It should surprise none that Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL), the country’s largest player in PV segment, is also the auto industry leader in digitalisation process. The carmaker has been at the forefront of digital technology which has turned into a wave post-pandemic.
Way back in 2005 when it launched a centralised server-based Dealer Management System, it was almost unheard of in the industry. MSIL was also the first company to implement robots in paint-shop and welding-body shops.
Over the last few years, MSIL has embraced digital in its marketing initiatives in a holistic manner. In 2014, it launched the first integrated website. Next year, the company launched a digitally-inspired channel, Nexa and in 2017, it came up with digitally-enabled channel Arena.
According to a company note, it grasped long back that digital is not only a marketing investment but a critical unit in the organisation to engage with customers and drive business. With this in mind, MSIL set up a social media command centre Ignition in 2015 “to make sure that we are listening to what our consumers say in real time.”
Maruti’s investments in marketing technology through its partnerships with Sitecore, Google, and Sprinklr have been driven with the intent of personalising its communication on the digital medium. It is working on connecting offline and online touch-points to provide a seamless customer experience, and for this purpose it has set up a Customer Data Platform.
To provide personalised experience, the company has set up a Content Management System through Sitecore. “It helps us to personalise communication to each customer depending upon the digital signals in their purchase journey with MSIL, and provide them the best experience”, said company the note.
Staying connected with the customer throughout the year is a priority for MSIL and to ensure that, it follows an ‘Always On’ approach for campaigns across channels like Search, Display and Social.
Regarding its learning from the digital experience, the company says the biggest strength of digital is that “it’s TIME- and GEO-agnostic.” One can reach out to customers whenever they are active in the online space. This is not possible in other forms of media. The biggest benefit of digital, according to MSIL, is that one can hold one-to-one conversation with customers.
Most of the digital insights received by the company help it in designing content marketing strategies to engage with its customers. An example of this is its content creation initiatives on Nexa Music
As far as its impact on sales are concerned, digital contributed to 5 per cent of inquiries received by MSIL in FY 18-19 which increased to 13 per cent in FY 19-20. And expectedly enough, post-COVID the carmaker has seen an instant acceleration in this. Today, digital is contributing to nearly 35 pc of the inquiries. “During the lockdown period especially, we saw more than 45 pc of our inquiries coming from digital channels only”, according to the company.
Presently, MSIL is working on a PHYGITAL model, where there is a balance between digital interface and actual dealership showrooms.
Talking about the digitalisation of the car-buying process, the company says 21 out of 25 touch-points in an auto customer’s journey today are digital. “In fact, 90 pc of customers search online before buying a car today”, it says.
Among MSIL’s major digital initiatives in marketing and branding are Finance Marketplace that assists a customer in his car-buying process, Swift Limitless Stories featuring Mary Kom and other prominent athletes and another key business initiative on car subscriptions. The company is also providing immersive experiences via 3D, AR and VR.
Despite betting big on digital, Maruti is also convinced that dealership or the last mile is an important experience point because when a customer is ready to buy, he is looking for a dealer. Dealers too, it feels, need to be present online to meet the customer needs and to reach out to them proactively.
Citing recent research reports, the company says that post-COVID, customers would continue preferring to research online but at the final deal closing they prefer to do it at the dealership. Hence, PHYGITAL, the company’s attempt to strike a balance between online and dealership experience for the customer.
MSIL also informed us that nearly one-fourth of its marketing budgets are dedicated to digital. At the same time it stressed that investments are not a necessary indicator of focus on digital, which has to be a part of the organisation’s fabric.
For Maruti, it is not so much about one medium becoming more or less important but using all of these mediums judiciously and effectively. The company is realistic enough to say, “With the business impact of this crisis, our spends will also have to be prudent. We will keep evaluating where the consumer is and which medium he is consuming.”
It grasped long back that digital is not only a marketing investment but a critical unit in the organisation to engage with customers and drive business.
Staying connected with the customer is a priority for MSIL and to ensure that, it follows an ‘Always On’ approach for campaigns across channels like Search, Display and Social.
Digital contributed to 5 pc of inquiries in FY 18-19 which rose to 13 pc in FY 19-20. Post-COVID, the carmaker has seen an instant acceleration in this.
Despite betting big on digital, Maruti is convinced that dealership is an important experience point because when a customer is ready to buy, he is looking for a dealer.