Mercedes Benz just announced a sales strategy called “Best Customer Experience 4.0” whose goal is get 25% online sale by 2025.
The car dealership is one of the more outdated aspect of the automotive industry. Most of the time a sales guys decides at a glance if they think you’re going to buy a car. As an industry, automotive was slow to embrace the concept of digitization and needed a company like Tesla to come in and shake things up. Of the traditional German car industry Mercedes has always been one of the most forward thinking.
Back in 2013, Mercedes has changed the way it interacts with them and launched its “Best Customer Experience”. It was designed to deal with a more informed and digital-savvy consumers.
“Almost everyone owns a smartphone and expects to be connected all the time. Cars today are smartphones on wheels, and the car becomes your personal companion,” said Britta Seeger, board member for Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales & Marketing, at the launch of “Best Customer Experience” 4.0 in The Hague, Netherlands.
Achieving 25% online sales by 2025 is an aggressive one but not unrealistic. car buyers now do about 19 hours of research before walking into a showroom. Mercedes has created a new customer journey that essentially begins on Instagram or social media and ends up in a completely revamped car dealership.
I don’t believe that people are buying cars from Instagram but it’s an interesting proposition. I’ll be writing about this concept next week, but for now let’s start the journey by seeing an image campaign while scrolling through social media. I’m not convinced that people are initially influenced to buy a car from Instagram or social media, but we’re going to debate this idea in a separate article. The customer journey with Mercedes really begins when the customer goes to sign up for the Mercedes Me where they can learn about the cars and configure their own. The app isn’t just about buying a car, it’s where the customer will engage with all of the Mercedes digital services. If you’re skeptical that downloading this app leads to sales, the Mercedes me activation rate for new Mercedes-Benz vehicles is over 90%, and the app has 3M users.
In the Mercedes Me app, in the app you’ll be able to see which dealerships have the exact model and configuration you’re after. You make an appointment and head on down to the dealership.
When you first enter you’re greeted by a “Star Assistant” who leads the front of house. They channel unscheduled visitors to the correct department via an iPad-operated CMS, alerting the department of their arrival.
This dramatically improves customer service since in most dealerships you’re left to wander around until a sales person decides to come out of their office. In my experience they’ve never been very helpful, I always had to bring my dad to get proper customer service.
This is where the model gets very interesting is if you’re there to look at a car the “Star Assistant” will get you a product specialist, these aren’t ales people, they don’t work on commission. They’re only job is to there to answer all of your questions. This takes the pressure off of the relationship, when you know someone is on commission you’re always a little on guard. And the sales person doesn’t want to waste their time when there is no commission.
The most revolutionary part of this model for me is the sales person’s commission has been reduced and the dealership commission now exists and is much higher. This team effort really creates a sense of community and would very much put me at ease if I was the one heading in to buy a car.
Customers who are considering a new Mercedes-Benz can now have a 48-hour test drive.
Once you’ve made the decision to buy you’ll meet with a sales associate in one of their private offices. This concept has only been in action a few months, so they’re not releasing data on how effective the change has been to for sales conversions. However, sales leads have increased significantly and now the sales people are only dealing with people how have a genuine interest in making a purchase.
Once the negotiations are over and you’ve made your purchase Mercedes has worked very hard to create an emotional experience around your car.
The hand over process is quite the production, the experience is different in each country but expect a light show and an unveiling.
The key is also handed over in a dramatic fashion, the thing is also filmed by the dealership for you to watch again and share with your friends.
The new customer experience after you take your Mercedes Benz home
The Mercedes Me app is still at the center of the experience, the customer contact across all channels – no matter whether the customer the Mercedes me app uses, uses the multimedia systems in the car, moving on the World Wide Web or is to recognize a customer consultant on-site at the dealership on the ID.
The Mercedes Me app will remind you that you need an oil change, or some kind of service.
At the new Netherlands dealership, a CMS system uses automated numberplate recognition (ANPR) to greet service customers and direct them to drive-in aftersales bays.
You’ll go over your repair with the mechanic, all of the information with the mechanic and the app will let you know the status of your repair.
There is a large service bay but there is also another service center in which feels more like a technicians lab than an auto repair shop. In case it wasn’t clear you’re driving a computer on wheels, this should serve as a reminder.
The customer will find out through the app how the service of their car is going and when it will be finished.
Physical services are only a small part of the relationship that Mercedes is focused on.
Mercedes Me Store app that allows automatic upgrades. These can allow the owner’s smartphone to become the car’s key, for example.
There is also an electric vehicle app that will provide sat-nav bespoke routes that take in charging bays where energy can be paid for via the app. This development has been added to coincide with the launch of Mercedes-Benz’s first full-electric vehicle, the EQC SUV.
The Bertha app allows even non-Mercedes owners to visit partner petrol stations and pay for fuel from their smartphone app, while Mercedes Me Parking gives a register of available spaces and navigates users to them while also allowing payment.
The car-maker is trialing a car-sharing app that allows multiple users to have access to a single car. It has a special key that is left in the vehicle as users can request and schedule periods of usage and gain access to the vehicle via their smartphone.
Car Dealerships of the future are also Pop Ups
The point of sale is becoming the point of experience. Pop-up Mercedes stores at shopping malls and other venues bring the brand to where customers are, while dealerships have become more hi-tech and interactive with car information and videos presented on large digital screens.
Their goal is to make a buying a Mercedes-Benz as easy as ordering a book online. They expect that by 2025, 25% of Mercedes’ worldwide sales will take place online.
Among all the digitisation, the human touch remains a core element and most customers — as information-empowered and digital-savvy as they are — still want to speak to a person at the dealership before signing on the dotted line.
More than 80% of customers would still like to get personal advice and take test drives. Physical sales will continue to be indispensable for the brand.
Car dealerships aren’t typically in the city center or easy to access. The pop ups are an important part of their strategy to get people into their car dealerships.
The role of the car dealership in the future of mobility
The prospect of traditional auto retailing shifting to a mobility-as-a-service industry is moving ever-closer to reality, as evidenced by more automakers forming partnerships with car-sharing, ride-hailing services and tech companies. But as the mobility market takes shape, what role will auto dealers play?
The answer is a critical one. Auto dealerships will remain the lynchpin of automotive distribution at a time when such support could never be needed more. The stakes for both automaker and dealer to succeed could never be higher. Constant improvements in autonomous vehicle technologies are helping to create a mobility services sector that could re-define how auto industry profitability is generated, as car companies, auto dealers and new-market entrants shift to mobility service providers.
Mercedes Benz has made significant strides forward to abandon old attitudes that have held the car dealership back from evolving with changing customer needs.