Anticipating a shift in customer preferences when it comes to buying a car in the post-COVID-19 world, a number of manufacturers have swung into action online, and are rolling out digital sales platforms. Hyundai India, Tata Motors and BMW India have already introduced their platforms, and now, Mercedes-Benz India has opted to sell its entire range of cars online. So far, Mercedes' online 'Shop' only retailed used cars; but now it also offers buyers the option of choosing a new car from Mercedes' current portfolio under a new 'Merc from Home' campaign, which includes a number of initiatives. The full functionality of all the services and initiatives will only begin after May 4, 2020.
Powered by digital retail specialist Roadster.com, Mercedes-Benz India's 'Shop' for new cars lists out everything a buyer would need to know – from detailed specifications to the on-road price of the car. It even mentions smaller but important details, such as the availability of a particular model in a city, its VIN number, exterior and interior schemes, and it lets buyers unlock offers and view finance options too.
Speaking on the #LiveWithAutocar conversation on Instagram, Santosh Iyer, vice president, Sales and Marketing at Mercedes-Benz India, confirmed the company has sold over 150 pre-owned cars via its Shop in just the first quarter of calendar year 2020, and said the Shop is more than just an online booking platform – the complete purchase process has been taken online, and one of the distinguishing factors for the company will be what it calls an “online concierge” service, which is operational from 10am until midnight.
“Most customers do their research online today – they’ve mostly made up their mind by the time they come to the showroom. Our online sales platform will let customers buy a car online – including documentation – and one of the key differentiators for us will be an online sales concierge. The platform won’t leave everything up to the customer – there will be consultation available for commercial offers, negotiation and test drive and delivery as well. Everything on our sales platform is transparent – from availability to the spec of the car,” said Iyer.
Interestingly, Mercedes’ digital sales platform isn’t a direct business-to-consumer model, and involves dealers all across India, as customers can choose which dealership they want to buy their car from, depending on their location.
“The route we’ve followed is that access to the platform is based on your geography; this platform is by the dealer and for the dealer. There is a 'Shop' that belongs to each individual dealer in the region. The stock the customers view is what is available with the dealers, and the offers are also dealer-specific, and one can view the full package – including the on-road price of the car,” Iyer added.
In a previous conversation with Autocar India, Martin Schwenk, MD and CEO at Mercedes-Benz India, had said “We believe that ordering a car should be as easy as ordering food online – 25 percent of sales by 2025 will be online.” It remains to be seen if buyers do indeed opt to go digital with their purchase in the time to come, but it’s clear that carmakers are banking heavily on digital platforms to keep their businesses moving in these uncertain times.
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