Teen turfs: Effective marketing for a successful Innerwear Brand

Why should brans like Nova, Bodycare, Softy, Red Rose, Shalini, Sonari, Ragini and others care about teens, young customers in the age group of 12-17. There is a lot at stake in selling and branding for teens. According to recent census 2011, Teens form about 9.2% of the youth population. Teens form about 12% of ₹9,100 Crore women inner wear segment in FY2016.  Teen brands are the most underpenetrated with highest growth rate amongst all segments of the women innerwear market. Teen innerwear is about 21% of the unorganized women innerwear market.   Surprisingly, the price differences between unorganized and branded innerwear varied just about 15-25%.  With value engineering and smart distribution, an organized brand could easily gain market share from unorganized segment. What is more alluring is that an average teen today spends 7% of ₹1000 on innerwear, on average buys 6 pairs in each year and expected to experience 3 sizes in 4 years.  Rural teens in average brought 3.2 pairs per year. Young girls develop at different ages and everybody’s experience is unique. Teens also lead and live a busy life. Teens juggle between studies, sports, Dandiya and Dance floor with aplomb. They participate in NCC training and retreats, volunteer as traffic wardens and lead their houses in major events.  They hop and jump out of buses or ride bicycles or two wheelers with gaiety.  This means a ton of possible fashion and usage environment to take into consideration.

Teens are important to brands because they tend to be early adopters and often their brand preferences are yet to be formed. However, unlike the teens of yesteryears, teens of today are most active user group on online. Teens today are scanning trends and deciding for themselves. The first thing they are likely to ask the host is whether the Wifi in their house is on.   On an average a teen spends 3.5 hours a day and an average, teens send 1480 messages and receive 2170 messages per month. Studies have shown with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, teens seek immediate gratification and thrill. They are expected to exhibit more impulsive behaviors.  Well, it seems like it should be pretty easy to market to teens. So one would think it is easy to create and slip into a niche teens innerwear brand. Not so. Marketing to a teenager is a labor of love.

Studies have shown that peer pressure is big for teens.  Acceptance and belonging to a group is paramount for their psychological wellbeing. That is why branding, especially of community branding works best for teens.  In fact for most teens, social media is just that a platform to express traits and seek out others with similar leanings.  So what must be the marketing strategies one must adopt for a teen innerwear brand.

First, choose your online platforms to engage them actively and direct your time and efforts towards the most relevant platforms.  Popular opinion is that Instagram, Snapchat and What’s App appear on the top with Facebook and Pinterest up the rear. If you are pursuing a low cost viral strategy, creating tiered gaming campaigns using Snapchat or Instagram may work well.  If you are just looking to widen your reach to teens targeted Facebook campaigns may work better.

Social media campaigns targeting teens is also about brevity and personalization. With shorter attention spans, teens are likely to respond more positively to short text posts and links. Bite-sized post with Big feet You approach works best.

Teen’s major sources of information about innerwear are opinion of friend (22%), store display (18%), social media (17%) and celebrity endorsement (15%).  Where most brands fail is the poor execution of store display. Standees and banner ads are passé and so are the garish looking mannequins.  Teens seek out more touch and feel experience and likely to lean more towards technology led experiences including AR.  A less tech savvy salon experience also satiates exclusivity positioning and works well for exploratory or label lioness.  Teens are less influenced by Bollywood stars, but certainly a swash bucking Cricketer or a badminton champ certainly gets more eye lashes.

From a marketing perspective teens not only consume information, but are also effective co-creators and distributors.  Teens tend to use online media to share, create their own by-lines and funny one liners about the brand. For an innerwear brand it is best to emulate social engagement models that are espoused by companies like HP, Microsoft or Oracle in Open source arena. Involve teens to voluntarily create content, create a consumption community and turn ambassadors.  Gamification tools involving rewards and recognition including Badges, Angelhood, High Princess work best for an innerwear brand. A low cost rural consumption focused innerwear brand can adopt gamification principles with multi-level marketing to reduce distribution costs and gain viral visibility.  Volunteering is another platform that works best for teen innerwear marketing.  Companies can create smart campaigns that can bundle social messaging on CSR programs and reach target populations. Incentivize them to comment, retweet, mention or getting involved in creating awareness about your innerwear brand.

