Success in the future requires changes today. Mercedes-Benz is also following this maxim in marketing and sales, with its growth strategy “Mercedes-Benz 2020”.
By the year 2020 it is not only new products and vehicle segments that will ensure further growth, but also precise adaptation of the sales organization to changing customer wishes. At the Mercedes-Benz Brand Laboratory in Neuhausen auf den Fildern near Stuttgart, Dr. Joachim Schmidt, Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing Mercedes-Benz Cars, presented the key areas of the growth strategy in marketing and sales entitled “Mercedes-Benz 2020 – Best Customer Experience”. This consolidates numerous new approaches in marketing, sales and after-sales under a central maxim: offering customers a consistent premium-brand experience whenever they come into contact with the brand.
Customers nowadays expect highly individual and professional care during all their contacts with the brand, its products and services. As part of the ongoing product initiative and the associated objective of both tying loyal customers to the brand over the long term and also attracting younger target groups to the brand with new vehicle models, Mercedes-Benz is systematically placing the focus on the customer. This applies from the pre-purchase phase to the buying process and continues in after-sales.
“Within our growth strategy Mercedes-Benz 2020 we are also systematically developing our marketing and sales activities further. The paths to Mercedes-Benz are as varied as the personal preferences of customers. Among other aspects we are therefore making contact with the brand even more attractive, especially for new, modern target groups. This also includes addressing these directly in their personal environment with innovative, differentiated sales formats. At the same time we systematically employ digital elements during all customer contacts. To this end we offer our dealer network solutions that can be rapidly implemented,” Schmidt said during the presentation of “Mercedes-Benz 2020 – Best Customer Experience”.
Brand expansion and integrated marketing
In recent years, with a view to attracting new target groups as part of the compact car initiative, Mercedes-Benz has already modernized its brand image and directed its customer approach very specifically at the relevant customer target groups. For example, the launch campaign for the new A-Class was mainly directed at new, younger target groups. To this end the brand ran an extremely progressive marketing campaign with a greater emphasis on online activities. The online activities for the new A-Class alone reached more than eight million interested people. In the case of existing models the aim is to continue binding loyal customers to the brand with the help of innovative marketing tools. All the measures are designed to offer the customer a uniform and consistent brand and product experience.
Differentiated sales formats for individual customer contact at the retail level
The brand is also moving physically closer to customers, and addressing them directly in their day-to-day environment. This involves the use of both temporary and stationary formats. For the launch of the A-Class, Mercedes-Benz toured through 90 large European cities with pavilions for a period of three months. In this way alone, around 25,000 customers were able to test drive the new model. Currently Mercedes-Benz is presenting itself at the fairs in various townships of Hamburg with a mobile pop-up store in the form of a sea-container. This pavilion combines catering with an informal presentation of information relating to the brand and its products, and also offers the opportunity for a test drive. With such presentations the company is facilitating access to the brand and attracting prospective customers who previously had no contact with Mercedes-Benz. At these fairs in Hamburg, for example, it becomes apparent that more than 70 percent of the visitors do not drive a Mercedes-Benz, and that more than half have had no contact with a salesperson from the brand in the last five years. Due to the positive customer feedback, Mercedes-Benz will continuously expand these formats in the future.
Mercedes-Benz is also gradually expanding the existing, stationary inner-city formats. Very early on, Mercedes-Benz was one of the first manufacturers to open central, inner-city locations. The first urban brand outlet opened its doors back in 1995, on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. Today around 20 inner-city outlets in e.g. Berlin, Paris, Milan, Brussels, New York, Beijing or Tokyo are thrilling their visitors. Tokyo is one example of how successful they are: since it opened in July 2011, around one million people have visited the inner-city format “Mercedes-Benz Connection” in Tokyo. The resulting sales show a capture rate of almost 70 percent, so more than two thirds of these customers come from brands other than Mercedes-Benz. By 2020 the number of Mercedes-Benz Connection outlets worldwide will more than double.
Increased use of digital tools
Limited space in inner cities and a continuously growing product portfolio also require the increased use of digital presentation tools. In the age of the internet and social networks, modern customers in particular expect to be able to interact with a brand anywhere and at any time. While Mercedes-Benz had just 136,000 Facebook friends worldwide four years ago, that figure is now more than 22 million. At the retail level Mercedes-Benz is therefore increasingly supplementing its classic advisory and information activities with the use of interactive information consoles and tablets for the advisory process, combined with large, touch-sensitive screens. Decisive of their use is however always the added benefit for the customer. The digital elements are usable in modular form for rapid introduction into the existing sales system, as well as easy adaptation to international market circumstances.
