How new-age tech is helping automakers succeed in a post-pandemic world

India’s auto sector is leveraging technology to enhance productivity and profitability across processes and platforms: from manufacturing and sales to distribution. Automakers are also utilizing social listening and CRM platforms to better cater to customer requirements.

November 2, 2021 10:27 AM
Shubhi Agarwal

Covid-19 hit several industries hard, and forced firms to pivot, innovate and adopt new technologies at a much faster pace. This digital transformation equipped them to meet emerging customer demands across touchpoints. The automotive industry was no exception to all this.

Plant shutdowns, supply chain disruption, parts shortages and low vehicle sales posed huge challenges for India, world’s #5 auto market. But automakers & customers embraced the emerging digital solutions. These included online dealerships, home test drives and e-registrations. Automotive sector saw high Tech adoption in the last one year which has surpassed the cumulative rate of the past five years.

The ease of use, safety, transparency and consumers’ growing trust on digital mediums has led to quicker buying decisions. According to Google Auto Gear Shift India 2020 study, 95% of new car buyers and 94% of used car buyers first do their research online. SO, it is imperative to pay attention to the digital persona of the brand and create an image of customer first attitude online.

Keeping customers first via tech

Post-pandemic, automakers are looking at a ‘phygital’ approach to target consumers through a mix of digital and physical initiatives. For example, Maruti Suzuki has digitized 24 out of the 26 touchpoints involved in a car-purchase journey, from enquiry to booking, with test drives and delivery still being a physical experience. Similarly, Tata Motors’ ‘Click to Drive’ e-commerce platform has enabled contactless end-to-end sales. Mercedes-Benz India received 15% of sales volumes in the first quarter of 2021 from online bookings after integrating all its dealer partners seamlessly into its e-commerce ecosystem.

The automobile industry continues to face a growing number of challenges including reduced product life cycle, time to market, cost pressure, market volatility and competition. It is apparent that integrating technology into all aspects from manufacturing to sales and consumer connect is the only way forward. From applying algorithms that utilize data for automated processes during the vehicle setup to enabling better connectivity with smart devices—vehicle manufacturers have been leveraging technological tools like Automation, AI, ML, Analytics, Big Data, and IoT for an improved user experience.

Automation and robotics occupy the largest market share in India’s auto industry. They have reduced dependence on human labour. Automakers are seeing many benefits of automation: including mass production, faster time to market and safer, environment-friendly vehicles.

The AI Advantage 

The global automotive AI market is expected to reach $8,887.6 million by 2025, up from $445.8 million in 2017, growing at a CAGR of 45.0% from 2018 to 2025.

The combined potential of AI, Big Data, and machine learning can examine vast amounts of data according to set parameters and can accurately target qualified prospects, users are most likely to buy. The AI system tracks consumer’s preferences and accordingly notify them of businesses that can service them. For example, Toyota used AI and ML to better cater to consumer preferences based on makes, models and offers that matched each customer’s wish list. The resulting personalized customer journeys created through digital engagement helped the dealership increase sales by 150%.

Indian companies are on the AI bandwagon too. Tata Motors uses Microsoft Azure Intelligent Cloud for advanced navigation, predictive maintenance, remote monitoring features and AI innovation for its connected cars. Mahindra & Mahindra also uses AI-enabled dynamic segmentation to optimize its spare parts inventories.

Benefits of social listening and a strong CRM platform 

Leveraging tech to ease sales or manufacturing isn’t enough. In this era, having a user-friendly website and strong social media presence is more important than ever. Omni-channel experiences are key. Customers expect a unified, seamless experience across multiple touchpoints.

A holistic customer experience management platform can enable more personalised conversations, to create an overall increase in the customer lifecycle, with in-depth      insights about consumer behaviour and market trends. Automakers also need to track metrics such as test drive conversion ratio, booking ratio, net promoter score, and customer lifetime value. These indicators help quantify customer satisfaction levels, so that teams can make data-driven decisions and be responsive to customers in a timely manner. Moreover, with CRM integrations , auto brands can quickly launch digital properties to capture leads, and create greater opportunities for cross-selling and upselling. . From there, the leads can be passed on to a call centre and then a local dealership for follow-up. With a single unified digital solution, dealers can smoothly extend the customer journey that began on the automaker’s digital properties.

Social listening tools go a long way in improving customer relationship management and business performance management. Twitter, Facebook, and the likes are flooded with valuable customer feedback. Tracking these comments and gaining insights from them are an effective lead generation tool auto firms can adopt. The platform also helps in brand analysis, competition benchmarking, identifying new market opportunities, handling customer complaints and more.

The future is ‘phygital’ 

As customer journeys increasingly shift to digital mediums, auto brands need to be present where their customers are. It is thus crucial for the online buying experience to be as accessible, transparent, cost-effective, and convenient as possible.

By leveraging new age technologies, omnichannel players are already bringing about greater convenience, while bridging the customer need gap. Dealerships also get the added advantage of managing inventory better based on retail performance. In this way, they are able to offer customers a ‘phygital’ experience, a trend that’s likely to stick around in the future.

In PwC’s Digital IQ 2020 survey, 84% of respondents in the automotive sector globally said that without aggressively pivoting toward becoming a fully digital organization, revenue growth and profitability are likely to suffer.

Finally, automakers need to work towards a connected omnichannel presence – connecting customers, dealers, sales, service, marketing, production, and suppliers, across physical and digital touchpoints to ensure higher profitability and better customer service and loyalty.

Author: Shubhi Agarwal (COO), Locobuzz

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Indian Express Group or its employees.

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