A key point to remember is teens abhor preaching and explicit advertising. They may skip an advertisement if seen as an interruption or pushy. Communicate to establish relationships and association.  Authenticity is what they seek and story selling works best.  Humor and human-centered stories work best to build relationships with your brand. Communicate they are special and your brand blends with who they want to be and what they wish to be leads to better marketing outcomes.

For an innerwear brand it is imperative to remember teens are not completely independent consumers. Their parents open the purse and indulge in their purchases. Cultural sensitivity in campaigns and functional design over intimate one are keys to teen innerwear sales. You can’t afford to ignore them in your innerwear campaign and design. Finally, keep your marketing as fluid as possible. When tide turns, you must have the flexibility to turn quickly.

WhatsApp for B2B marketing

With over 42 billion messages sent daily across 109 countries, WhatsApp is a veritable platform for marketing. Recent State of Inbound Report states that 30% of the respondents have used messaging aps like WhatsApp or WeChat or Hike as a business communication channel. Many B2C businesses have started to market and promote their products and services through WhatsApp. Unlike email or SMS, it has high delivery incidence and less restriction on the format. One can send not only messages, but Images, videos, and audio files. As marketing trends become more personalized and user controlled, aps like WhatsApp lend themselves to promotion and lead nurturing.

Where can B2B businesses use WhatsApp?. It is an effective platform for managing internal communications. Sales teams can build an effective channel to discuss the best practices, share novel approaches or just keep sharing the status. Multi-functional groups may find a common WhatsApp group lining disparate information silos and bring in transparency across the organization. Personal, Group and Broadcast can be used to share information across pre-sales, sales and delivery groups. SME can use WhatsApp as Knowledge management tool to disseminate status around key projects or learn form an order. Companies can use WhatsApp as an alternative channel for helpdesk or complaint logging. Customer support team can also use toll free number or WhatsApp live chat for online queries.  WhatsApp can be used as a CRM tool to retain the customers. Once the WhatsApp group is formed follow-up with the customers by asking feedback on products and services. WhatsApp can be used to offer discounts and coupons as enticements for loyalty or even recognizing and rewarding brand ambassadors. B2B can also be used for after sale service support including service bulletins and recall information.  B2B can use WhatsApp to reconfirm and persuade required attendees who have confirmed their participation for a conference or a workshop. Personalized WhatsApp can help event organizers plan the activities better and reduce wastage.

However, these aps have few limitations on community reach and expansion. In order for a company to communicate with its prospects on WhatsApp, phone numbers of these people must be stored in the company’s phone address book. The catch is that prospects must also have the company’s contact number stored in their respective address books. WhatsApp is a non-starter of the company’s phone number is not actively promoted and is available on the website and other media. Second challenge in the limitation on size of the group limited to 256. Companies with national foot print face the challenge of managing several local groups within a region. Simply the cost of coordination and control of common messaging and effective response is prohibitive. Like many other social platforms, WhatsApp groups also have lurkers, passive guineas and active bulls. Challenge for B2B companies is ensuring their content engine is robust and creative enough to keep the community active.  Pedantry messaging of good morning, happy holidays can only flies for some time. Form a marketing perspective, measuring the ROI from WhatsApp is difficult. You can only measure the numbers of people who have seen or sharing buttons or UTM tagging of the post links.

WhatsApp and other aps are powerful and low cost communication tools. Their biggest advantage is their simplicity and quick roll out.  In an internet world that is algorithmic and controlled by Google’s of the world, app messaging services support organic reach without having to pay to play the community game.  The app message alerts are instantaneous and have a high probability of engagement. Importantly though limited to 256 people, these apps provide scalable yet private platform.

Sai Vinoth TR

Are your sales and marketing aligned across Segments?

