As the world’s largest auto manufacturer, Toyota has thousands of dealerships around the world. Founded in Japan, part of what’s made the company so successful is staying true to its cultural roots. Behind every strategic decision its team makes is the spirit of Kaizen — a Japanese word meaning “continuous improvement” — which drives the brand to keep looking for more ways to grow.
Toyota Canada is responsible for almost 300 of the global company’s dealerships. But like any automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM), it’s challenging to tie online behavior to in-person sales. That’s because when consumers are thinking about buying a new car, most of the time they do the bulk of their research online, then make the purchase at a dealership. In Toyota Canada’s case, car shoppers might see a digital ad for a Corolla, visit www.toyota.ca to look up the address of their closest dealer, then go into the dealership for a test drive.
This leaves Toyota Canada’s marketing team with few insights about how buyers engage with their sales teams at their dealership locations — and the dealerships often don’t know the actions their customers might have taken online.
Building efficiency with the right tools
That’s not to say that Toyota Canada’s digital marketing efforts weren’t producing results.
“We’ve made strides in connecting all of our Google Marketing Platform products to have a full view of our marketing efforts,” explains Head of Digital Marketing Karl Bonar.
One insight the team had was that customers who had completed their online Build & Price tool — which allows visitors to customize vehicles and receive instant price quotes — were more likely to purchase a car. So the team used Google Analytics 360 and Display & Video 360 together to re-engage previous website visitors to drive more Build & Price completions on Toyota.ca.
“Reaching users who have previously shown interest in our vehicles is our most cost-effective approach to driving Build & Price completions on our website,” says Karl. “But, in the spirit of Kaizen, we wanted to see if we could drive better performance in these campaigns.”
Finding the right customers with BigQuery
To make their Display & Video 360 campaigns even more effective, Toyota Canada wanted to ensure that they were reaching the previous website visitors who were the most likely to complete the Build & Price activity. For that, the team looked into the native integration between Analytics 360 and BigQuery, part of Google Cloud.
“When we found out we could build a machine learning model in BigQuery using our first-party data from our Analytics 360 account, we saw the potential that could bring in driving added efficiencies,” said Kung Chu, Consultant for Digital Media and SEO.
Toyota Canada began exporting its first-party website data in Analytics 360 directly into BigQuery. Then, the team used the BigQuery ML capability to analyze and run models on the data. The integration between Analytics 360 and BigQuery allowed the Toyota Canada team to automatically export data from Analytics 360 into BigQuery. This allowed BigQuery to refresh and update its predictions every eight hours.
After analyzing a month's worth of data, the machine learning model assigned a propensity score to each visitor, indicating how likely they would be to return to the site within 30 days to complete a Build & Price action. Toyota Canada now had identified which customers it should prioritize with a tailored marketing message.
Next, Toyota Canada used the Data Import feature to bring those insights back into Analytics 360. Using query time import mode in Analytics 360, the marketing team automatically created 10 audiences based on the propensity score from BigQuery. Using the integration between Analytics 360 and Display & Video 360, the team was able to share the audiences it had just created to Display & Video 360, which then delivered display ads to reach those people.
Continuous improvement for continuous success
The results of the test campaign were powerful. The new audiences identified by BigQuery outperformed Toyota Canada’s previous strategy to re-engage website visitors more than six times over. At the same time, their cost-per-acquisition was reduced by 80%. Toyota’s Corolla model continued to enjoy a significant sales boost throughout Canada in the few months after the test campaign ended.
“With these results we’re reapproaching how we use our first party data to reach prospective customers and where we can apply these audiences in Google Marketing Platform.”
, Head of Digital Marketing, Toyota Canada
With the learnings of their success fresh on their minds, Toyota Canada is looking ahead to start their next Kaizen project: This time, how to put their audience data to better use in their future campaigns. Eventually, the company aims to connect all customer touch points using Google Marketing Platform and Google Cloud so that they can more accurately attribute sales driven by specific campaigns and better allocate their marketing resources.