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You don’t have to kick the tires

Mercedes says you can just order a car online, same as buying a book
July 25,2019
이미지뷰
Britta Seeger, a member of the board of management of Daimler AG responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales & Marketing, introduces the automaker’s new sales and marketing initiative during a media session in The Hague, the Netherlands, July 18. [DAIMLER AG]
THE HAGUE - Many are already familiar with buying clothes, shoes and appliances online.

But buying cars online?

While the ongoing digital revolution has swept across industries and has allowed consumers to buy almost everything through e-commerce sites, the trend has not necessarily changed the way people buy cars. Customers still want to go to the dealer and kick the tires. They want to negotiate and look the dealer in the eye.

But Mercedes-Benz wants to change all that with its “Best Customer Experience 4.0.” By staying competitive on the digital front by meeting the rapidly changing needs, wishes and expectations of customers, Mercedes-Benz is looking to make 25 percent of its sales online by 2025.

“Ease arises when modern technology is tailored to a customer’s personal needs,” said Britta Seeger, a member of the board of management of Daimler AG responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales & Marketing, while unveiling the automaker’s new sales and marketing initiative for the first time last week in The Hague, the Netherlands.

“This also means the customer always decides for himself how, when and where he would like to be in contact with us […] I want our customers to be able to buy a Mercedes-Benz just as easily and naturally as they would buy a book today.”

Seeger believes the initiative’s progress in the Korean market is key in pursuing the new initiative, as Korean customers are naturally digital-apt and open to innovative services.

“As you know, Korean customers are very open for digital journeys,” Seeger added. “So together with [Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO] Dmitri Psillakis, we have clearly in mind how to approach this concept for the Korean market.”

With a single profile accessed via a “Mercedes me ID,” customers can utilize various online and offline Mercedes-Benz services from the moment they decide to buy a new car to receiving maintenance services after they purchase the automaker’s products.

And with a single sign-on to the Mercedes me service, customers can customize options for their potential purchases and even pay for the car without visiting a local dealer. They can access offers and services from Mercedes-Benz anywhere at any time.

“This latest version of our personalized account now provides customers with immediate and comprehensive access to all Mercedes-Benz products and services,” Seeger added. “The Mercedes me ID can therefore be used individually at any point in the customer journey. The great advantage for the customer is that the entire world of Mercedes-Benz is open to him or her with a single access - whether or not you own one of our products.”

According to the German luxury automaker, data acquired from customer activity on Mercedes me will be used to personalize services based on their habits, behavior and preferences. Customers will be allowed to decide for themselves what data they authorize for Mercedes-Benz to use.

While the new initiative may seem bold and far-fetched for some, Mercedes-Benz has been preparing to further innovate its sales and marketing strategies since laying the foundation in 2013.

Mercedes-Benz is already selling cars online in China, Italy, Portugal and Austria, and in some parts of Germany. It has invested “three-digit millions” of euros annually since launching the Mercedes me service in 2014 to make it a holistic platform that provides a whole range of mobility and connectivity services.

Since the start of Mercedes me, Mercedes-Benz has developed more than 80 mobility-related digital services, and now all of them will be integrated to be available via the new generation Mercedes me app.

The strong commitment to the digital element does not mean Mercedes-Benz is letting go of its offline sales and marketing activities. According to the automaker, more than 80 percent of its customers still like to physically meet dealers and take test drives when buying its products.

It said physical sales will remain indispensable for the automaker, and Mercedes me will help make offline activities more efficient and personalized.

Mercedes me users can make appointments at their local dealerships, and book maintenance services and test drive sessions for their potential purchases. Upon visiting dealerships, they would be recognized by their Mercedes me ID and receive personalized consultation and assistance for all of their inquiries and requests.

While Mercedes-Benz has set a bold target of making 25 percent of its sales online by 2025, Seeger said it is not set in stone when the new digital-friendly initiative will land in the Korean market, as agreements are yet to be reached with local dealers.

“What needs to be done before this initiative launches in a market is that some discussions must be made in regards to what you can do in the country,” the former Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO said.

“The initiative can increase the purchase from customers, but we need to have an agreement with dealers first.”

She added that the initiative’s application to the Korean market should be taken in a “step-by-step” manner, and it needs to be ensured that dealers will support the “big change and transformation.”

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]