Maruti redefines the art of selling in a digital world

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla | Updated on: Jan 31, 2019
Digital marketing push Maruti Suzuki created a special video ad series for the Ertiga called ‘Real Time Social’. -  S MURALIDHAR

Digital marketing push Maruti Suzuki created a special video ad series for the Ertiga called ‘Real Time Social’. - S MURALIDHAR

India’s top-selling car brand is moving quickly in the online retail space

The statistics are mind boggling.

These days, prospective car buyers use the internet for their research, typically searching for information on which model would suit their needs most, the best deals available for their budget, and customer reviews.

People tend to research online at every stage of the customer journey. In other words, countless digital micro-moments are now ruling the buying process.

It is in this backdrop that market leader Maruti Suzuki decided to get in on the action. “Affordable smartphones and mobile data plans have brought more and more people into the digital world and changed their content consumption patterns. A huge number of automobile buyers tend to watch online videos before buying a car,” says Tarun Garg, Executive Director, Marketing, Maruti Suzuki.

Online influence

An annual report by Google and Kantar TNS, which tracks consumers’ car research and purchase journey, underscores this huge shift with consumers. Almost 90 per cent of auto sales in India were digitally influenced in 2018, up from 74 per cent in 2016, according to ‘The Drive to Decide 2018’ report.

The report found that video (at 80 per cent), search (90 per cent) and brand or dealer websites (56 per cent) continue to be the strongest influencers transforming the automotive industry, and are key digital touchpoints that play a crucial role in influencing a car-buyer’s decision.

With online an indispensable research source, and India hosting over 460 million smartphone users, Maruti realised it was time to move metal in a digital world and “to experiment and innovate content and formats designed for digital platforms”. The auto-maker decided to create new ads and content for its digital audience. For its Ertiga, the company created a series of ads titled ‘Real Time Social’ to market the car in a fairly cluttered automobile space.

A story of four friends who decide to go on a road trip away from smartphones, the advertisements highlighted the friends exploring the offline world to discover Real Time Social experiences.

The Ertiga Real Time Social video web series for YouTube, which were short two-three minute videos highlighting the journey of a group of friends, garnered over seven million views. The Ertiga launch also saw the creation of mobile-first ads and creatives and formats.

Carry on

For its Super Carry, a mini pick-up truck, Dentsu Impact, the creative agency from the Dentsu Aegis Network, created a new campaign to celebrate the pan-India launch of the commercial vehicle. The ‘Dumdaar’ campaign highlighted the features of the mini truck, depicting easy handling and stability of the deck across different geographical terrains, mileage, drivability throughout long commutes and reliability of the vehicle.

A new digital medium was also used. “For Super Carry, we released WhatsApp-only films for Tier 2 and Tier 3 town audiences, based on insight of WhatsApp being a potent engagement platform for commercial segment customers,” says Garg.

For the Vitara Brezza, the company released a new web ad series called ‘Outglammed’ for its sub-four metre SUV. The first ad shows an actress arriving in a Brezza before a group of waiting photographers. What happens next is what puts the arc lights on the SUV.

Three similar ads followed. The Vitara Brezza Outglammed videos garnered 77 million impressions and 19.3 million views. The automobile brand decided to go one step further with its Maruti Suzuki Arena, a trendy, social and connected car-buying platform.

The Arena dealerships bring intelligent architecture, latest technology, interactive equipment, and a seamless integration of the virtual and real-world, making a blend of technology and digitalisation.

Maruti launched the online video content repositories with Arena World and Nexa World, with over 250-plus online content pieces. Through online video, the company feels, consumers are able to experience parts of the shopping journey that previously could only be done at the dealer, including vehicle walk-arounds, product demonstrations, and video test drives.

Heard of the saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words?’ Then how much is a three-minute video worth? Three minutes of footage multiplied by 25 frames per second increased by 1,000 equals... a lot. You do the math.

Videos for the web

This is when the company decided it was time to jump on the video wagon. “With two billion video views at Maruti Suzuki, we have moved from traditional television commercials in 16:9 aspect ratio to 1:1 square format for users on Facebook and Instagram,” says Garg.

“Vertical videos that take up the full screen of the mobile have become a way for us. This makes it more convenient for consumers,” he adds. This ‘digital mindset’ has also been incorporated in the company’s marketing communication planning.

Videos are helping the brand advance in the brand discovery and consideration stages, possibly accelerating the lengthy and unpredictable automotive sales cycles.

The company is also using 3D real-life interactive creatives to drive thumb-stopping action on mobile feeds for its Nexa Blue campaign. Nexa Blue is a signature shade that has been created exclusively for Nexa-retailed cars.

Fuelled by innovations in technology and media, the automobile industry is experiencing another period of disruption — this time from a smaller screen. Video content is taking over the web. Data shows this year, video content will account for 80 per cent of global internet traffic. More than 64 per cent of consumers buy a product after they watch a video. One billion hours are spent on YouTube daily. These are the headlines: Do you see a trend?

Maruti did. As did the Google and Kantar TNS study, which showed online video playing a significant role in the purchase journey of an automobile buyer.

Influence on buying

Over the last two years, the percentage of online video usage by consumers has nearly doubled from 43 per cent in 2016 to 80 per cent in 2018. The study highlights that videos not only act as a platform for discovery but also as ‘buyers consulting zone’ that allows them to explore the car from different perspectives and get actionable insights.

The study also showed that 87 per cent of those who watched online videos either visited the dealership (52 per cent), scheduled a test drive (45 per cent), requested a price quote (40 per cent) or further researched finance and lease offers (27 per cent).

Elaborating on the report, Vikas Agnihotri, Country Director-Sales, Google India, says that from searching for manufacturers and dealers online, buyers today are “actively looking for videos to answer their questions around car features to reviews to vehicle performance and more. Consequently, the focus for auto manufacturers has also moved to creating more immersive experiences that allow them to drive this action”.

Published on January 31, 2019
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