This festive season will be a bit Kafkaesque for the auto marketer…disorienting and complex. While the overall customer sentiment is still down, there are some who wish to buy a new vehicle. You would never want to miss out on this opportunity, but supply is crippled due to the chip shortage. The customer wants a deal, but you do not have enough vehicles to even justify a discount. Your finance colleagues want you to cut down on all ‘unnecessary’ spending and save up for the upswing. This is surely a unique situation.
New products like the Tata Punch will get eyeballs and footfalls. If you are a Kia or Nissan that is basically selling SUV styles, you are riding a wave. What if you are a Maruti Suzuki that has nothing new to offer, or a Citroën that has no clear mind-space to occupy? Should you just wait for the market to recover or should you proact?
For established brands that have no new products to show, this is the right time to reconnect with your existing customers to know them better. In the usual rush to sell to new customers, the marketer tends to neglect the existing ones.
Recreate the brand through engagements and experiences. Address all the minor issues they are facing which could otherwise not be addressed. Work with your network partners in creating unique experiences for them at the showrooms in the form of food festivals, art competitions, cultural shows, and customer redressal forums. Maruti Suzuki could do a Sushi & Sashimi Festival, while MG could do a pucca British Fish & Chips one.
Let them experience all your products and give your constructive feedback. Get your engineers and designers to be part of the process. There should be no transactional motive at all. It must be purely immersive experiences, sensory and unique to the brand and its provenance. There cannot be a better time to build stronger brand advocates.
For the new entrants in the Indian market who are yet to find their desired place, this is the time to build your brand one-on-one with the prospects and fence sitters. Spend more time sharing your stories and legacy. Let them test drive your vehicles for longer, as many times as he or she wants at any time of day or night without any compulsion of taking a decision.
For the ones who do convert to your brand, look at reward systems inspired by the durables and service industries. Look at cashbacks and 45-day returns. Though transactional, they are surely disruptive and never tried by the more established brands.
Steve Jobs had once commented that a market slump or slowdown was the best time to invest in new ways of building enduring customer bonds.
There is nothing called a ‘lull period’ for the auto marketer. And never a dull moment.
Wishing you all a terrific festive season. Be the light. Spread the light.