Robert De Nero and Anne Hathway starer “The Intern” has a particular scene wherein the sales analysis shows the company has been spending more marketing dollars on low value segments and practically nothing at all on high margin low volume segment.  Does not this sound familiar? While companies realize Sales and marketing need to be tightly aligned, but that seldom is the case.  A senior marketing director in a recent conversion blurted out that while her marketing budget has increased YoY, the ROI seems to be elusive. What was bothering her was the fact the company spends substantially in curated events managed by respected analysts, and yet sales find the coverage insufficient.

Companies spend a fortune on the conferences and events but the outcomes belie expectations. It is not surprising for many corporates to find 75% of the participants who attended their events came for free lunch or a swanky dinner. Many of the participants may not be the decision maker or influencers, but pretty junior in their organization. Corporate gifts, industry exhibitions cost a dime, and yet ineffective. Albeit companies continue to pursue many of these acts they are afraid to pause and question fundamentals. What is the objective of the event?. Why this city and this hour?, How this format will help sell their ware?. Unfortunately, many leaders want to just follow the herd. Therefore it is not surprising when studies across industry indicate:

  • 50% of marketing budget is totally wasted
  • Only 34% of feel their content marketing works
  • 25% had no marketing strategy
  • 44% had no alignment between various marketing media

So how can companies ensure their marketing dollars are well spent and drive intended sales outcome. On the outset, it is important to realize marketing function serves three objectives. These are inform, influence and advocacy.  Any marketing activity is to help consumers associate with the brand, help differentiate its offerings and seek higher revenues. Companies use various marketing assets to communicate to the interest group their unique existence, product/service offering set, pricing and other advantages. The objective is maximize reach at an affordable cost. Companies use several approaches to drive influence. Awards, citations, sponsored industry events, directed online community forums, endorsements are all effective mediums of influencing consumers. Advocacy is to enlist willing individuals who would eschew the role of brand ambassadors and drive positive word of mouth.

Different marketing assets serve different purpose and effective at different stages of sales cycle. Assets such as breakfast meeting facilitates more personalized one on one discussion that may be more effective in later stages of sales cycle. On the other hand,   assets like newsletter or blog may be more useful in the early stages of sales cycle. Marketing assets also vary by their cost and impact. Some of these cost a dime and more effective to lock-in, while some may be low cost approaches to increase reach only.

Companies can realize better return on investments in their sales and marketing when these functions are congruent and well-coordinated. Congruency can be gained by ensuring same goals drive their quarterly activities, common goals entwine both functions at various levels and incentives encourage them to support each other. Coordination improves when event plans, promos, content marketing and other assets are aligned with sales motions. It is important to realize sales motions differ across segments within a company. Segments vary on the “value” of purchase and the number of customers in that particular segment. It is common to have a segment A that has few numbers of customers with a high purchase value. B and C segments are those with lower values of purchase and incumbent sizes. Each of these segments exhibit different sales behaviour. Purchasing cycles may be longer and more formal in Segment A, while the decision making could be shorter in Segment C.  Sales may have to interact and influence multiple owners in enterprise segment. Order qualifying criteria may not be just enough in Segment A. Marketing must be able to push the company over to order winning plateau.

Segment A requires an enterprise sales approach where formal decision structures and vendor registration and assessments exist. Customers in this segment may be well informed about the happenings in the markets, and well-endowed to invest high ticket investment. Many customers in this segment may already been served by your competitors and would only move if there is a compelling value proposition in terms of cost, or innovation advantage. Sales function is completely managed by direct sales as relationships and continuous coverage matter to enter and grow the revenues. While inside sales functions support the direct sales with deeper profiling of people and secondary data analysis, direct sales has a key role in engagement of the segment.

Customers in segment A place a high premium on scalable and proven solutions. Prior experience and in depth expertise of the vendor play a key role in awarding the project. Marketing platforms must facilitate experience sharing and credibility reinforcing functions for direct sales to influence and close deals in this segment.  Thought leadership vehicles including standards, industry frameworks and innovation ideas fly well in face to face meetings with the customers.  Breakfast meetings, Industry association, standard setting bodies, and Knowledge sharing conferences serve as valuable platforms for direct sales to position the company at state of art knowledge.  These platforms allow discussions to be personalized and centred on solving the problems the clients face, hence meeting service immediacy.

