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Vehicle buyers are relying on online sources to decide which vehicle make and model to buy.

An increasing number of vehicle buyers are relying on online sources to decide which vehicle make and model to buy, said research house J.D. Power.

“This is more so for younger buyers and is happening across most industries. Manufacturer and dealer websites, social media and other automotive sites are going to play important roles as consumers search for information on which car is right for them to buy,” said J.D. Power regional director for automotive practice Shantanu Nandi Majumdar during an interview.

Shantanu said automakers needed to review and redefine all the 4P’s of marketing - product, price, place and promotion, as well as upgrade their dealership facilities to move forward successfully.

“Firstly, customers are looking for newer models and faster product updates incorporating the latest features and technologies. Secondly, the model and variant pricing need to take into consideration how customers trade-off vehicle features and content while deciding the model and variant to buy.

“Product positioning and promotion strategies should be validated that they resonate with the target customer segment. Lastly, across all our markets, we have seen customers that want dealership facilities to be upgraded so as to provide amenities, such as Wifi connection, sufficient seating spaces, privacy when discussing financial matters and refreshments.

J.D. Power regional director for automotive practice Shantanu Nandi Majumdar.

“This coupled with digital strategies that aim at providing transparency and convenience to customers, enable a more satisfactory sales and service experience. The digital strategy needs to be an integrated part of the overall sales and service process. Automakers that can do these successfully, usually rank higher in our study,” Shantanu said.

In the 2018 J.D Power Malaysia Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) study, Nissan came out on top with a core of 812 points out of 1,000-point scale. It is followed by Isuzu with 797 points, with Honda taking the third position with 795 points.

Concurrently, Toyota has finished at fourth position with a score of 791 points, while Mitsubishi bagged the fifth spot with 787 points. The sixth position went to Proton, with a score of 782 points, followed by Mazda with 781 points. Volkswagen finished ahead of Perodua, with 779 points and 774 points for the largest national carmaker.

“Our study shows that brands that rank relatively lower have relatively lower deployment of sales and service KPIs (key performance indicators) across their dealer networks. While automakers need to review and redefine their sales and service processes that resonate with customers in the Malaysian market, they also need to ensure that the processes and standards are executed thoroughly across the network.

“Another important aspect is to have a robust post-sales and service follow-up mechanism that can help dealerships to speedily address any customer complaints,” said Shantanu.

The SSI study is a comprehensive analysis of the new-vehicle purchase and delivery experience, based on the feed back of 2,477 car buyers who purchased their cars between September last year and May this year.

J.D Power had designed six weighted factors that affected the overall customer satisfaction with the new-vehicle purchase experience. The six factors were dealer sales consultant (26 per cent), dealership facility (25 per cent), delivery process (19 per cent), working out the deal (14 per cent), paperwork completion (14 per cent and dealership website (2 per cent).

“Our sample collection is designed as per the sales of each automaker. Automakers that have higher market share have higher sample counts. Our sufficient sample criteria is based on 75 or more samples,” said Shantanu.

He added that across the Asean market, Malaysia had one of the highest percentages of customers who researched online prior to purchasing a car.

“Sixty-one per cent of Malaysians will research online before purchasing a car,” he said.

Shantanu said it was crucial for every organisation to have a well-executed digital strategy to survive in this highly competitive landscape.

“With the high penetration of smart phones and other mobile devices, it opens up new avenues to reach and engage with customers and respond faster to customers’ requirements. It is also beneficial to automakers as it bring in efficiencies, as well as enhances productivity.”

He said most organisations were at the initial stages of rolling out their digital strategies.

“The goal is to get a 360° view of the customer by aggregating data from the touch points that a customer may use, to make contact with a company to purchase products and to receive support service.

“There are also an increasing number of sales consultants who rely on digital tools to demonstrate the vehicle features during the sales process. Digital channels, such as text messaging and email, are increasingly being used to connect with customers,” Shantanu said.

Shantanu added that some organisations were designing mobile applications with telematics to stay connected with their customers.

“The organisations will provide their customers with feedback of their driving experience, as well as useful driving and vehicle maintenance tips. Customers can schedule their vehicle service through mobile applications, as well as receive estimated service costs, look up on their vehicle service history and reach out for help at the touch of their fingertips.”

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