Mercedes-Benz, the premium automobile colossus, is to stop selling cars as such in China -- and instead sell "experience", according to senior company executives.
"In the past we sold cars to customers and provided services for their cars. But in the future we are focusing on customers: offering them more, better service and experience," said Li Hongpeng, senior executive vice-president of Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co.
"Our fast growth in the past relied on traditional channels and ways, but shall we continue to rely on them to develop our business in the future? The answer is no," Li added.
Mercedes-Benz now has more than 470 dealerships across China, its biggest market worldwide.
"Our task in the future is to turn the current dealerships into experience centers; and to turn salesmen and service men into experience masters."
Zhang Ying, a professor at Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, said Mercedes-Benz is moving in the right direction.
"In fact, experience is what we are most concerned about in all business activities," Zhang said.
"Any brand is just part of customer's lives. You can never be their entire lives, so you should help them to live their lives."
As part of its effort to deliver the best experience, Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co has built a team called a Best Experience Unit.
Its members come from different departments, so that it can deliver what it needs to better meet customer demands in a faster and more effective way, said team leader Li Pengcheng.
Marc-Oliver Nandy, executive vice-president, said meeting customer demands is one of the most important driving forces in Mercedes-Benz's development.
Since it launched its Best Customer Experience strategy, the company has been communicating with customers on a regular basis to collect their opinions and ideas, he said.
Nandy said it is during its regular communications, the company has learned their demands for digitalization.
One of its initiatives is the e-commerce platform it started in 2016. By the end of 2017, 476 dealerships in 217 cities had integrated its e-commerce platform, where potential customers can browse cars and place their orders for a total of 127 models.
It has also unveiled a WeChat-based club for its customers, a platform designed to cover a number of things ranging from sales, after-sales service and finance, to mobility, health and education.