DUBAI: During Ramadan, almost the entire automobile category demonstrated an aggressive marketing effort to generate heightened awareness and interest for their new models with fiercely enticing offers. There were offers of 0 per cent interest rates and zero down payment contribution to complementary insurance or deferred payment plans, with some brands even claiming to offer free lifetime service.
With such great offers, one would possibly assume nothing can go wrong in closing the sale, right? So, did these campaigns succeed in achieving their goal?
If the sole objective of brands was to drive footfall, then looking at the number of people checking out cars after 10pm in these showrooms, my guess would be, these campaigns have done a great job, with some better than others. However, it would be interesting to see the conversion rate between those walking into the showroom and those who actually signed up.
By the absolute number of showroom visitors, one would either assume buyer sentiment has changed for the better and economy has started to look up. Or alternately it’s the sheer marketing genius that have nudged these people to visit showrooms and at least consider exploring the offers.
I became unusually conscious observing every car brand on the streets, in the parking lots and on the billboards. Chats with friends focused singularly about the best options and deals out there. I simultaneously explored and researched brands’ online, particularly the ones I had a positive brand affinity with. In no time, a few clever brands on Instagram were targeting me with the new models and features, while others detailing out the Ramadan offers with an opportunity to book a test drive.
Clearly it was digital marketing demonstrating what it does best. In one instance, I even received an almost immediate request to chat online (even though it was around midnight) to acknowledge my submission of inquiry form online.
Each of these actions were checking the box for me in terms of good to great marketing effort, reiterating my belief that a conventional linear customer journey was dead! Access to digital devices, particularly the mobile phone, had given me control.
I had started to expect responses almost immediately to address my curiosity about the brands and offers. It’s these intent-rich moments that had started to redefine my journey and, of course, the traditional marketing funnel.
Anyway, that’s not what this article is really about. It was evident that most marketers were doing a decent job with driving awareness. But clearly there were equally important areas marketers could pay attention to drive conversions.
At the bare minimum, there were seven missed opportunities for brands to get potential customers to convert:
■ Empowering customer service
Most of the customer service agents who called did so only to acknowledge receipt of the inquiry form, with absolutely no or little knowledge of the product or the offers. And ended the call by saying the details would be passed onto the sales team. These calls instead could have been easily leveraged to better understand the customer requirement — what they are looking for in a car, do they have any criteria, which other brands they are considering, etc. Information that could have been super useful for any sales executive to address in the next interaction. Neither of the brands’ sales teams made any follow up calls.
■ Enabling test drive
One sales team followed up requesting for a preferred date/time for a test drive. However showroom timings during Ramadan seemed challenging: With showrooms open in the morning (during office hours) or post 9pm. Instead, they could have requested for my office/residence details or suggested sending a car over for a test drive. Perhaps that would have added some more points favourably — instead they stopped following up altogether.
■ Showroom experience
With a brand shortlisted in my head, I visited the showroom and test drove my preferred car. But since it was me alone, I needed some validation of my choice prior to booking it, so decided to go back with a friend. On my second and third visits, not only was the staff too busy to attend to me, they couldn’t offer someone I could do a test drive with, despite waiting for 20 minutes. In my view, this was the biggest missed opportunity. I was personally sold on this car, and only needed a validation from my friend. And they couldn’t let me test drive the car, thereby losing out on the potential sale.
■ Sales team interaction
Neither an apology or even a follow-up call was offered after I walked out of the showroom after 20 minutes.
■ Price advantage
Brands could have done a better job of listing the offer and illustrating the true benefit of Ramadan promotions. We have strong emotional reactions to price signals. Psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky suggest our perception and behaviour change, which is relative.
Framing a price that involves a discount influences our perception of its value. We buy if we perceive the gain (purchasing a car) outweighs the loss (paying a price of it). A phenomena they explain as a “Prospect Theory”.
Consumers are known to feel better about handing over money for a discounted item than the same amount for a non-discounted item.
In short, brands could have better amplified the value of the savings or packaged their offers better with the Ramadan offer.
■ Lethargy in advertising communication
Most brands ran the same campaign through Ramadan right up to Eid. Brands could have truly leveraged pre-Eid period to build a sense of urgency — amplifying the end of discount period and how prices would revert to the original price.
Brands could have shifted the reference point so potential customers start to compare Ramadan prices with the higher price in the future. Since some of us are loss-averse while others are regret-averse, this would have nudged people who are procrastinating feel they are taking on a future loss if they don’t buy during Ramadan while the discount is still available.
Thus, expiry warnings would have been a great way to nudge potential customers to take action and avoid that feeling of regret.
In essence, brands could dramatically bring down their cost of customer acquisitions, increase word of mouth and improve the brand health by simply revisiting the overall customer journey.
It would reiterate my conviction that brand affinity and sales would be directly proportionate to the depth of engagement and experience.
Tej Desai is Strategy Director at BPG Max