Employees: 152,421 (consolidated basis)
Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa, Japan
higher open rates and click rates with customised emails
Improve understanding of customers in light of decreasing in-person interactions
Appeal to customer needs by marketing various aspects of the same vehicle to different customers
Develop greater understanding of the sales funnel and what content encourages sales
Increased conversion rates with optimised content
200% higher open rates and click rates with customised emails
Increased vehicle sales with ability to analyse content
Improved communications to reduce the sales cycle
Mr Moyuru Kudo
Head of Japan Digital Customer Experience, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. is a global business, operating in more than 160 countries and running manufacturing facilities in more than 20 countries and regions. Global car distribution volume topped 5 million vehicles a few years ago and grew to more than 5.5 million in 2016.
One of the driving forces behind Nissan’s growth has been marketing. In Nissan’s business plan “Nissan Power 224.0 cm (88”) covering a recent five-year period, Nissan established both “enhancing brand power” and “increasing sales power” as two pillars of its strategy. To accomplish these goals, Nissan needed to elevate marketing and sales activities.
Consumer behaviours and the business environment are changing dramatically, particularly in the automotive industry. Companies must radically rethink traditional marketing activities. Nothing illustrates this change better than the number of times a customer visits a dealer when considering a new car.
“Previously, customers would visit dealers over and over again to research cars, but according to recent reports, customers visit dealers an average of 2.6 times,” says Mr Moyuru Kudo, Head of Japan Digital Customer Experience, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “Now, consumers do their research on the Internet and only visit a dealer when they have a better idea of the car they want. As a result, automobile manufacturers have lost opportunities to talk directly with customers.”
With less direct interaction, it can be harder for Nissan to identify interested consumers or provide the most relevant information during the purchase process. Because of this, a consumer might end up choosing a car from another manufacturer or even give up buying a car all together. Given these industry trends, digital marketing is more important than ever.
“Websites can tip the scales for a consumer who is car shopping,” says Mr Kudo. “If we can predict the actions and thought processes that a customer will follow on the website and really understand the customer’s journey, we can determine the best strategy to engage customers. If we do this, we can increase the number of customers who visit dealerships as they’re ready to close on a deal.”
Traditionally, automobile marketing has focused on mass advertising campaigns on television and in newspapers or magazines. Mass advertising helps a company reach a large number of customers, but these ads push the same message to all customers.
“For example, the simplest way to explain our X-TRAIL SUV model to a large number of customers is to always use an image of a tough car with two rows of seating,” says Mr Kudo. “However, customers are also interested in using the X-TRAIL SUV as a three-row car for big families. Through digital marketing, we can gain a greater understanding of our customers’ needs and create more tailored approaches to reach them effectively.”
Before embarking on the digital transformation, Nissan reviewed its organisational structure and processes. Previously, the advertising, sales promotion and IT departments each played a part in marketing, but customer databases and the data management platform were handled by the Japan Digital Customer Experience department. By placing all of these departments under the direct control of the executive operating officer for the Japan region, Nissan increased agility and created a structure where the company can eliminate information silos and look at all activities from the customer’s point of view.
Nissan started building a digital platform to serve as the foundation to support digital marketing. The key ideas behind the platform were “time to market” and “context” based around the idea of being able to instantaneously analyse customer journey data. Nissan’s goal was to create a digital platform that would enable employees to create compelling, personalised experiences based on real-time customer information. Additionally, the digital platform would enable marketers to identify where a customer was in his or her purchasing process and provide information to better inform and engage him or her on the journey.
“The importance of digital continues to increase, but that does not mean that physical touchpoints such as dealerships are no longer important,” says Mr Kudo. “Previously, we asked our teams to name a time when they were emotionally moved. The thing that all of these experiences had in common was that they all involved other people. For example, rather than receiving a generic ‘Happy Birthday’ email from a company, hearing the same words from an employee of the company made the recipient far more happy. Nissan’s goal is to refer to digital information while providing related customer experiences through in-store or in-person channels. Ideally, we will also use information gathered during in-person experiences to provide feedback to digital channels to continue improving customer experiences.”
To bring this digital platform strategy to life, Nissan leverages Adobe Experience Cloud on a global scale. Mr Kudo explained the following reasons for selecting Adobe.
“We rated Adobe Experience Cloud highly because we could build a digital marketing foundation that was consistent globally,” says Mr Kudo. “Furthermore, we appreciated that we could expand functionality to accommodate the growth of our strategy. We could start by introducing a first set of tools and then gradually enhance the solution as our needs and experience grew.”
Nissan first concentrated on understanding the customer journey on its website. With Adobe Analytics, Nissan can analyse the behaviour patterns of customers online, such as how the customer entered the website and how the customer moved through pages. Based on this information, Nissan can build a profile of the customer and apply the discoveries to content presented online.
To optimise web content, Nissan conducted A/B testing and multivariate testing with Adobe Target. A/B tests included design elements, such as the position and shape of buttons on the website, as well as the phrasing of copy text. Through testing, Nissan decreased bounce rates and abandon rates to increase conversion.
