Aishwarya Ramesh

“Digital sources make up 30 per cent of Hyundai India’s sales inquiries": Tarun Garg

Google's latest report talks about the different trends that are driving the auto industry’s shift to dealer digitisation.

Despite the current (Coronavirus pandemic) situation, the purchase intent for cars in India hasn't slowed and, in some cases, it has even accelerated. Google's latest blog post deals with the need for dealer digitisation and omnichannel presence in an uncertain and ever-changing environment. The auto industry is now on the lookout for alternative ways to connect with customers online and future-proof its recovery.

Digital consumption is at an all-time high in India, with people spending an additional two hours more online per week. The uptick in consumption is uncovering changes in consumer search behaviour, such as an increase in the time spent researching (for) cars.

The pandemic has accelerated trends in the auto industry that were already underway, but had not yet been widely adopted. As people continue to spend more time online, these trends will likely become the new normal when operations reopen — underscoring the idea that most opportunities to influence consumers through touchpoints are now digital.

Consumer behaviour shifts suggest that auto brands that further digitise the car buying experience are better poised for post-pandemic success. Expectations are changing, and now more than ever, people want the ability to buy and engage with the brand from the comfort of their home.

To help auto brands apply the right strategies to their recovery roadmaps, here are three key trends brand marketers and dealer principals should consider as they shift gears for the future.

Customer intent is steady, despite market concerns

As a result of the pandemic, we’re starting to see a rise in consumers’ desire for their own personal mode of transportation. The personal spaces where people find comfort include their homes and their own automobiles.

Online intent for automobile purchases in India is back to pre-lockdown levels after a 30-35 per cent drop. The India Auto Pulse report also found that over 45 per cent of the consumers plan to buy a new car sooner, despite some markets reporting a recession.

Customers want the dealership brought to them

Over the years, the window to influence purchase decisions through offline efforts has got smaller. The average number of visits to dealerships in India fell by 50 per cent over the last three years, from 2016 to 2019.

Now with the lockdowns and strict travel bans in place across India, COVID-19 has made some consumers reluctant to visit car dealerships and, as a result, walk-ins are even fewer. To aid business recovery, businesses are encouraged to take their dealerships to customers online.

Four out of every five people living in India, who are considering buying a car, said they would use an online purchase option if it were available. Moreover, nearly a third of all potential buyers would buy a car sooner if they had an online option and could avoid visiting a dealership.

“Digital sources make up 30 per cent of Hyundai India’s sales inquiries": Tarun Garg

Shashank Srivastava, Maruti Suzuki’s executive director of sales and marketing, says web-based sales inquiries have risen from three to 39 per cent over the last three years, a finding that suggests car buyers want auto dealers to make it easier for them to purchase from home.

Shashank Srivastava
Shashank Srivastava

“As walk-ins to showrooms have significantly reduced, we are working with auto dealers to engage with customers on digital platforms," says Srivastava. He adds that today, 21 out of 26 touchpoints of the consumer’s journey with the dealerships are digital.

Customers want a seamless personalised purchase experience

More than 90 per cent of car buyers turn to online search seeking information from carmakers and brand websites, YouTube, and professional and consumer reviews.

Among their expectations are a seamless online experience, including a faster turnaround to their queries. In fact, 56 per cent of car buyers say they visit a dealer’s website during their research journey, which is up from 40 per cent in 2017, while 60 per cent of car buyers research online to find their local dealership — an increase of more than 10 percentage points from 2016.

“Digital sources make up 30 per cent of Hyundai India’s sales inquiries": Tarun Garg

Tarun Garg, Hyundai Motor India’s director of sales and marketing, says online car research has gradually increased over the last two years. “Digital sources are now contributing close to 30 per cent to Hyundai India’s sales inquiries,” he says.

Social distancing requirements make online discovery even more attractive to car buyers. Therefore, auto dealers should invest in digital platforms and upskill their sales teams to secure digital consumers.

You can read the full post here.