The luxury car market is on the rise again with premium brands such as Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi and Volkswagen seeing record sales worldwide.  Interestingly majority of the global high end brands see China as their most important growth market, so let’s follow the money as it heads east where you’ll see a growing queue of eager Chinese customers awaiting delivery of their new Porsche Cayennes, top of the range BMWs and other luxury marques.

Porsche, which only entered the Chinese market six years ago, is busily building the kind of business infrastructure and customer relationships that will see this market become central to the business’s future.  The explosion in Chinese consumerism has created a demand so great, that Chinese customers face a 15-month wait for delivery of a Porsche Cayenne. In fact Chinese Porsche sales rose 19% with 24% of their total sales coming from China in the first 10 months of 2014. In 2014, Porsche delivered a sales record of 46,931 cars across Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. With the Chinese market significantly growing Porsche are quickly shortening the gap between China and U.S and in 2014, they saw the sales gap reduce from 15% to 8%.

Gaining traction in the important Asian markets is not purely driven by customer demand. One of the key aspects of succeeding in these markets is understanding and adapting your business model to embrace cultural standards. For many years American car companies have struggled to get a share of the lucrative Japanese market. A large part of this resistance is due to the degree of loyalty customers exhibit to both brands and sales personnel. Typically, a Japanese customer will return to the same salesperson in the same garage every time they change their car. And they will usually trade up to a model from the same stable.

 

PORSCHE

Understanding that personal, often life-long relationships are at the heart of customer loyalty in Asia, is a fact that anyone wishing to succeed in doing business here needs to factor in to their strategy. Even in this relatively young market, CRM activity is a vital component as Carsten Balmes, Porsche’s Marketing Director in China explains, “Below the line marketing has always been our main focus, especially CRM activities. Our ultimate goal is achieving: Customers for life and cars for Life. The maturity of the market must not influence that goal-setting. And CRM is the key to achieving our target.”  

It’s one that Porsche has reaped substantial benefits from in terms of both generating prospects and retaining business. Their sophisticated use of one-to-one communications throughout the consumer lifecycle runs full circle from purchase, through to after-sales service and on to the repeat purchase opportunity.

According to Carsten Balmes, “In the first quarter of 2012, Porsche has already managed to achieve its highest-ever sales volume worldwide. However, we are not aiming for sheer sales volume and accept that it may still take some time for China to become the biggest market of Porsche worldwide. Sustainable growth is essential and more important than merely rapid growth for a premium brand like Porsche.”

In the first six months of the 2015, 113,984 vehicles were delivered worldwide, increasing revenue by 33% to €10.85 billion. The operating profit surpassed 2014 year’s figure by 21% with Germany still being their largest regional market accounting for 41% of Porsche sales.

The company has also engaged in some creative, if radical, marketing events including the transporting of its models to a frozen Mongolian lake to allow prospective buyers the ultimate test-drive. This has greatly contributed towards Porsche’s staggering success in China and it is hoped to also see the Porsche dealer network treble by 2018. Working with the dealership network is an integral part of Porsche’s strategy, “The individualisation of our customer communications has been crucial. As a rather small sports car manufacturer, we have also been able to strike a good balance between both our Porsche Centres and us staying directly in touch with the customers,” explained Carsten Balmes.

This iconic brand has even gone as far as customising their cars to suit the quirks and tastes of the Chinese market. They have replaced the standard cup holder with a half-litre bottle holder and even created a new colour “China Pink” as the result of a customer wanting her car to match her look! Understanding and addressing local preferences is central to Porsche’s successful CRM activity, as Carsten Balmes explains, “Especially in CRM, local adaptation is crucial for appropriately addressing customer needs. On the other hand, we are proud to say that today, our approach already far surpasses the basic CRM touch points.”

Porsche are also working hard at retaining customers in traditional markets and building a loyalty strategy around their existing customers with their End of Term Lease Loyalty Program, where select customers have the opportunity to get into another new Porsche sooner than they may have planned. Porsche Financial Services in the US and Canada (PFS) operates the programme at three levels. The programme offers staged waivers of between three months’ repayments up to a full year’s repayments depending on the new Porsche model you choose to upgrade to.

 

BENTLEY

British heritage brand, Bentley, has enjoyed a major resurgence in fortunes as sales globally rose 9% reaching 11,020 vehicles in 2014. 29% of vehicles were sold in the US with sales in China reaching 2,670, this is double the volume sold in their home ground, the UK market. Bentley expects to almost double its annual vehicle sales by 2020 with the introduction of its new SUV.

Even this most traditional of heritage brands is embracing loyalty programmes as a key part of their global CRM strategy. Bentley’s Continental Club programme offers a raft of rolling benefits that kick in as the car leaves the comfort zone of the manufacturer’s warranty.

Members are entitled to substantial discounts on all services and maintenance work carried out to their car along with free seasonal services and free ‘while you wait’ top ups of oil, screen wash and tyre pressure checks. And addressing the aspirational element, members are invited to exclusive launch events.