On the other hand, segment C, which has large number of customers with low ticket value may need a marketing and sales approach where the total transaction costs are optimised.  It is practical to have inside sales as the champion to host and on board customers in segment C. Marketing functions role for this segment is to improve the reach across the market and reuse the content to improve the richness of various marketing assets.  Companies can improve the reach and engagement with Segment C by adopting a consistent campaign blast policy. Mail them a newsletter, case studies and customer wins to increase awareness about your brand. Emphasize on content creation, curation and extension to reduce investments in content development. Content can be text, video and other formats. Use social media platforms to connect owners and decision makers and also to run campaigns.  Figure 1 presents the alignments between Segments and Marketing assets.

Figure 1: Alignment between segments and marketing assets.

pict

Sales efficiencies can be gained only when direct sales team are running after few accounts with a deeper insight and ownership. Also, how the inside and partner (indirect) sales team complement the direct sales matters for Segments B and C. What works best is when companies know how to mesh mash both sales and marketing functions for each segment. Have a quarter-wise marketing plan aligned to sales expectations. Content development and curation can happen in stages and stronger stories and messaging will emerge with each asset to engage and influence customer. Having a common Head of Sales and marketing or marketing aligned with sales in another structural approach that can be tried. Cross functional teams tasked with joint activities across sales and marketing will also be useful.

Dr TR Madan Mohan

 

 

Congregation Branding: Insights from Indian Mela’s

Congregation branding or mass branding is a unique method to reach a large number of peoples at a very low cost. It is when a large number of people congregate for a short duration, often for religious or faith interest. Events like Kumbh mela, Sabarimala or Pushkaraulu are mega congregations where the millions attend. Kumbh Mela which occurs once in 12 years, witnesses more than 100 million thronging the banks of River Ganges and its tributaries. Similarly, Sabarimala, a hilly place in Pathanamthitta District of Kerala State in India, has about 40 million peoples visiting the shrine annually. On the grandeur scale is the shrine of Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh, the second richest religious institution in world which attracts at least 60,000 devotees on regular days and 8 -10 times the number on special occasions. Local festivals like Sonepur Mela, Asia’s largest cattle fair, in Bihar or Velankanni in Tamil Nadu attract about 2 million people and these footfalls are for just 3 days.  It is not only religious events that offer a platform for branding, festivals like Kadalekhai Parikshe in Basavanagudi or Fish downing sessions at Goud treatment center for asthma patients at Hyderabad or New Year crowds around Taj Hotel in Mumbai are all perfect platforms for congregation branding.  Holi Milan Samaroh or Baisakhi celebrations are apt for congregation branding to reach out to mass consumers. With India celebrating 120 festivals in a year where more than 100,000 people congregate, congregations offer a unique platform to reach out and engage with customers.

The advantage of congregation branding is it helps brands to reach out to consumer who may reside in media-light or are low TV and print penetration areas.  Congregation branding helps to marry the essence of the event with the brand proposition.  These events are not only attracting FMCG companies, but are finding new takers like agricultural equipment manufacturers and FMCD companies. Congregation branding exposes people to various brands to become potential buyers as well as opinion leaders and brand ambassadors.  Congregation branding drives social approval and recommendations.  It is a low cost approach to reach out to large user base. It offers the opportunity to consumers to touch and feel products. Pepsico uses the congregation for sampling of new innovations (Nimbooz Masala Soda or Butter Masti flavor of Kurkure) and enhance brand visibility.

