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From an advertising medium to lifeline of business: Maruti Suzuki India’s Shashank Srivastava sheds light on digital’s transformation

In a conversation with, the Executive Director, Sales and Marketing at MSIL said digital has become the centre of all Maruti’s strategies, starting from customer acquisition to branding and marketing and dealer business. He also explains how digital enquiries have only accelerated after unlock

Shashank Srivastava

About five years ago, digital used to be only an advertising medium for most companies and was never seen as a marketing channel.

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Things have changed and today digital has become a way of life at Maruti Suzuki, with the Covid pandemic only accelerating the switchover.

The car manufacturer’s digital journey started way back in 2005 with the implementation of a centralised server-based dealer management system.

“The recent pandemic has only led to the acceleration of digital capabilities and now digital is at the centre of all Maruti’s strategies — be it customer acquisition, identifying customer needs, generating leads, branding and marketing and dealer business,” said Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director, Sales and Marketing, Maruti Suzuki India Limited.

Srivastava said 21 out of 25 touch points in an auto customer’s journey today are digital. 90% of customers search online before buying a car today. The company has seen similar trends in its internal customer profiling data and even a higher uptake in Maruti Nexa customers.

“Post unlocking, the company is seeing an instant acceleration of digital share in enquiries. During the lockdown period, it saw more than 45% enquiries coming from digital channels. The ratio was 3-4 % three years ago and 19% last year. This May-June, it increased to 32-35%,” Srivastava said.

For customer acquisition, Maruti Suzuki has started a personalised conversation with the customer, which culminates in a personalised experience at a dealership. It means staying connected to the customer throughout his/her lifetime. To provide this personalised experience, the brand has set up a content management system through Sitecore.

The system helps the brand to personalise communication to each customer depending on the digital signals in their purchase journey with MSIL (Maruti Suzuki India Ltd) and provide them the best experience.

“For us at Maruti Suzuki, social is a vital medium in not just putting out communication but also building a conversation with the consumers and being able to engage with them in a more personalised and human manner. We would like to keep our communication positive and optimistic,” Srivastava said.

The brand recently launched a pilot for one-of-its-kind finance marketplace on digital that assists a customer in his car-buying process by providing easy finance. Maruti Suzuki’s recent campaign on Swift Limitless Stories featuring Mary Kom and other prominent athletes, released on digital, salutes the spirit of being limitless across three films.

“Our key business initiative on car subscriptions has been launched digitally. We are also providing immersive experiences via 3D, AR and VR,” Srivastava said.

According to Srivastava, the challenge going forward for car brands will be to strike a balance between building efficiencies and creating a human connection.

To strike a balance between online and dealership experience for the customer, Maruti Suzuki has upgraded its model to phygital. The dealership or the last mile is an important experience point on digital because when a customer is ready to buy, he looks for a dealer.

Dealers need to be present online to meet the customer needs, and to reach out to the customer proactively too.  “In future we are planning to get the finance part also digitised,” said Srivastava.

Speaking on demand in the market, Srivastava said, “We see the rural markets bouncing back a little faster than the urban ones. This can be attributed to a good monsoon, better rabi harvesting and kharif sowing. The red and containment zones due to Covid-19 are more confined in urban areas. Rural sales now account for about 40% of the total sales from about 38-39% last year.”

There were zero retail sales in April due to the lockdown. After relaxations and new guidelines, June was a good representative of the demand with overall sales returning to 80-85% of the pre-Covid level.

Srivastava said long-term demand will be related to fundamentals of the economy.  Presently, there is a lot of uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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