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BW Businessworld

Resilience Of The Community

This online interface was supported by backend operations that included preparation of cars to the documentation process, done in a “transparent manner”.

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Mercedes-Benz moved quickly during the pandemic to make things “hassle-free and transparent” for its buyers, while keeping a “sharp eye on customer sentiments”.

The famous ‘zero sales month’ of April 2020 saw the company launch ‘Merc from Home’. The focus of this initiative was to ease the purchasing of a vehicle, with digital tools facilitating the entire process including online payment of products and services.

“We saw a big shift to online purchase,” recalls Santosh Iyer, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Mercedes-Benz India. He explains that prior to the pandemic, the company was struggling with its dealers and partners on online car buying processes. “The lockdown changed this and made it easy for us to convince all our stakeholders,” Iyer informs. By the end of 2020, more than 15-20 per cent of Mercedes- Benz’ sales were coming from online.

This online interface was supported by backend operations that included preparation of cars to the documentation process, done in a “transparent manner”.

Elaborating on this, Iyer says, “We realised it was not enough to have a booking channel but to give transparency to our customers.” Mercedes- Benz strengthened this online shopping experience by connecting all its outlets across India to the ecommerce portal.

New Use Cases

Iyer informs that first online car sale for the company was from Rajkot. This was reflective that as markets opened up, it was the tier 2 and lower markets that recovered faster for Mercedes-Benz. The more important takeaway was the unprecedented use cases that came along at the time.

“Customers in lower tier markets were showing the aspiration to own luxury. We saw customers buying for intercity travel. Some of these were newer trends, and we adapted our marketing and communication strategy accordingly,” comments Iyer.

Being present via ecommerce platforms had already opened newer markets and customer pools for the carmaker. Another area that saw changes was in used cars.

“Smaller markets did not have access to used cars earlier. On our ecommerce platform, various dealers were hosting their inventory, pricing and deals. This was unique and led to traction in that segment as well,” Iyer points out.

Similar was the experience in accessories business, which grew manifold given people’s aspiration to own the “three-pointed star”. Iyer remarks, “For us this is a great way to open up the brand to new customers.”

Forward, Together

In September 2020, Mercedes-Benz launched a customer campaign ‘Unlock New Journeys with Mercedes-Benz’, which ran till the festive season. This integrated marketing campaign aimed at connecting with customer sentiments and inspired them to unlock their potential by exploring new journeys, and new experiences. Commenting on being part of the BW Business Top 50 Marketers list, Iyer says, “2020 was a tough year for all marketers. It showed the resilience of the community and the spirit to come back. At Mercedes-Benz, we were not only able to make the best out of the challenges we had faced, but we were able to do so by taking the industry ahead as well.”