Maruti Suzuki India makes ‘digital’ a critical part of its business model

G Balachadar Chennai | Updated on July 28, 2020 Published on July 28, 2020

Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director (Marketing & Sales)

Covid-19 has led to acceleration of digital capabilities

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) has embarked on a multi-pronged digital initiative to make the company resilient in the face of Covid-19-like unexpected events and stay competitive in the new business environment that is centred on digital technologies.

For Maruti Suzuki, digital is much more than just a communication medium and is now a critical part of its business model. Today, about one-fourth of its marketing budgets are dedicated to digital.

Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director (Marketing & Sales), Maruti Suzuki India, says digital adoption is not something new for the company.

Early digital adoption

MSIL’s digital journey started way back in 2005 with the implementation of centralised server-based dealer management system, while its shop floor operations deployed robots in paint shops and welding areas. Its digital capabilities have been evolving.

“As a result, in the past three years, we have seen that more than 80 per cent of customers’ purchase journey has become digital in some way or the other,” says Srivastava.

Covid-19 has only led to the acceleration of its digital capabilities. 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 etc.

“About five years ago, digital used to be an advertising medium only for most companies. It was never seen as a marketing channel. Digital is no longer an advertising medium only. But, we understood it long time back,” he adds while recalling MSIL’s move to set first social media command centres - Ignition - five years ago to listen to what its consumers say in real-time.

Rise in digital enquiries

Post-Covid-19, the company has seen an instant acceleration of digital share in enquiries. Today, digital is contributing to nearly 35 per cent of the enquiries, up from five per cent in 2018-19 and 13 per cent in 2019-20. “During the lockdown period, we saw more than 45 per cent of our enquiries coming from digital channels only,” he says.

While about 90 per cent of customers search online before buying a car today and most of pre-sales activities happen online, car buyers' journey still culminates in a physical showroom. Hence, Maruti has phygital model to strike a balance between an online and dealership experience for the customer.

“The dealership or the last mile is an important experience point on digital because when a customer is ready to buy, he is looking for a dealer. Dealers need to be present online to meet the customer needs, and to reach out to the customer proactively too,” says Srivastava.

Dealers go online

Under a programme, what the company calls India’s largest Dealer Digitisation Programme, it has brought more than 900 dealerships online for its customers to engage with. “Some of our large dealers are witnessing more enquiries from digital than walk-ins,” he adds.

Maruti is also working on a connected digital with CRM experience and also initiatives like Social CRM. This is mainly to be present online whenever the customer is looking for a car in the online space.

Explaining digital adoption in marketing and branding functions, Srivastava says it is easy to get caught in tech-orientation which builds strong efficiencies but runs the danger of making the engagement very mechanical and emotionless.

The challenge going forward will be to strike a balance between building efficiencies and creating a human connect.

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Published on July 28, 2020
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