Congregation branding is a high visibility and high impact strategy.  Companies use five types of branding approaches:  a) Freebies, b) small packs, c) service centered, d) artifact based and e) entertainment led. Freebies, small packs and entertainment led are excellent approaches to expose product consumption experience and win over customers. Service centered and artifacts based are effective approaches for surrogate branding.  Freebie is a common strategy used by FMCG companies. Tata swatch water purifiers installed 300 water purifiers for Kumbh Mela. Similarly, Marico provided Rs 1 Parachute sachet packet. Dabur put up automatic toothpaste dispenser with the tagline “Kya aapne dant snan Kiya? (Did you wash your teeth), with images of Dabur Meshwak and Red prominently displayed on the container. Tata Salt distributed 35 tons of Tata Salt to various akharas. They also gave away disposable plates with “Shubh Bhojan ki Shubh Shuruwat” (auspicious beginning for an auspicious lunch) with Tata Salt prominently embossed on it. Godrej provided hair die salons and Shanthi oil installed free oil massage centers at various akadas (sectors) for product experience. Small packs are fit for occasion and value for money propositions that help brand association and recall. Coke offers 150 ml of cola at Rs 5 and HUL offers Vim bar (washing bar for utensils) for Rs 4. The products are appropriately packed and priced to meet “use and throw” requirements of the rushed Pilgrim.

Companies can also purse surrogate or indirect product branding approaches. For example, a cement company can provide water or sanitation tanks or paper fans for convenience of the attendees.  Companies could pursue surrogate branding in multiple ways.  Surrogate branding could be fashioned around the “event” or something that is of regular use and not necessarily associated with the event. Using service mapping tools such as blue printing companies can gain a complete view of the customer experience cycle. They could identify physical infrastructure, hygiene and health related requirements, crowd control and management system that may be required to provide a safe and complete event experience. Companies could choose to adopt highly repetitive and commonly consumed services or infrequent selective services. Companies can identify service that has higher impact and one that is closer to its product/service.  Aligning branding with the moment of truth is key to effective crowd branding. Eternit Everest cements provided tents and roof shelters to pilgrims and telecom companied offered branded Umbrella’s, and light holdings at night times. Vodafone provided scarfs with their logo on them so that pilgrims can protect themselves in cold nights. A cement manufacturer may offered free rides or free group housing. Such an offering would be group based. A pharmaceutical company can offer free health care center and ambulance services, which are critical and personal in nature. A telecom company can provide a public address system and location based identification for missing persons. Such an offering could be context dependent and critical in nature. Healthcare, travel and personal loss related services offer longevity of WOM, while food and hygiene related may have shorter WOM.  Surakhsha Wrist Band, a water proof band promoted by Nerolac, received high appreciation from families.  Children and elders who received the bands were seen raving about it and flaunting it prominently.

Amulets and Idols are appropriate mediums to reach out to pilgrims and others thronging the meals.  Companies find idols of Lord Ganesh or Lord Hanuman are the most accepted across different pantheons and sects. Their child like innocence and simplicity of faith make them highly amenable to various socio-economic groups.  Amrutanjan, the popular pain balm erected a 16 feet statue of Lord Hanuman made with empty Amrutanjan boxes.  Ranbaxy offered Hanuman chalisa to pilgrims who visited kumbha mela. MNC have also pursued this strategy very aggressively. HUL engaged Sudrashan Patnaik, the noted sand sculptor to create sand art installations of Lord Jagannath on the beach in Puri. HUL Dalda oil was subtly placed on the canvass. While men and women do involve in crowd branding, it is women fold who tend to carry the artifacts back home.  Whether brochure or religious books or other artifacts, care must be ensured in designing it useful and colorful from the other gender perspectives. Marketing professionals must consider the investment, impact and reusability of artifacts before they choose a particular approach.

Entertainment, the wholesome kind is the best way to reach out to the crowd. Once Pilgrims have completed their faith related ablutions and associated rituals, they tend to have some time before their return journey home.  Tholatta, and Throw a ring are what GlaxoSmithKline found useful to draw and engage customer to get in touch with Horlicks. Throw a hoop and gain a sachet is an excellent strategy to gain interest, interactions, sense of achievement and brand association.

Sai Vinoth T R

 

 

How B2b companies can benefit from Youtube marketing

While many of us associate YouTube with videos of cats or people falling off their skateboards in new and interesting ways, the reality is that YouTube can be an extremely powerful weapon for a B2B marketer. In a recent study, the top three social networks for online B2B marketing are Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. With more than 800 million unique visitors each month, YouTube is now the world’s second biggest search engine. More than 100 million people take social action (likes, shares, comments, etc.) on YouTube every week.