Interestingly, the emerging markets are already moving from pure acquisition to retention. Speaking to All About Loyalty, Richard Leopold, Bentley’s Marketing Director in China told us “It’s fair to say that given the strong sales growth over recent years, the focus on CRM has been far less in China than in western markets. With very few luxury car owners in the pool, all efforts were focused on conquest. This is now changing as the luxury market develops, (a) as now the “pool” of Bentley owners is Significant and (b) as “customer referrals” are essential as a motive for purchasing a super luxury brand. In Hong Kong alone, almost 60% of new Bentleys sold are from referrals. Referrals only come following investments in exceptional customer service, ranging from targeted loyalty events, a delightful hand-over, great after-sales service and being part of an exclusive ownership group.”

 

BMW

Helped by strong demand in the US and an on-going recovery in the European car market BMW’s global 2014 sales rose 9.5% to 1.8 million BMW-branded cars sales. However, it has outperformed most of its rivals in European sales, as its customer base is more affluent and less affected by the recession.

According to Alan Gilligan, Marketing Manager for Joe Duffy Motor Group in Ireland, CRM is now a vital strand of their customer retention and acquisition strategy. “CRM is vitally important in managing customer retention. As the reliability and therefore the lifespan of the car increases we are seeing a bigger gap emerging between sales. So the inter-sales period or service interval is a crucial period when we need to develop an ongoing relationship with our customers.” said Alan.

Joe Duffy Motor Group are in the process of adding an automated customer survey to their system in order to fine-tune the customer service experience. As Alan explains, “Irish people are notoriously bad at complaining but they will go and tell everyone they know if they have a bad experience. The customer survey will give us a chance to pick up any issues the customer may have, contact them directly and address the issue quickly.”

The company has a range of loyalty initiatives for customers. They include fun family events which are not sales oriented, to Saturday Wash Clubs where members can have their car valeted for free or have their Sat Nav retuned while they relax or take a test drive. Practical initiatives like their service plan helps owners spread service payments, and owner discounts on parts and accessories all help to maintain and build the customer relationships.

Other Car Brands in Ireland are following suit by moving into the Loyalty Programme space to gain a better understanding of their customers and using intelligent data to enrich relationships between the customer and their dealer.

The obvious contenders on the loyalty track are Toyota Ireland Loyalty Club, My Audi and My Skoda Loyalty Programmes, each inviting new and existing customers to sign-up to their Loyalty Programme to receive a Loyalty Card in the post and throughout the year a range of 3rd party discounts, experiences, accessory offers and discounts. My Skoda customers earn points for services at their local SKODA dealer, which can be used towards the purchase of their next car.

Other brands such as BMW Mini, Volkswagen and SEAT Ireland do not currently use a physical loyalty card but instead they invite customers to receive highly personalised direct mailings and emails with offers and service information.

With confidence on the rise and customers looking to treat themselves again, now is the perfect time to get to understand customers better, offer them more core rewards and communicate with them more effectively, to build these long standing relationships that drive repeat purchase.

LOYALTY CHANNEL MIX

PORSCHE
BENTLEY
BMW
WEB
Comprehensive website with levels of detail and number of opportunities for Porsche owners to join exclusive Porsche owners’ clubs.

Download Porsche wallpaper and screensavers or their iPad Porsche PadCinema for access to all the latest Porsche videos.

Beautifully-designed website reflects the prestige of the brand. Lots of detail about the range and the history and heritage of the brand. Focused on communicating the benefits of the car and helps customers build their dream car by adding features and printing it off to take with them into their local dealer.
CUSTOM MAGAZINE/ PUBLISHING
The Porsche customer magazine Christophorus, enables customers to keep up-to-date with news and developments from Porsche. Available to Porsche owners only. The Bentley customer magazine is a world populated by super cars and super yachts. Beautiful photography. For Bentley owners but viewable online. BMW Magazine is a must-read for any BMW driver, giving customers an insight into their latest models, must-have features and general lifestyle information. You must register online to access. However, registration requires minimal data.
REWARD REDEMPTION
American customers forgo up to 12 months’ repayments if they choose to upgrade their Porsche. Exclusive members access to driving clubs. Owner benefits include discounted service and maintenance beyond the warranty period. Various dealer level reward programmes include free mini valet, exclusive customer events and seasonal discounts on products.
EZINE
The Porsche newsletter

“Porsche Life” contains interesting news related to Porsche, models, events and important dates.

None at present. BMW News open to owners and non-owners.
APP
A range of apps that promise to deliver the sophistication of the Porsche experience. From the full Porsche catalogue to their GForce app – which keeps track of your driving speed, distance, duration and G force. Porsche Motorsport app for results and pictures of worldwide racing activity. Newsfeed app for all Porsche-related news. Sportscar challenge racing game allows you to race the supersports model, the Bentley Continental, on your smart phone or iPad.

The Pure Bentley app explores the design and history of the classic.

The Connected app allows you to use numerous functions like web radio, Facebook, Twitter, Last Mile Navigation, Vehicle Finder while you’re on the road.

The ‘BMW Link’ app makes it easy to listen to music and make telephone calls from your iPhone while on the road.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter Facebook, YouTube, Twitter Facebook, YouTube, Twitter

 

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