In India, buying a car has always been part of an emotional affair. But, with the world around us is adapting to a new normal and OEMs increasingly looking at digital solutions to market their products. The digital drive has surely got a push from the lockdown. Once this is over, will it get back to the old way of buying, or will the industry change for good?
Vivek Srivatsa, Head of Marketing - Passenger Cars - Tata Motors, said that automotive and sales cannot only be digital. And, this makes it more challenging and exciting. He said this at the virtual conference on ‘Future of Automotive Retail’ conducted by Autocar Professional.
Other eminent speakers included Tarun Garg, Director - Sales & Marketing, Hyundai Motor India, Veejay Nakra, CEO - Automotive Sector, M&M, Ashish Kale, President, FADA and Dominic Kurtaz, CEO, 3D EXCITE- Dassault Systems.
Sharing his views, Vivek stated, “We are looking at the situation where especially in automotive the brand value is going to be measured against the experience. Post-Covid, digital is going to lead the experience for the customer. And, we are realistically looking at a scenario where customer experience is actually defined on the screen of tablets, laptops or mobiles. The physical infrastructure will start mirroring the kind of experience customer enhances online and this is going to be more important, going forward. But, seamlessness is what successful companies in the digital space have achieved between physical and digital space. This would actually define how much the customer trusts a brand or its products.”
“All automotive manufacturers are in a different kind of space now. It cannot be only digital and this is making it more challenging and exciting. How a customer is able to seamlessly discover the car online and get the car to his location. At the same time, he does not realise the digital experience has become physical. This is what I would focus as a marketer. And, this kind of physical-digital interface can happen multiple times in car ownership cycles. Be it while buying the car or even aftersales. This is what we should be focusing on,” he added.
There has been a misconception that the penetration of digital market space is slow in the rural market, tier 3 and tier 4. Are they really ready? The marketing head says “yes.” With the digital infrastructure like proper mobile networks and connectivity improving now, the overall digital experience is also seeing an increased interest and impression, according to Vivek.
Speaking on the scope for digital retail beyond metro cities in India, Vivek pointed out that “Their mindset is also changing dramatically. The reverse urbanisation that is happening due to Covid is going to have an impact in smaller towns. And, there is a lot of data which points out that the mindset of people in smaller towns is not really too different from what there are in bigger towns. In fact, their better and healthier lifestyle make them far more optimistic in many parts of their lives. Small towns in India are very much ready and it is a challenge for OEMs to make the most of it and get them an experience they can adopt easily. This does not need a big learning curve. Technology and intuitiveness have a big role to play in these places.”
Time to technology
Vivek mentioned that it is time to use technology to bring the best experience to the customers. The higher the level of personalisation to the customer in terms of communication builds a better brand affinity. Agreeing to hyper localisation and customisation, he said the future is where the organisation uses data much better and has a one on one interaction with the customers.
“Thanks to digital space, OEMs can go anywhere in the country. At the same time, they can be not dependent on the infrastructure, dealers etc. And, we can tap into cusotmers and give our services digitally without investing anything on the infrastructure part. This is one of the silver linings around the pandemic,” he added.
e-word of mouth
Vivek explained that thanks to social media, the world is probably more open than it has ever been, “Now, a simple word of mouth is digitalised and it is everywhere. It has both good and bad points and if we do not get it right the first time, there are more people who can point out where we slipped out. Customers have all the information about the product online. It is up to us to really get our act right.”
Click-order-buy a car?
In a game of literally crystal ball gazing, the speakers shared their views on the prospect of vehicles sales becoming completely digital in India. According to Vivek, “It is a question of time before it happens. There are other elements that have to fall in place. One is the entire registration part and the government data part which has to get digitalised. This will happen sooner or later. One of the key elements in add to cart and buy is how much we trust the brand and are aware of the product. The fact you do not need to test a vehicle might not be true for all brands. It is an element of a brand which is more popular and has more trust levels where customers are quite satisfied doing this kind of purchase. But, it would happen in a matter of time, maybe more than five years but within 10 years,” he concluded.
Automotive retail: The digitally augmented physical experience
3DEXCITE’s Dominic Kurtaz: ‘The car is no longer a mode of transportation, it is a connected product’
M&M's Veejay Nakra: ‘Once you get the taste of convenience, it is difficult to go back’
Hyundai Motor India’s Tarun Garg: ‘We have to be empathetic with the customer’
FADA's Ashish Kale: ‘Dealers are a resilient lot and we will adapt to new methods of selling’