The automotive industry has been hit hard during the Covid-19 pandemic. With travel restricted and people working from home, the need for vehicles dropped. And as customers found themselves in difficult financial situations as economies tanked, buying cars became the least of their priorities.
For Toyota, its automotive sales in the Philippines dropped to levels never seen in its 30+ years in the country, while the majority of its operations required a physical presence, from local manufacturing to vehicle sales and services.
It was extremely challenging when, suddenly, physical activities were completely not allowed, recalls Elijah Marcial, the head of press relations and operations manager at Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) Corporation, in a conversation with The Drum.
“On the marketing front, while we already have several digital marketing activities, we quickly realized it is not in the level of advancement that would allow us to have end-to-end transactions with our customer completely online,” he explains.
To top it off, Toyota was also struggling to expand its audience reach while maintaining cost-effectiveness, despite running the aforementioned digital marketing campaigns concurrently.
According to Marcial, Toyota was doing the usual social media and programmatic ads and was able to achieve many views, but found that these were not necessarily its target market.
“There was a sudden increase in online inquiries, but less serious customers posed a challenge to our sales force in how to contact them all and how to filter the more serious inquiries,” says Marcial.
“Therefore, we had to expand audience reach to our real target market, which should generate serious leads as opposed to reaching the general public.”
The Japanese carmaker decided to turn to adtech startup Appier to drive curated audiences to the TMP website and saw that users engaged highly with ads about products, promos and services they are interested in.
Toyota also allowed Appier to use its AI technology to learn, identify and target users not only by demographics but through topics and interests using its keyword targeting technology.
“This unique solution helped TMP reach the right audience by analyzing users’ recently browsed content and learning their true intention. In that way, TMP ensured that its money is spent on customers with the right mindset,” explains Marcial.
“Moreover, proactive topic targeting can help TMP reach its clients at the ’golden period’ even before they have intentions to search. With it, TMP was able to target its customers before its competitors did.”
With Appier’s help, Marcial says Toyota can quickly show existing customers that it is here with them during these tough times by highlighting who has existing loans, insurance, warranty or maintenance and who has asked for flexibility or extension of terms.
It has also found that new customers looking to buy a new car to avoid using public transportation want to see more promos or flexible financing. “We had to come up with new financing packages that are easier on the pocket and increase the supply of our most affordable models. We get this customer feedback mainly through our digital channels and we have had to respond through the same channels as well.”