicles to the fleet for sale, providing online sales concierge service, and emphasising on ‘contactless delivery’ on their digital sales platforms.
New customer equals new demands
Historically, factors such as fuel economy, ergonomics, features (to a degree) and performance took precedence over others when purchasing a car. While these remain a key part of the present-day buyer’s consideration, automotive manufacturers are now especially emphasising on GNCAP adult safety ratings to promote passenger and pedestrian safety as a primary consideration. Apart from safety, factors such as design, connectivity and driving dynamics should be additional focus areas for most auto brands in the future, as these are the buying preferences of the evolved present-day consumer.
Evidently, consumers are the clear winners of this new-age strategy. Going forward, automotive manufacturers can be certain that winning this game will require a better understanding of the value-based customers and their product preferences.
The author is head – marketing, passenger vehicles business unit, Tata Motors