Focus on risks to refine automotive enterprise digital marketing systems          

With advances in epidemic control and people returning to work, production and other operations of automotive enterprises and dealers are gradually returning to normal. According to Deloitte' Risk Advisory's Ten Steps for Enterprises to Fight the Epidemic, now COVID-19 is moving in a more positive direction, automotive sector practitioners should review its impact, and use it as an opportunity to upgrade enterprise management mechanisms and modernize governance and business management.

The COVID-19 outbreak coincided with the winter in China's auto market, with consumer demand suppressed or postponed, affecting the normal sales activities of auto businesses and dealers, and complicating the recovery of the entire sector. One of the most obvious impacts of epidemic controls on the automotive industry was plummeting offline consumer activity and a surge in online interaction. Now, to address customer demand and elevate their marketing efforts, auto companies and dealers are rapidly ramping up their resources in digital marketing, introducing new online advertising methods and content, which should provide strong-but-limited support for new car sales despite the epidemic.

With a sudden acceleration in digital marketing, auto businesses face four hidden risks that could end up hindering their long-term growth, namely:

Strategic risk: Most systems, functions, and channels that are put online quickly in a special period tend to lack big-picture thinking, which can sabotage online marketing at the macro level and make the long-term effectiveness of digital marketing uncertain.

Compliance risk: The absence of unified standards and guidelines for digital marketing in the automotive sector create an environment of hasty publication and eye-catching content from unknown or unauthorized sources, exposing auto companies to internal and external compliance risks.

Operational risk: Digital marketing activities that fail to connect with the overall marketing and sales plan of a company, or serve only as “a flash in the pan” amid the COVID-19 outbreak, cannot support lasting business growth after production resumes.

Financial risk: A lack of comprehensive and effective input-output management for digital marketing among most businesses could easily result in inefficient investment and wasted resources.

When resuming business, automotive companies need to run a full scan of their digital risks to prepare for medium- and long-term competition. In this article, based on our analysis of digital marketing risks, we provide deep insights into how to they can build closed-loop digital marketing systems in a post-epidemic ecosystem from the following perspectives: full-scale and multifaceted digital marketing channel planning; establishment and implementation of an efficient, unified, multi-channel management system; organic connection of digital marketing and offline sales; evaluation of channel efficiency and optimization of resource inputs.

Building a comprehensive, multifaceted, closed-loop management-based digital marketing ecosystem
Integrate digital marketing channels to address specific needs at each stage of the customer journey based on comprehensive, multifaceted planning

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, most automotive companies have launched online marketing channels, including their own APPs, Weibo, WeChat, or vertical media, and begun to try new methods such as live streaming and short videos. However, their current online channels often have duplicated content and conflicting functions, and rarely address key customer needs such as one-click inquiries and online customer services. This is because any single online channel focuses on specific but limited areas, so can only satisfy requirements at one or a few stages of the customer journey. To keep pace with user demand, companies should have a thorough understanding and analysis of customer requirements as well as their business goals to build comprehensive, multifaceted online marketing channel systems. In doing so, they can find the most suitable channels for user needs with well-aligned, connected functions and content across channels, enhancing the customer experience while avoiding repeated input of resources.

For marketing to fans, potential customers and existing customers, Deloitte recommends focusing on the following digital marketing channels that meet the needs of specific stages of the customer journey:

Fan marketing: Focus on advertising via highly interactive digital channels such as live streaming and short video platforms, rapidly pairing this with marketing initiatives. This can include providing real-time online customer services to answer customer questions and responding to users' concerns during live streaming introductions, evaluations and KOL sales, as well as adding links in online showrooms to collect purchase intention and sales lead data.

Potential customer marketing: Focus on using automotive enterprises' and dealers' self-owned online platforms, social media and e-commerce accounts that already have strong follower numbers, and provide introductions by professional sales consultants, 360° online car experiences, VR intelligent exhibition halls and other functions that can direct potential customers to dealers' sales consultants and smoothly translate online sales into offline purchases.

Existing customer marketing: Rely on APPs, WeChat public accounts and mini programs for after-sales services including online maintenance and reservation, one-click rescue and remote electronic renewal, combined with 24-hour remote services such as intelligent online customer interaction to respond promptly to customers' use and maintenance problems, as well as connect with online sales channels to realize one-click ordering of service packages and spare parts.

Create an efficient, unified, multi-channel marketing ecosystem with various online channels, based on overall marketing strategy and high-precision customer portraits

To increase exposure during the COVID-19 epidemic, auto companies have launched various marketing activities with diverse content and methods to draw consumers. However, their lack of standard digital marketing systems has created a range of problems, including badly targeted content, communications platform-audience mismatches and compliance risks with some content, which can damage their brand images and waste resources.

