The world post the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly going to change the way people move around, especially in a population-dense country like India. The thin line between the physical and the digital world is increasingly blurring post-pandemic. Needless to say, the Indian auto sector is one of the early adopters of digitization. Though the initial challenges were daunting, the pandemic has placed a spotlight on the need for dealers to act quickly in adopting digital tools and practices for the future. According to this report based on the 4-wheeler category, consumers are to become more value-seeking in their choices, given budgetary constraints with 50% consumers planning to increase spend and 33% planning to trade down to less expensive brands. Depth of digital influence expected to rise for 4-wheelers as 65-70% consumers expected to finalize the model before going to a dealership. Consumers will thus avoid public transport, drop in shared miles will increase usage of private cars as well as create some entry-level demand. People who prefer to travel by private transport v/s public increased to 48% vs 33% pre-COVID-19. How should brands respond – Now. Next. Beyond. At such crucial times, brands should hit hard on the nail with digital showrooms and online experiences to both the audience and the brand's benefit. As re-inventing and re-imagining become the buzzword in the automotive world today, smart marketing platforms like AI and VR become crucial in a post-COVID-19 marketing funnel. The Facebook-BCG report talks about the new pathway for the auto industry with increased digital touchpoints, expectations of a seamless Omni-channel experience and the growing importance of virtual after-sales service. Additionally, brands should also focus on strengthening online-offline pathways to meet customer expectations and replicate in-person experiences to improve sales conversion. Three key highlights from the Facebook-BCG report of the automotive industry - Digital influence for auto consumers is very high: 85% influence pre-COVID compared, current times likely to have increased even more - Importance of discovery & salience heightened before visiting the dealership: 65-70% consumers expected to finalize model before going to the dealership - Consumers expect positives of offline for contactless online purchase: 1 in 4 consumers, who have cancelled/ postponed their purchase, would re-consider if there is zero contact with a dealership Prasanjeet Dutta Baruah, Vertical Head - Technology, Telecom, Automotive & New Business, Facebook India said, “At Facebook, we are very proud to partner with the offline industry and help dealers move from a truly offline environment that they were a part of pre-COVID-19 to an online hybrid environment which includes training and other tools which we are providing them to become online players.” Vikram Janakiraman, Partner & MD, BCG India said, “Today, consumers are expecting brands to give them end to end digital purchase experience. There is a huge opportunity to change the way we interact with consumers and give them a far safer environment to interact with dealers and brands with the increasing use of digital.” Facebook & BCG recommends these digital solutions for auto brands to increase online sales 1. Replicate in-person experience: Leverage digital enablers like AR/VR and live streaming to showcase product features. 2. Focus on hyper-localization: Leverage social media for targeted campaigns and lead generation. 3. Leveraging influencer marketing: Using influencers’ social media following to boost brand awareness, drive engagement and sales. 4. Reconfigure delivery formats: Explore new retail formats that complement traditional dealership models, which leverage digital tools. 5. Optimize portfolio for value creation: Target different segments with relevant car specifications and features. Explore in-demand car segments to a capture share of the growing market. 6. Digitalize & enhance after-sales experience: Ensure enhanced virtual after-sales support with human assistance for car servicing via digital channels 7. Actively induce and leverage digital post-purchase advocacy: Incentivize social peer recommendation by online product reviews and ratings. Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director, Maruti Suzuki India said, “We are leveraging social media which allows us to reach customers through personalized messaging to be able to push both the salience as well as consideration scores very rapidly to get better ROI.” To know more, read the full report here: https://bit.ly/2D6zhj7 Disclaimer: The views, suggestions and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Forbes India journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.