Transforming Auto Sales in the Digital-First World in India

India’s automobile industry has relied on traditional media and channels for decades, but with customers shifting to the digital realm, and a proliferation of digital devices, it is now mandatory for automobile marketers to meet the customers where they are – that is on the virtual marketplace.

Today, roughly 30% of the leads generated by auto-giants come from digital mediums. However, generating leads is the first level of the funnel and there is more to the game than just lead generation.

While, auto being a high-value purchase decision requiring financial assistance for a majority of the customers, they prefer to research, analyze on the online medium and shift their buying decision offline through the wide dealer network.

The automobile industry is still the second largest contributor to advertising revenue even after going through a major downturn the previous year due to the unprecedented pandemic. The sector accounts for a tenth of overall spending on advertising. With the new fiscal budget in place, the sector aims to revive in 2021 by pushing the industry’s ad spends by 15%.

According to Google, 80% of car buyers resort to online videos as a research destination before purchasing a vehicle. And most of the buyers who watch online videos tend to take a follow-up action like visiting the dealer’s website, before walking into a showroom, thereby making informed decisions through digital walk-ins. Thanks to the review websites like CarWale, Team-BHP, Overdrive, Autocar India where all pertinent information about the latest vehicles is available with the click of a button.

For the automobile industry, digital media acts as the means both for customers and marketers to build relationships, bridge an information gap, and form coherent bonds based on trust and value exhibition.

In the journey with Adsyndicate, they have witnessed the many transformations that the industry has undergone over the past couple of years in the digital sphere. Here are a few notes on the changes they have witnessed so far, and thoughts on the further transformation that attest to the changing era of marketing they live in for auto giants.

Digital Showrooming

Auto OEMs are developing digital showrooms where customers can select a car, configure it according to their preference and receive financial loan offers as well as insurance offers for the vehicle. Globally, research shows that fifty-four percent of customers purchasing a vehicle for the first time would prefer to buy it online if given a chance.

Digital showrooms tend to unlock operational efficiencies and amplify the experience of the customers with its capability to use a range of technologies like AR/VR, AI-powered systems, and voice recognition to provide customers with an interactive 360-degree experience.

For instance, MG Motors had launched their digital showroom for their car, Hector, in Bengaluru. The showroom used digital tools such as immersive voice, AI-based human recognition, AR, and the One-3D platform to provide an immersive experience to its buyers.

Building Digital Touchpoints

COVID-19 has put paid to normative forms of communication and social gathering. This also means that brands are readjusting avenues of interaction to meet customers at the convenience of their homes and in real-time.

Automobile brands are creating contactless environments for their customers. Refurbished vehicles startup Spinny, implemented a contactless delivery system, selling over 600 cars. They also instituted virtual tours, contactless home test drives, customer safety kits, and car and employee hygiene protocols.

Digital experiences aren’t a novelty for the automobile industry. In 2018, Nissan India had partnered with us, at Adsyndicate, for a virtual reality campaign to launch the Nissan Micra CVT version.

Leveraging Nissan Intelligent Mobility, Adsyndicate built India’s first VR test drive. This norm-breaking campaign found immediate success and a strong sales pipeline.

With sensors integrated on the steering, accelerator, and brakes, lakhs of customers drove the Micra within a simulated environment through VR-enabled gaming consoles without compromising on the real-life experience of driving a car.

The VR Content was specially customized with real-life driving experiences to demonstrate how the smart and intelligent features such as speed alert, geo-fencing, advanced CVT automatic, etc. of the Nissan Micra and Nissan Connect could come in handy at the time of real need.

Role of Influencers

India loves its influencers. Especially when it concerns high-engagement purchases such as Electronics, Automobiles, Fashion, Travel, etc.

For instance, Renault extensively uses influencers for its marketing campaigns. In 2015, during the launch of MPV Renault Lodgy, #LiveLodgycal invited BlogAdda’s Indian Blogger Community to review the car and the winner bloggers were taken to Goa for an off-side activity. The bloggers were asked to document their Goa journey through #LiveLodgycal lens, thereby smartly targeting travel enthusiasts, further expanding its audience.

Thinking Locally

With the rise in voice-enabled search and the increase in the usage of digital devices in rural areas, usage of vernacular language in auto marketing plays a key role in engaging the local-language speaking population.

Bolero established itself as a market leader in the Indian SUV market by capturing the Hindi-speaking tier 2, tier 3, and rural population.

At first, they translated high-volume keywords and search terms to Hindi and used them in their communication through different ads with quality responsive search ads (RSA) to improve relevance. They then directed all the campaign traffic to their website by building an engaging local-language destination for their users.

Final Thoughts – The Omnichannel Approach

Despite the growth of digital marketing, the automobile industry cannot shift base on the online workspace in its entirety. It, in fact, will operate at a nexus of technological convenience and the trust of physical marketplaces.

Business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan found an escalating trend of “physical stores and online retail channels merging to create an omnichannel bricks-and-clicks retail environment.”

This ‘phygital’ approach goes miles to provide customers the ease of immediate access to information online, while also prioritizing touch-and-feel approaches by supporting in-store conversations.

This is even more true for frugal markets like India, where a high investment decision would go through multiple cycles in the consideration stage before a purchase is realized.

However, digital media has had a great hand in the rising sales of vehicles in the automotive sector. Today, automobile marketers understand the digital needs of their customers and thereby capture the trends to work in their favor. The digital revolution of the automobile sector has left marketers with no choice but to increase the ad spends on the digital front and digital innovations seem to pave a way forward towards reigniting India’s automotive sector.

About Adsyndicate

Adsyndicate is an award-winning digital marketing agency, helping brands realize their most ambitious goals combining data with technology ensuring strong ROI and memorable brand stories.

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