'Serious engagement from inquiry to delivery is key to retaining customers:' Veejay Nakra
Lines between passenger cars and ‘authentic’ SUVs are blurring, says the President of the automotive division of M&M.
Serious engagement right from inquiry to delivery is the key to retaining buyers in the intensely competitive environment and the era of long waiting periods. That’s the word coming in from industry veteran Veejay Nakra.
Speaking on the topic of consumer retention in an interaction with Hormazd Sorabjee, Editor, Autocar India, the President of the automotive division at Mahindra & Mahindra says that the idea is to offer a complete package and full customers' needs of design, safety, performance, design, technology, mileage, and all that at a great price.
“People are more willing to take risks and we have seen that with the Scorpio and we’ve seen that with the 700, where we’ve seen a whole new profile of buyers who did not consider, let’s say a typical authentic SUV. Lines between passenger cars and ‘authentic’ SUVs are blurring,” he said.
In this context, he explains that the key question is that of retention. The definition of retention has totally changed in the last two years, he says. Reiterating that the definition of a customer starts from the time he or she makes an inquiry, Nakra added that unless companies have a strong hook to keep customers engaged, there is a high possibility for those customers to switch brands. “I think this is a fundamental change in the definition of retaining a customer,” he adds. This assumes significance because in today’s Instagram age, consumers want to experience something new. His response to this is that there are two categories of customers, among which a very large set of those who still want to own iconic brands.
“I think as brands become more iconic, while they do retain the existing set of customers, you’re able to bring in a whole new set of buyers towards iconic brands, and we’ve seen this with Thar. Let me take Thar as an example. If I look at the last 3 launches, all the new products that we’ve done, especially the Thar and Scorpio N, coming from the Scorpio family, which are iconic brands, we’ve not only been able to retain the customers but we’ve got a whole new set of buyers to come in,” Nakra added. Iconic brands are here to stay. They are able to go through the test of time and stand out as iconic brands, he said.
Coming to the issue of ICE versus EV preferences, Nakra explains that there is a segment of customers who would really want their iconic brands to be available in the Born Electric avatar. At the same time, there would also be some new consumers who would come in and not want anything to do with brands that have a legacy in the ICE world. “That probably I believe will bring in a whole new set of buyers who would want to experience and engage with brands without a legacy, and I think both of these will play out going forward.”
He added that what matters is making iconic brands relevant to multiple segments. “I keep saying this. In marketing parlance, gone are the days of USPs (Unique Selling Propositions), and have become ESPs (Every Selling Proposition)."
In terms of challenges from startups and retaining brand loyalty in terms of legacy issues and startups, he said it depends on how companies deal with this issue as a marketing approach. Within the portfolio of a parent brand, companies can create an independent brand in an EV world, which may not necessarily have that strong association with the parent brand. It could be an endorsement strategy.
“On one extreme, you’ve got a branded house where the parent brand has a significant role to play. On the other hand, you have a brand that is created away from the parent brand, totally independent in the EV world, and there is also an option that is somewhere in the middle which could be more like an endorsement, or a soft association. At the end of the day, it depends on whom the company is targeting, what the proposition is, and how much the company wants to borrow from the parent brand.
He says that if a brand wants longevity, loyalty, and repurchase, companies need to offer customers a holistic value. Taking the case of Mahindra Adventure as a point of creating stickiness for the customers, it enables customers to know the capability of the product. “The meaningfulness of the association of the brand goes up. Explaining that even after the whole new profile of consumers who have come in to buy the Thar, the loyalty rate of Mahindra customers is still as high as 40%. "You have to be authentic and genuine to who you are because the consumer sees that through,” he said.
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