Full rethink of marketing, sales and service starts with launch of redesigned XC90; dealer revamp will be complete in 2018

Full rethink of marketing, sales and service starts with launch of redesigned XC90; dealer revamp will be complete in 2018

Volvo is cutting back on major motor show attendance around the world and winding down many of its sponsorship activities as part of a new global marketing strategy which the company said would allow it to market and sell cars in ways never before seen.

The Swedish brand is moving away from traditional ways of selling in an auto industry described by sales and marketing chief Alain Visser as "one of the most conservative, least evolutionary marketing clusters in global business".

He added: "For decades, car marketing has been following a certain pattern which is followed by the entire car industry. Now, Volvo Cars chooses to defy that logic and implement a strategy that is geared towards its own needs."

The new strategy – called 'Volvo Way to Market’ – focuses on four areas: marketing tools, "digital leadership", dealerships and service. Significantly the carmaker will concentrate on three key international motor shows, one each in Europe, the US and Asia. However, it will conduct an annual event to showcase its products and brand and will place online sales and marketing at the centre of its marketing strategy.

The company added that it would "drastically upgrade" its dealerships and service offering.

Visser said: "We don’t want to throw all existing marketing concepts overboard. Many of them exist for a good reason. We also don't to say that we are better than all the rest. But we do have the self-confidence to say that we are different. So our way to market needs to be different as well.

"Motor shows are a rather traditional affair in which brands crowd out each other at set times in the battle for press exposure."

Visser said Volvo would gradually reduce its motor show activities and remain in one motor show per region per year: Geneva in Europe, Shanghai/Beijing in China and Detroit in the US.

Instead it would embark on a series of new initiatives seeking to have a stronger and more individual approach towards the press and customers.

Similar to the Stockholm launch event for the redesigned XC90 in August, the company will organise an annual event where the brand, new products and innovations are presented in a way that is commensurate with its brand and identity.

Advertising spend, it said, will "not be at the level" of its larger competitors and will be selective in terms of media channels to get its brand message across. It will also cut back sponsorships although will increase its commitment and investment in the Volvo Ocean Race which bit sees as "purely Volvo. It is the most competitive, fair and pure blend of people with nature".

The first leg of the Volvo Way to Market, however, focuses on digital leadership and identifies three key elements: digital commerce – with global online sales complementing dealerships.

Visser said the company has worked closely with its dealer network in developing the tool in order to retain a personal touch. A first step in digital commerce was taken with the online-only sale of 1,927 special launch edition XC90 cars in September.

The second element is a configurator which replaces the existing 'build your car from scratch' concept that starts with what the automaker calls 'the designers choice': a fully-specified car which the consumer can then adjust based on personal taste and budget. Once the choice has been made, the consumer receives a short video which shows the car of choice in motion.

A new website will be a "brand experience" in which every screen and every single piece of information is laid out in a "Volvo way" and in line with the brand and values.

All new dealerships will have a globally uniform layout, look and feel with exterior and interior distinctively "Scandinavian and Volvo". Existing dealerships will be upgraded in a similar way.

Dealer will also have to underline the company’s Scandinavian and Swedish heritageby means such as offering customers a drink in Swedish-produced glasses, sound and smell elements that portray a Scandinavian spirit and waiting/lounge areas that offer highlights from Swedish cuisine [meatballs, anyone? - ed].

All dealer staff will go through a training programme to be familiarised with these new customer service processes and standards. European dealership staff will be dressed by Swedish fashion designer Oscar Jacobsson.

Additionally, Volvo Personal Service will see the introduction of a personal service technician for every customer and the company said an extensive training and development programme was already underway with a number of countries having already adopted the concept as a pilot programme. Customer satisfaction in these markets is claimed to have increased "significantly".

By 2018, all Volvo dealerships worldwide will be offering this service as standard.