In addition to providing your prospects with information about your product or service, a YouTube channel is also important from a brand equity perspective. HP, for example, has a large part of their channel devoted to their work in health and education. In a press release or blog format the average prospect may not ever bother looking into this kind of material, as it doesn’t have a direct connection to the buying process. But if a prospect is considering purchasing a new printer for their business and is watching a product demonstration video on YouTube, they are more likely to do so. By establishing an emotional connection, HP is able to position its brand in the prospect’s mind as caring and trustworthy.

Youtube is humungous. Each minute about 400 hour worth of video content is uploaded, but only  5% may elicit more than 10K views. 50% of all YouTube views come via a mobile device and the average time spent on YouTube per mobile is about 40 minutes. YouTube has more than 1 billion active users surfing the site. Importantly, for most companies the promotion is free and always available. Even if your content may not reach top 5% of the post, it could serve as an alternate marketing asset to inform, and influence customers.

As a B2B company, you can gain the most from YouTube marketing if you can stick to some fundamentals listed below.

  • Making content stand out: Well we all know the power of viral videos. People will actively share unique content on their social media networks, even if it’s associated with a brand. The key is to include your brand or product in the video in a way that’s not so invasive that it feels like an advertisement. A common technique used to encourage sharing is humour, but it might also be the format that captures the prospect’s attention (e.g. using a unique animation or live action scenario to tell your product’s story). You need to plan out the needs and essence your video is going to fill in your prospect’s mind and heart.
  • Make it easy to find and share: After uploading a video to YouTube, make sure to give your videos searchable titles, well described & brief descriptions and lots of tags. Embed videos on your business website as well as its social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+). If the video resonates with the prospects, they will react to it and might share it on their own social media accounts.
  • Put faces to your brand: Great thing about YouTube is that it allows you to put a face to your brand; this is extremely important in building trust with your prospect. It’s often better to use real people from business or mascots representing your brand or company. Prospects get attached to these adding a layer of transparency which is often extremely difficult to establish using traditional online marketing such as blogs, whitepapers, online forums etc.
  • First few seconds to impress: YouTube is all about small sized (length) video content. Use it to get attention in short span and condense your videos to 2-3 minute on specific areas of interest, e.g. product feature demonstrations or testimonials. According to 8-second rule, research has indicated that if users have to wait longer than 8 seconds without any attention seeking action or interest, they will go elsewhere. Because there is an ocean of information waiting online to get their precious attention. You have only 8 seconds to impress a person & to get him watch your whole content, so make first 8 seconds impactful and rather creative than just showcasing your product or feature. You need to take an innovative route to enter into the mind of the prospect for a sustaining impression. Be creative and sometimes be more natural. Shoot, animate, use info graphics etc. in your video to make it more compelling and informative according to your content.
  • One video many use or a particular use: More specific content is also helpful from the perspective that you can utilize the video or the YouTube link to focus on a particular product/service in your target email marketing campaigns & product description pages in your website. Whereas generic informative and rather flexible branding videos can be used in you landing home page to describe what your brand is all about. This will increase the engagement time prospect surfs information about your brand & will generate an impactful visit to your website.
  • Take time to create your own brand space with a YouTube channel to make it easier for your users to find all of your video content at same place. Include links to your site, campaign information, conference updates etc. Encourage comments and subscriptions from viewers. Listen and react to what’s being said as feedback or comments. Take positive notes and keep on the light glowing around with more inputs and changes. Treat your prospects comments as advices & necessary recommendations giving your marketing a continuous boost for years to come.

Vikash Prasad

 

How effectively are you using your marketing assets…..

