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Audi has a strong hold on digitalisation & is investing heavily in it: Gaurav Sinha

The year 2019 was a challenging year for the automobile sector. 2020 was supposed to be more optimistic and expectations were there about some revival of this sector. Within the automotive industry, some of the industry experts felt that growth for luxury cars may be flat in 2020. Now, with the unprecedented situation that has arisen due to COVID-19, it has further derailed the growth of the automobile sector. But that has not hit the spirits of Audi. While the revival will take some time, but the team at Audi is planning various activities, both in Marketing and PR, to keep engaged with their audience.

Adgully spoke with Gaurav Sinha, Head of Marketing & PR, Audi India, to know more about staying relevant in the COVID-19 era, the company’s digitalisation journey, focus on customer centricity and much more.

Social distancing and working from home are being followed by many and as a result, the prospective buyer may not visit the showroom. How are you helping the prospect to get the showroom experience and what is your strategy when it comes to dealing and working with your showrooms?

PHYGITAL – physical plus digital – is going to be the way forward. While online sales and after-sales service will be relevant in the post-COVID-19 phase, dealerships will stay relevant as buying works differently in the luxury car market.

At Audi India, we have been ahead of the curve when it comes to customer-focused digital initiatives. We leaped into 2019 by becoming the first luxury car maker to unveil and introduce a digitalisation roadmap – “myAudi Connect”. We followed that up by being the first luxury car maker to introduce intelligent engaging and technology solutions across the customers’ journey.

We announced a vital step in our digitalisation journey with the roll-out of digital sales and after-sales offerings on May 11, 2020. The incorporation of Augmented Reality, a 360° Product Visualizer, and online bookings on the Audi India website bring the buying experience straight to a prospective customers’ fingertips.

We have had over 15,000 unique interactions, where audiences have interacted with AR and the 360° Product Visualizer in a span of 15 days since the introduction.

Through virtual reality, we are giving customers the opportunity to experience every detail of their individually configured car. Additionally, through augmented reality we give customers an option to view their Audi car in the comfort of their home on a digital device in miniature or actual size. Aspects of detailing the car even without looking at the actual car are possible through digitisation. All these features together allow a customer to experience and customise his/her car at the touch of their fingertips without even having to visit a showroom.

We have begun reopening our dealerships as per directives from the Government. Strict sanitization processes are being followed at all Audi India touch points.

Post the lockdown there will be a shift in consumer behaviour. What kind of behavioural shift are you expecting in the luxury segment and luxury car segment? How do you plan to counter and work your strategy to face this shift in consumer behaviour?

There will be a shift towards more digital research. People are generally becoming more comfortable with the concept of work from home and this will trickle down to other aspects of life. We are well equipped to cater to this buyer with our customer centric AR and VR initiatives. We have a strong hold on digitalisation and are investing heavily as we move forward.

Consumers may reassess their budgets. In the luxury car segment, it may not be an urgent buy since the business community will focus on stabilising their businesses before making a personal buy of this scale. On the other hand, there will also be a set of customers who will make that splurge to reward oneself; this set of customer follows the YOLO attitude in life. We anticipate the pre-owned car business picking up steam during this time. Audi India’s pre-owned car business: Audi Approved: plus has seen growth in 2019 when the overall car market fell; and we expect this growth to continue in 2020.

The media strategy for luxury brands is always a bit niche and selective. What is your current media strategy? Will you shift your media focus by leveraging digital more? Within digital, what will your be thinking to reach your niche audience?

Digital media is the dominant channel for the Audi customers as well as fans, more so in the current environment when social media is the default communication route for many. Having said that, traditional channels are still important for the brand, given our customer base.

We are focused on strengthening the pillars of prestige – awareness and premium luxury. We aim at achieving this by keeping our prospective and existing customers at the core of all our online and offline initiatives, and by focusing on developing an emotional connect through personalised experiences.

Brand communication on our digital and print channels is focused on leveraging the Audi attitude and creating a direct connect with our customers and fans. At the core of our brand lies Vorsprung. Believing in Vorsprung means believing in the future. Optimism and faith are part of our DNA.

Customer service is the backbone of any reputed automobile brand. With India now entering the Unlock 1 mode, how do you plan to manage this function?  Will you set up a special task force to manage this?

Audi India has an extremely strong sales and after-sales function that addresses the needs of customers pre-buying and post buying. The customer is at the core of our business and we work very closely with our dealer partners in ensuring they are well taken care of; we have a 24x7 road side assistance team, a 24x7 call center and customer care support team that works to ensure our customers have a hassle free experience with the brand.

As part of our digitalisation strategy we announced a vital step forward, with the commencement of online sales and after-sales support for customers. Customers can book their preferred Audi from the comfort of their living room, schedule a service appointment and have their cars picked up and dropped back to their residence.

More than 2/3rd of our workshops have begun operating and our dealerships in green and orange zones are operational with limited manpower. Even during the lockdown phase, our road side assistance teams and teams from sales and after-sales were in touch with customers to address their queries.

One of our key focus pillars is customer centricity. Through marketing and PR, we devise engagements and campaigns that are focused around engaging with customers and giving them information relevant to the brand. We also run campaigns that allow for customers to participate – for example, #FourRingsChallenge.

Public Relations will be another important tool for you to reach your audience. Has any separate strategy been devised for your PR campaign?  

Public relations has always been a focus for brand Audi. An effective PR approach for the brand helps deliver focused, strategic messages that you want to communicate. Our PR strategy is in line with the brands business strategy that focuses on four key pillars – Customer Centricity, Products, Network and Digitalisation.

PR and marketing work cohesively at Audi India to deliver well-crafted, focused messages to the media, customers and the overall target audience of the brand.

Marketing
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