In the future, Mercedes-Benz will be even more digital and closer to the customer with online stores. Before the end of this year, together with the company-owned sales and service outlets in Hamburg and Warsaw/Poland, the brand is launching the “Mercedes-Benz Connection Online”. The online sales shops will provide the company with important findings on how customers respond to such a digital sales channel, where the brand’s vehicles can be ordered and financed “anytime” and “anywhere”. During the final sales administration phase, and with a view to subsequent servicing, the existing dealers will naturally remain involved in this process and remain available to customers as a point of contact after the purchase. Into the future the Mercedes-Benz partners – own retail dealerships as well as distribution partners – will still remain the most important customer contact points for all activities. The inner-city formats will above all channel new customers to the classic dealerships.
Personalized customer management using all channels
15 years ago, Mercedes-Benz was the first automobile manufacturer to open the Customer Assistance Center (CAC) in Maastricht, providing a round-the-clock service for rapid accident assistance and general product and brand information. Since its foundation in 1998, about eleven million customers have benefited from the services offered by the CAC. Last year the personnel at the CAC handled around 800,000 enquiries. In future, supplementing the CAC, a “Customer Contact Center” will be available to customers with round-the-clock advice and assistance. This will be reachable in various ways, from the telephone to chat-lines. As the first point of contact for potential customers it will answer all questions relating to the brand, but also give online buying advice or refer customers to a dealer.
New job profiles added to the sales team
With additional job profiles Mercedes-Benz is also adapting its sales personnel to increasing digitization, and once again strictly directing its approach at customer needs. One example is mobile sales advisers using digital communication media. At customer request these visit and advice customers in their living or working environment, flexibly arrange test drives and hand over the vehicle where the customer requires. The first mobile sales assistants are already active in Warsaw/Poland.
Mercedes-Benz will continue its differentiated customer approach in after-sales
Personalizing the visit to a workshop is the aim of another initiative by Mercedes-Benz. Under the name “My Service”, Mercedes-Benz currently offers four service options individually tailored to different customer types in five countries: “Lite” (I want to take my car to the workshop today and collect it tomorrow), “Lounge” (I want to wait while my vehicle is being serviced), “Drive” (I want to remain mobile while my car is in the workshop) and “Collect” (I want the workshop to collect my car and return it to me). Following a successful launch phase, “My Service” is now gradually being expanded with new options and rolled out in additional locations.
Much more than a means of transport
The increasing networking of vehicles also opens up new possibilities in direct customer contact. At “MyMercedes”, Mercedes-Benz in Germany already consolidates various applications on a central, personalized online platform for contact between existing and potential customers and Mercedes-Benz. By 2016 the portal will be rolled out throughout Western Europe, with further functions gradually added. At present it provides information about the brand, products and services, and allows direct contact with Service and After-Sales. In the future this central portal will e.g. make it possible to make a workshop appointment online, reserve a rental car or pre-set vehicle functions. But in future the car itself will also increasingly be used as a medium for customer interaction. Just as a smartphone is much more than merely a communication device, a networked car will be much more than a means of transport in the future. It will know the habits of its users and adapt to their personal preferences. At the same time it will simplify customer communication with Mercedes-Benz Service.
Mercedes-Benz recognized the trend towards networked vehicles at an early stage, and with COMAND Online it already offers its customers a high-end multimedia system that offers not only information and entertainment, but also all the features of a mobile office. For example, the system can be used to control selected vehicle functions such as the auxiliary heater, the vehicle finder and service & diagnostic functions. It also offers adapted versions of important apps. The new S-Class also has a W-LAN hotspot, so that the customer is able to access the internet by laptop or tablet via the vehicle. The car therefore becomes a mobile communication center. Services include the option for customers to download new Mercedes-Benz Apps for COMAND Online to their vehicle, without having to visit a workshop or dealer. At the same time the networked vehicle continuously sends important information about its technical condition to Mercedes-Benz. On this basis the customer will in future be able to enjoy tailor-made service options. Starting with the next generation of the C-Class, these services will be expanded continuously for the added benefit of our customers.