A senior marketing director in a recent conversion blurted out that while her marketing budget has increased YoY, the ROI seems to be elusive. What was bothering her was the fact the company spends substantially in curated events managed by respected analysts, and yet Sales find the coverage insufficient. Look familiar. This is a common problems with most companies where marketing focus on few vehicles. Some believe in only the physical networking events and other lean heavily on social media platforms. Here again companies do not follow an “embellish” strategy.  Consider the broad marketing asset a company has its disposal. On the social media front, the assets range from infographics, blogs, extended blogs, videos, case studies, white papers, publications and community platforms. On the physical front, a company could use industry events, workshops, analyst meets, association forums, and breakfast meetings. What works best is when companies know how to mesh mash both physical and online assets and the assets within each category.  One strategy that could be effectively followed is to have a quarter-wise marketing plan aligned to sales expectations. Then follow up a “embellish” strategy where in the messaging starts from basic assets and progresses to high scale assets. The advantage of this is that content development and curation can happen in stages and stronger stories and messaging emerge with each insert. For example, an infographic can be used to reward the reader with rich insights with high level cause-effect. Marketing team adopts a Tufte approach that may be high on information density and distilled functionality, focus on connectedness, and communicate through high imagery. Next level, a blog, which is used to influence, informative or thought provoking, may extend the infographic content using Kafka model. The blog could contain rich arguments and silver line conclusion. Whitepaper an extensive write up of blog may be used as a teaser before all material are tested, or position credibility and promote advocacy. Beauty of the embellish model is the content not only unfolds in a consistent manner, content is richer and all of them form independent hooks to improve visibility. Similar extensive strategy can also be used for physical platforms. Companies realize focus group meetings, followed by industry forum and curated events including analyst shows provide improve coverage and affinity. Moral of the story?. When planning for marketing, consider the complete assets at your disposal and build a embellish strategy that improves reach and richness of marketing communication complementing sales.

Why after-sales service lacks the sting…….?

After-sales service is often seen as necessary devil and not many organizations think about the impact it has on revenues and customer satisfaction. This is despite the fact that dealers and OEM’s margins on the virgin equipment may be less than 2-3% of the final price, while parts revenues can hover around 25++ margins.

The biggest cause for lack of proper after-sales service is that many organizations have no proper service strategy aligned with their organizational goals. Many adopt the concept of “Outsourcing of parts logistics” without realizing the zone of conflicts it can create and the impact. The idea to make cost efficient parts supply and distribution is appreciated, but this doesn’t synchronize with the field customer service. Worst part, is that various divisions work at loggerheads within the organization, causing a lack of cohesion between the field service and parts supply. The parts and service aspect of an automotive organization go hand-in-hand.

More than 60% of parts per vehicle, on an average, are out-sourced by the OEMs from individual parts supplier. In order to avoid risk, OEMs develop 4-5 vendors per part when 2-3 vendors are more than sufficient. This policy of the OEM forces these suppliers to supply in the open market to increase revenues. Moreover, Parts supply and parts sales in open market are more profitable than sales through the respective OEMs. This inevitably leads to revenue loss from services for the OEM.

Product development regulations are pretty high in developed nations, leading to high quality. Hence, minimum levels of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for service are adequate to ensure there is no cause for complaint from consumers. When the same SOPs are implemented in the Indian market, it leads to service failure due to the lower quality of components. When the foreign culture of highly reliable and innovative product doesn’t exist in the cost conscious Indian automotive industry, then why does the after-sales service strategy and policy remain the same for both the markets?

With a specialized mechanic in every corner of the street providing service at cheaper rates and the availability of cheaper spare parts in grey market, the dealership revenues are in doldrums. The automation and IT infra-structure connecting the OEM and dealerships is not robust and not fool-proof. Moreover, the revenue generating model for the dealerships is not very sustainable in the long-run especially during economically low periods, considering the huge infrastructure investment made by each dealership of an OEM. All these factors induce the dealer to purchase from grey market and eventually, a loss for the OEM occurs.

The Indian Automotive Industry is moving towards technology saturation. There is no substantial product variation, especially in terms of technology. Brand differentiation can only be improved through an effective and efficient after-sales service channel. Issues such as development and implementation of a sustainable after-sales strategy, with focus on number of parts suppliers, India centric SOPs for service, and not outsourcing the parts logistics, are just tip of the iceberg issues that need to be grappled with. There needs to be a well thought out and integrated service strategy specific to local markets, since it is a substantial revenue stream that will improve bottom line and help companies tide out the troughs in sales!!!

Bangaru Vignesh

Junior Consultant – Marketing & Strategy