With all these different digital marketing channels, automotive enterprises need to develop unified operating standards and processes, as well as provide training and guidance to related departments and dealers:

  • Define user needs: Identify user preferences for content, activities and other elements through surveys and data analysis to formulate unified guidance for online advertising.
  • Unify user perception and experience: Develop a unified visual identity and interactive experience standards applicable to different online marketing channels.
  • Realize cross-platform collaboration: Standardize cooperation using mutual referencing and search diversion.
  • Standardize content and activities: Publish unified content and activity standards, including criteria for text, pictures, videos and events.
  • Improve data collection: Develop unified monitoring standards for online data, including user profiles, field dimensions and statistical frequency.
  • Provide agile IT support: Build standardized, agile process specifications and resources for IT problems and online marketing requirements.

In the short-term context of the epidemic, after the establishment of these standards and systems, automakers should provide guidance and services for their implementation to related departments and dealers. In the medium and long term, as operations return to normal and digital marketing systems keep improving, they should establish an assessment system to promote sound development.

Connect online digital marketing ecosystem and offline business implementation to build an integrated marketing system

Sales conversion is a core objective. Automotive businesses and dealers should establish operational and conversion processes that improve "online sales funnels". These should connect and form a "one-two punch" with traditional offline sales and existing customers to promote sales conversion and marketing.

An "online sales funnel" includes generating traffic and retaining sales leads (media reach, clicks, redirects, information retention), remote experiences and online negotiations, store appointments and digital support, which all contribute to store visits and sales conversion. Unlike an "offline" or traditional sales funnel, an online sales funnel relies on online technology to complete most of the links in the process, from information on leads to follow ups by sales consultants and user experience feedback. However, this imposes new requirements on a company's technology and online service capacity. We recommend establishing an integrated sales system with online and offline marketing resources, comprising:

Online customer attraction and information retention: Link organically to digital marketing system to attract customers from key online marketing channels (such as live streaming and short video platforms); set up selection criteria for online sales leads and retain qualifying information; include online leads in the sales lead management systems or provide to local dealers for follow-up.

Remote experience and online negotiation: Provide digital displays of brands and products, such as virtual exhibition halls with the support of AR, VR and other technologies, and test drive videos for customers to watch online; use negotiation tools such as WeChat to establish good interaction with customers; implement traditional offline sales processes such as customer demand analysis, product and service queries, and sales negotiation on online platforms supported by remote technology.

Appointment and digital support before potential buyers enter a store: Keep using the convenience of online services to schedule appointments for store visits to shorten users' waiting time; explore value-added services such as 24-hour door-to-door delivery of cars for test drives or purchase processing, as well as online financial and insurance provision; provide digital introductions to products and services, and introduce digital means such as intelligent voice service robots to respond promptly to user needs.

Strengthen digital support for existing customer marketing: Due to the impact of the epidemic, stimulating marketing and new sales has become a key task this year for automotive enterprises, but there is little value in losing current customers while attracting new ones. In other words, auto businesses should further empower existing customer marketing with digital tools, providing online maintenance, repair, extension and renewal services to promote marketing "fission" and business value with existing customers.


Comprehensively evaluate the effectiveness of online channels to guide the effective input of marketing resources for the medium and long term, based on the effects of new media channels launched during the epidemic

Given the impact of the epidemic, lower costs and greater efficiency will be another important goal this year. Companies need to evaluate the input-output efficiency of every channel, create an efficiency management dashboard, and continuously add more efficient channels to optimize the impact of online marketing in parallel with omni-channel, multifaceted, digital marketing planning.

Build a digital marketing effect evaluation model: In addition to traditional CPM, CPC and other elements, businesses should establish standards for evaluating channel efficiency centered on CPL (cost per lead) to realize internal, "1ID" management of individual customers, track the target audience of each channel using technology, compare this with prospects successfully converted to sales in future cycles, was well as use modelling analysis and other approaches to quantitatively evaluate the input-output efficiency of each channel.

Form a digital marketing efficiency management dashboard: Divide and refine quantitative evaluation results based on digital marketing channel, launch region, audience type, input-output efficiency, etc., and develop an efficiency management dashboard with BI and other technologies to support management decision-making.

Adjust based on feedback for closed-loop enhancement: Continuously optimize online channel portfolios to form a management system for closed-loop enhancement according to quantitative analysis of channels' input-output efficiency.

As the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus shows more positive effects, and production and operation of automotive businesses and dealers gets back on track, traditional offline business will stabilize and progressively recover. COVID-19 is not a decisive event in automotive companies' digital marketing competition, but a "clarion call" in an ongoing contest. While working together to solve the coronavirus crisis, auto sector stakeholders should carefully consider the pain points that have emerged. This will allow them to build solid foundations for digital marketing systems, while organically blending in traditional offline marketing to form a "one-two punch". This is how they can attain first mover advantage in omni-channel marketing and sales competition over the medium and long term.

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