Mercedes Benz brought me to The Hauge a few weeks ago to see a brand new dealership touting a brand new way of selling cars: The Best Customer Experience 4.0. I believe that Mercedes has made a significant step in the right direction to reinventing the way that we buy cars. To me, their goal of achieving 25% online sales by 2025 seems inline with industry trends of digitization. What struck me as strange was the customer journey began on social media, Instagram was specifically mentioned.
I couldn’t help but wonder: Are we really buying cars from Instagram?
A few days after the is even the New York Times published an article with a title that seemed to answer my question: People are buying really expensive cars on Instagram.
If the rich and famous area already doing it, I guess eventually you and I must be next. The article is about Mr. Whittington and his business partner Jamie Foxx have moved millions of dollars in exotic high-end cars through his Instagram account. The first car Whittington sold was a rare, six-wheeled Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6×6. Most sales through the account ar based on a single photo or a 10-second video clip. The photo of the Mercedes 6×6 didn’t even show the car, it was a close up of part of the trunk. For rapper TMG Fresh that was enough to send a DM and follow up with a seven-figure wire transfer.
These stories seem so far removed from my reality.
Sure rappers are buying cars, but will normal people buy cars on Instagram?
Mercedes Benz informed me that average car buyer does 19 hours of research before stepping foot into a dealership to do a test drive. Nearly a day of that persons life is spent watching YouTube videos, reading reviews and consumer reports and talking to friends. When you look at the amount of time spent online before going to see the car up close, it doesn’t seem that far fetched that seeing a post on Instagram could be the start of the customer journey to buying a car. I’m mean, you’re already online?
I made a pretty big leap there.
To be clear, no one I know will drop 5 figures on a car because an Influencer took a dope shot of a car. But there is no denying that brands are spending more and more of their marketing budget on Influencers and their image campaigns.
In the smartphone world, Huawei was one of the first to heavily favor Instagrams over journalists and bloggers. When Huawei launched the Mate 20 they paid a lifestyle YouTuber a stupid amount of money for content, he said the phone had 4 cameras, when it only had 3.
Image campaigns have no substance, but if we take an expensive yet affordable purchase that the average person can afford, it worked for Huawei. Other brands are following suit, at the Note 10 launch next week some countries choose to only fly Influencers to New York over substance based publications.
If it worked for Smartphones, why wouldn’t it work for cars?
I’m the kind of girl who tends to think the glass is half full and if given the choice you’ll find me walking down the sunny side of the street. So for humanities sake I hope that we haven’t devolved to the point where we would buy cars form Instagram.
The truth is that Mercedes is actively tracking the user journey and they are moving people from social media to their various channels. Online, offline they’re going to be where the customer. Right now, their mission to achieve 25% only sales in 6 years the journey for them begins on Instagram and social media.
People are buying used cars only using VR in China
Everything in China is almost always on the next level, so the fact that people are buying used cars using on VR is surprising but I guess not shocking. The move towards used cars comes from the recent economic slowdown which is leading more and more ordinary Chinese to the second-hand car market.
According to the South China Morning Post, you can make the purchase via a mobile app called Uxin, a Nasdaq-listed second-hand car online marketplace that uses a virtual reality-based feature to generate a high-definition 360-degree panoramic image of a vehicle, allowing customers to see inside and out and zoom in.
Huh, I guess, we are going to buy cars from Instagram
As much as I wish that substance would win out over style the New York Times article lays it out in black and white. Those who have wealth will spend it on a whim and on things they deem beautiful. And that’s their prerogative.
The trend that everyone seems to be leaving out when they speak about the future of buying a car is that it’s dying. Car ownership is becoming a thing of the past. Subscription models are rolling out and they remove the maintenance responsibility from the “owner”. In urban centers, we’re already seeing car and ride-sharing replace car ownership with Mellienials. If we just look at the trend of subscription models replacing car ownership there is a lot to love, Insurance is included, you return it after a year or two and maintenance is taken care of.
The future of mobility won’t involve car ownership except for car enthusiast collector.
For the rest of us since we’ll have embraced alternative forms of mobility and since we won’t be owning the a car in the traditional sense all the things that used to matter: reliability, value, cost of maintenance will be a thing of the past and we too will be able to scoll Instagram and buy our next car, just like rapper TMG Fresh.