Today, I am mentally traveling to Beijing. An overwhelming 21 million people live in the metropolitan area, almost twice the number of Bavaria’s population. The average age of the Chinese population is 36 years, which is significantly lower than that of Germans, which lies at 44 years. The cultural differences are grave and China’s openness towards digital trends has been crucial in moving digitization at double the pace than in Europe.
Audi Innovation Research in China
In China, a customer who buys an Audi A6 is typically in his mid 30s – with the upper class model being his first car. This example shows just how different China is. Blog author Verena Väth found out, how Chinese customers think and how Audi adapts to the market.
Audi Innovation Research: an interdisciplinary think tank for market research
Zijian Pu was born in China and grew up in Germany. Having the advantage of knowing both cultures, she harnesses her insights from Beijing for the headquarters in Germany.
Beijing’s picture is dominated by the number of its inhabitants. Like busy ants, people stream through skyscraper-lined streets, with their eyes fixed on their cell phones. Nothing works without a mobile phone in China. “The Chinese organize their lives through apps,” says Zijian. Websites are now almost irrelevant. “Anyone who wants to be establish himself as a trader on the market should at least be available through a macro app.”
The Chinese organize their life through apps
WeChat is one of the most popular services in China and serves a prime example for a macro app. It combines features of WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Co. “I can follow different channels, receive offers, carry out orders and even pay directly,” says Zijian. “I can also have my groceries delivered directly to my home; book a masseuse, trip or concert ticket and make a restaurant reservation. I could even apply for a loan,” she continues. More than 800 million people worldwide use WeChat, including 700 million in China. In contrast, WhatsApp has about 900 million users worldwide.
To benefit from the developments, Audi has strengthened its cooperation with Chinese tech giants Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent. Together with Alibaba, Audi has already integrated real-time traffic information into Audi MMI, making it the first premium brand in China to offer high-resolution 3D maps. What’s more, with Baidu and Tencent, Audi is working on integrating mobile services into its models – including WeChat.
Customer feedback as a central purchasing criterion in China
“The range of services and restaurants provided by the app is nearly unmanageable. This is why Chinese customers rely on other people’s recommendations during their choices,” says Zijian. For an automobile manufacturer such as Audi, this means that Chinese buyers refer less to the dealer or manufacturer’s homepage for information about their models, compared to customers in other markets. Rather, they prefer using an online platform where they are able to compare all manufacturers’ models, read customer reviews and even see the prices of each dealer. Nevertheless, customers still tend to buy their car at the dealership afterwards. But their willingness to buy online is growing: “There were great online offers on Black Friday and more than 6,000 cars were bought and paid online in one day,” says Zijian.
Since the car is still considered a status symbol in China, size is the decisive purchasing criterion. “If someone has the choice between a full-featured Audi A4 and a lower-end Audi A6, they will go for the A6,” says Zijian. “Nevertheless, certain elements are also important in the interior, for example leather seats and a navigation system.”
Carsharing: Audi at home for mega cities
To make the automobile manufacturer’s car sharing offer more interesting to their customers, they need to add value. Inhabitants of the exclusive “Dragon’s Range” residential complex in Hong Kong can now use ‘Audi at home’ and book selected Audi models via app. These are stationed on site, with a concierge service that guarantees complete all-round service including the refueling and maintenance. Moreover, mileage and insurance coverage are included. The offer is currently being rolled out to other megacities as well.
One of the emerging target groups includes those born in the 1990s. Already today, the average Chinese buyer of an Audi A6 is in his mid-thirties. Digital natives are very tech-savvy, always looking for the latest digital trends. “The offer doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect. It has to be new and add value,” Zijian says.
China has moved further: total connectivity and alternative drives
While Germany is still debating on whether a world without cash makes sense, or if total networking is useful for society, China’s capital is already in the thick of it. This is another reason why Audi China, a wholly owned subsidiary of AUDI AG, has its own research and development center in Beijing. Their work’s focus lies on key technologies, such as connected car, piloted driving, digital services and alternative drives, among others.
How Audi has created tougher stringency in emission values
The latter is becoming more and more important in China. At the moment, the crowds and car queues are moving through a city where you can barely see the blue sky because of the smog. But the government is steering against it. From 2020 onwards, China will stipulate the world’s most stringent emissions standards. And Audi has reacted accordingly: just recently, the locally produced A6 L e-tron with WiFi hotspot was launched, this year the Q7 e-tron will follow. With these models, the brand offers the necessary premium experience to the discerning customer that will set them apart from the market.
In the video you can find out which expections AIR will be up against in 2025:
Auto China 2016: Audi presents Audi connected mobility concept
At Auto China 2016 in Beijing, Audi presents the Audi connected mobility concept, a concept car based on the Audi Q3, the brand’s urban compact SUV. The concept offers sporty and multi-functional mobility for megacities with dense traffic and road restrictions. Tailored to markets with growing urbanization such as China, this lifestyle concept was developed at Audi Research & Development in Beijing and focuses on young, progressive drivers.Read more
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