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The consumer is no longer an unheard voice: Sanjeev Handa, VP and Head (Marketing), Maruti Suzuki

15-March-2017
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The consumer is no longer an unheard voice: Sanjeev Handa, VP and Head (Marketing), Maruti Suzuki

At the Pitch CMO Summit (a flagship property of the exchange4media group) that was held in Mumbai last week, Sanjeev Handa, VP and Head (Marketing) at Maruti Suzuki, spoke about what it takes to create a lasting brand-consumer relationship.

Starting off, he pointed out the fact that India is the world’s largest social media and e-commerce market. Speaking about Maruti Suzuki, he said that in the last three decades, one of the guiding principles of the company has been whether the product helps the consumer.

Empowered consumers, a reality
“If you map today’s customer journey, one key thing that stays with us is OROP: Online Research and Offline Purchase; that is what is happening today (in the auto industry). Technology and commerce combined with explosive growth in data have given rise to more empowered consumers today,” he said. He emphasized that today’s consumer has more knowledge when he visits a store and he knows exactly what he wants, thanks to the information available to him.

According to Handa, first and foremost, what will continue this trend, going forward, is the availability of low-cost smartphones combined with cheaper data plans. “By 2017, India will have 215 million smartphones combined with growth in 3G and 4G and the huge potential that we have in Tier II and III cities,” he said.

“Suddenly, we realize that all has changed with respect to the customer. The consumer is empowered with information from multiple sources. With this information he is no longer the feeble, unheard voice but a demanding dictator, not only for products and services but also for the experience. And with this empowerment, he is demanding complete transparency today. So, consumers today are curious and want to know how and where these products are manufactured, what effect they have on the environment and how the company treats customers, etc. It is now imperative to keep him or her updated in a transparent manner,” explained Handa.

The more you impress the customer, the more the customer will like you, Handa said, further stating that brand custodians and digital experts need to come together to make this happen. He termed today’s world, a world of transparency, which is why it has become imperative for digital experts and brand custodians to come together to deliver on these expectations.

Gleaning insights from data
However, he cautioned that even though data was important, the days of just looking at demographics and determining TGs are now gone. “Today, it is all about going to the person, and understanding him better,” he said. According to Handa, it is important to not get swayed by big data but to focus on getting insights from the available data. The disruption being seen in the market, he said, is a move away from TGs to psychographic segmentation.

“Digital advances have given brands a direct connect with their consumers with the power to gain insights. So, when you have consumer expectations and deep insights, it is imperative to address them. Truth and transparency have to be the backbone of all communications,” he said.

Consumer care at the core
Handa further stated that brand honesty and transparency empower consumers to take control of their buying decisions like never before. According to him, when brands make product information easily available, the message that is sent to the consumer is that there is nothing to hide and that the brand cares about the consumer’s needs.

“Can we have an empowerment index for each technology? Truly caring about the consumer is an important part of creating and sustaining an authentic brand-consumer relationship. When buyers make purchases, they want to know that their decisions are good. Trust needs to be earned. Buyers want information regarding their purchases and rightly deserve the knowledge they seek. So, we should look at building a trust index,” he concluded.

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