The traditional car buying journey is multi-layered, heavily researched and time intensive. Often, purchasing a car is the second biggest investment you will make in your lifetime – behind property. So how can you inspire a consumer to purchase a new car before they’ve even touched the steering wheel?

Plugging into a hot market

It’s been a long road for EV in Australia, and we haven’t yet quite reached the destination that is a universal acceptance of electricity as a medium for getting you from a-to-b. However, there are multiple organisations and brands that will change that.

The Electric Vehicle Council, for example, has undertaken significant research to fully understand the barriers preventing mass market uptake of electric vehicles in Australia. Encouragingly, its 20191 report showed that EV sales figures for the first half of the year were 90% higher than for the same period in 2018.

There are several key questions typically asked by the average consumer – Will this car suit my lifestyle? Can I go the same distance as my regular car? Is it going to cost me more money?

According to the same report consumer choice is increasing, with the number of EVs in Australia expected to jump from 22 as of August 2019 to 31 by the end of 2020.

As for distance, the availability of public charging infrastructure increased by over 140% in 2019, and by 400% since 2017. The national network now comprises 1,930 electric vehicle charging stations.

Then we come to price, which is where MG comes in. In 2020 we offer our latest SUV, the ZS EV, at the lowest price for an electric SUV in Australia. The catch? It’s not here yet. So how are we getting people to buy it?

Traditional value for brand fans

Loyal brand fans are worth their weight in gold. They follow new releases from your brand, are eager to engage on social media and more importantly – quick to purchase. They are also the first to support your brand and recommend to peers. This interpersonal influence from brand fans is vital for building widespread trust, especially when your company is offering new products after a relatively recent re-entry into the market.

It’s critical to look after these enthusiasts. When it came to the launch of the MG ZS EV, to encourage customers we rewarded our first 100 New Zealand customers a substantial incentive – pre-order pricing. This was so attractive to customers in the market for an electric vehicle that we quickly filled the allocation and extended the pre-sale period with additional vehicles. We then replicated this approach in Australia, again offering a pre-sale on the first 100 depositors.

The next stage of the journey towards vehicle delivery is to continue to engage the now nearly 200 pre-sale customers and ensure they are with you every step of the way.

We have implemented a ‘fans first’ approach to ZS EV news, ensuring our customers will always be the first to receive any updates or new content. We also appreciate for many, this is the first EV that will be parked in their driveway and value their input on decisions such as the design of their ZS EV charger – that was cast to vote via a customer eDM and then opened to our larger audience on social media.

When you’re trying to unlock any barriers, as a marketeer a lot of the work aiding the customer in making their decision to purchase can be done before they’ve even set foot in store.

Creating an open and educational retail environment

So how exactly has a showroom helped us sell a car that’s not even here to test drive?

Although company-owned showrooms are quite traditional, our flagship Sydney City MG not only allows us zero-distance to our customers, but also acts as a hub to test and evolve innovative approaches to vehicle retailing.

When designing the showroom last year, the aim was to create an inviting and warm environment where visitors could drop by and learn about MG and our vehicles without necessarily feeling pressured to have purchasing intent. Ultimately, like our products, we want our showrooms to feel accessible and offer additional value to all consumers.

Adorning a large wall in our Sydney City dealership, we created an innovative wall sculpture, so customers can visualise the path to an electric future. The in-store experience wall labelled ‘Electric Meets Reality’ does just that. It celebrates the path to electric innovation, whilst educating showroom visitors on how an EV will complement their lifestyle.

By engaging consumers early with a value offering, taking them with you on each step of the product journey, and utilising retail spaces for captivating product demonstrations, retailers can continue to drive strong interest long before the product arrives.

Danny Lenartic is marketing and product director at MG Motor Australia and New Zealand