The push to online was outlined at a ‘Future of Retail’ conference in the Netherlands this month, where the German prestige car-maker said it is planning a “single log-in” digital strategy offering lifestyle, mobility and shopping solutions to Mercedes-Benz owners and non-owners.
The strategy is aimed at capturing and retaining a wider group of potential owners while at the same time providing leads for its franchised dealers.
Daimler AG board of management member responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars marketing and sales, Britta Seeger, told AM Online in the UK that the aim of all future developments by Mercedes-Benz would be that of serving customers’ needs with greater ease “anytime, anywhere” with the use of a “single log-in for the Mercedes Me platform”.
She said that the increase in digital activity would not affect the “strong relationship” that Mercedes-Benz had with its 6500 franchisees around the world.
Ms Seeger said there were new plans under consideration to further broaden the brand’s physical offering, with a new Mercedes-Benz World environment already being considered for certain markets – particularly larger Asian cities – which would bring retail and lifestyle experiences together with a car showroom in one large complex.
This physical presence has been realised in Australia with the opening of the Brisbane dealership of Mercedes-Benz’s biggest global dealer group, LSH Auto. In Australia, an LSH Auto spokesman told GoAutoNews Premium that “more than one sales strategy can coexist in a broad market”.
Mercedes-Benz’s head of customer management and retail network development, Andreas Hiller, told AM Online: “We strongly believe in the human touch and the strong network that we have but we also see online and we see the energy and the power of technology. We strongly believe that we need to combine the two.”
Mercedes-Benz has expanded its customer-centric activities started in 2013 by adding pop-up stores, lifestyle-focused Mercedes Me stores, and events and conferences as it shifts from a showroom to showcase experience for customers.
The showcase experiences and digital technology includes:
- At the new Netherlands dealership, a CMS system uses automated numberplate recognition (ANPR) to greet service customers and direct them to drive-in aftersales bays. ‘Star Assistants’ lead the front-of-house operation, channelling unscheduled visitors to the correct department via an iPad-operated CMS, alerting the department of their arrival.
- QR codes are used to deliver in-showroom access to a customer’s choices, while digital signatures allow sales and aftersales offers to be viewed and selected.
- A new Carshow app being trialled in Hong Kong gives details of where a similarly configured car might be in the Mercedes-Benz network before providing sat-nav guidance to reach the car at a specific location in a specific dealership. Tracking technology then allows the customer to call on a member of dealership staff via the app when they arrive at the vehicle.
- Customers who are considering a new Mercedes-Benz can now have a 48-hour test drive.
Mercedes-Benz has additional customer-centric apps and services under development.
One is the Mercedes Me Store app that allows automatic upgrades. These can allow the owner’s smartphone to become the car’s key, for example.
There is also an electric vehicle app that will provide sat-nav bespoke routes that take in charging bays where energy can be paid for via the app. This development has been added to coincide with the launch of Mercedes-Benz’s first full-electric vehicle, the EQC SUV.
The Bertha app allows even non-Mercedes owners to visit partner petrol stations and pay for fuel from their smartphone app, while Mercedes Me Parking gives a register of available spaces and navigates users to them while also allowing payment.
The car-maker is trialling a car-sharing app that allows multiple users to have access to a single car. It has a special key that is left in the vehicle as users can request and schedule periods of usage and gain access to the vehicle via their smartphone.
Mercedes-Benz has also sought to target female customers specifically with a ‘She’s Mercedes’ concept offering an app and customer events.
The concept is active in 65 markets and has 20,000 members. In China, 6000 women took part in She’s Mercedes events last year.
Mercedes-Benz already has partnerships with Yelp and TripAdvisor and has said that the potential for collaboration for apps and in-car solutions “is endless”.
“From car-wash services, delivery services, even a dry-cleaning service which could deposit washed and ironed clothes in your parked car – the possibilities are endless,” the company said.
By Neil Dowling