Nissan used multivariate testing to optimise how content was ordered in the web catalogue. The web catalogue is made up of numerous parts. By discovering the optimal order for these parts, taking into account the different trends for each vehicle model, Nissan greatly improved the conversion rate.
As email has become an essential part of communication, Nissan is actively working to improve email marketing. Nissan prioritises personalisation through one-to-one marketing. “We automatically change the timing and content of the email campaign based on the customer segment,” says Mr Kudo.
Using the email address that a customer registers for contests or promotions, Nissan can understand the interests of consumers and recommend options based on that understanding. One customer might view the colours the vehicles come in. Another might look at fuel economy, while another will pay attention to technical specifications.
Based on analysis of this information, Nissan can create customised content blocks around colour variations, fuel economy and specifications. When combined with other content blocks—such as user comments, comparisons to other manufactures, price estimates and loan financing—and prioritised based on the interests of the customer, Nissan can easily create multiple patterns for a single email campaign. Nissan uses Adobe Campaign to create these customisable email newsletters.
“Initially we prepared a huge variety of content blocks, but we discovered that increasing the number of blocks didn’t necessarily lead to cost improvements, so we evaluated the data to create the best combination,” says Mr Kudo.
Through these personalised, one-to-one email newsletters, Nissan increased open rates by 1.3 times, click rates by 2.6 times and open and click-through rates by 2 times.
As stated previously, one important goal for the digital marketing team at Nissan is to increase the number of customers who visit dealerships when they are ready to purchase a vehicle. Nissan analyses the customer journey leading up to a purchase, finds winning patterns and takes actions to reflect that knowledge in marketing activities.
“There are some people who visit the website out of curiosity and there are others who look up dealerships and get payment estimates, indicating that they are one step away from purchase,” says Mr Kudo. “We look at the metrics at each stage of the funnel to decide what measures we can take to improve conversion. Then we create a hypothesis and test it.”
For example, Mr Kudo notes that by analysing digital browsing history of customers before and after they visit a dealership, Nissan can start to visualise the sales funnel. “We can see if there are any differences in web activities between a customer who visits a dealership and signs a contract versus a customer who simply visits the dealership,” says Mr Kudo. “If we know what type of content corresponds highly to both visits and contracts, we can determine the efficiency of content and plan for next steps.”
The next big challenge for the digital marketing team at Nissan is utilisation of wider datasets. The first step involves consolidating distributed data from all internal systems. By connecting the data held by each system, Nissan can turn points of data into information that clearly shows an overall view of customers.
The most striking example is the integration of data held by headquarters and the dealers. “Dealers have data that they have been able to gather because they are dealerships,” says Mr Kudo. “There is also a variety of rich data that can be gained strictly through digital marketing. By linking both types of data, we should find many complementary areas.” Dealers and headquarters already share a certain amount of data, but Nissan is currently looking into the next step of how to best analyse and utilise this data.
Furthermore, Nissan is also looking into how it can use external data, not just data gained internally. Recently, the number of datasets available for purchase have increased. By combining third-party data with internal data, Nissan anticipates that it can create new value.
“One of the challenges for Nissan is the lengthening of customers’ purchase cycles,” says Mr Kudo. “As a result, there are many instances where the customer will contact Nissan for the first vehicle inspection, but then there will be silence for the next five or ten years. However, there is still information that the customer might want during that period. If we can approach customers at the appropriate times, we can increase both satisfaction and trust in Nissan and its dealers. If we provide useful and relevant data to customers during the long period after a purchase, we believe that this will help to improve overall service.”
The organisations that have this information are service operating companies or communications carriers. Using this data to understand changes in a customers’ lifestyle, such as marriage or childbirth, Nissan can provide even better suggestions. Mr Kudo is exploring the best ways to broaden horizons and utilise both internal and external information.
Customers are visiting dealers fewer times, thus reducing the opportunities for a vital touchpoint. Nissan is looking to the digital world as the new place where consumers make purchases and where Nissan gains opportunities to learn about customers.
Nissan is using information about customers’ individual needs, their desired timing and their optimal touchpoints to send useful information to customers. Nissan’s marketing teams handle the full customer cycle, from gathering information about vehicles, to purchasing, to after-sales service. It’s not just about selling cars. It’s also about building long-term trust with customers.
“If we can understand each customer’s needs, we can provide infinite options,” says Mr Kudo.
Nissan has high expectations for Adobe Experience Cloud as the platform to accomplish these goals. The company decided to also deploy Adobe Adobe Experience Manager to manage content on a global level.
By using Adobe Experience Cloud as an integrated platform for marketing, Nissan gains an understanding of customer behaviour, deep analytics, personalised content and management of content across the company.
Nissan will continue to build long-term trust with its customers while leveraging its many years of expertise with the solutions and the collaboration with Adobe to its fullest.