Competing For Relevance: Mazda And The Data Race

by Gillian Ingram Figaro Digital

The automotive industry is evolving incredibly quickly, as the large players in this space frantically race to out-innovate, out-budget and outpace each other through digital transformation. But we caught up with one automotive brand which is competing not with huge budgets, but with clever and insightful use of its pre-existing customer data. Mazda is currently undergoing a major shift in the way it utilises its customer data, using an intelligent Data Management Platform (DMP) to unlock new layers of insight and drive the brand’s growth. We caught up with Robert Vonk, Online Marketing Manager at Mazda, to find out how this comparatively small player in the auto industry is competing with Europe’s biggest car manufacturers.

Tactical Competition

With so many brands competing in the automotive sector, and the value of marketing playing a huge role, a car manufacturer must be at the top of its game when it comes to managing its resources. “In insurance, you might have five or six competitors, but in our industry we have 20 or more, and even the smaller players are still spending a lot of money,” explains Vonk. “We knew we had to become smarter. That’s part of the Mazda way of thinking: we are small, but we work smarter to make up for it.” Mazda’s solution was the on-boarding of a new DMP, which would allow greater efficiency in the targeting, acquisition and communication with its user base. Working with Relay42’s next generation Data Management Platform, the brand was able to gain deeper insights from its existing data, which would help to inform the wider strategy.

Actionable Insight

When working with the volumes of data that Mazda had, it was important that the new data platform would offer the potential to scale the business, and continue delivering detailed insights as the size of the data pool grew. “In this system, our data is immediately actionable,” says Vonk. The ease at which the data can be accessed and analysed and then fed back into the acquisition strategy is key for business growth. “We have doubled our growth in the Netherlands. That’s not something you can achieve working with just your customer database. So we had to get out to new people, looking at our suspects and prospects as well.” Part of this methodology was considering the motivations of visitors to the Mazda website. “There are many people who are not necessarily visiting our website to purchase a car, who have another reason. Or they are visiting multiple times, for a variety of different purposes. Our aim is to find out what’s behind their decision.” By understanding customer motivations, Mazda can not only provide better services to those customers, but also use the data to inform insights about the wider customer base, and where communications and services can be developed and improved.

What Your Customer Wants

Another key consideration in Mazda’s successful use of data is the carefully timed introduction of new UX features, depending on the motivations of the customer and their position along the purchasing journey. “When we see that data is triggering better results, we know it’s worth creating the content for these different audiences,” explains Vonk. “For example, the personalisation on our website started with the basic switching of images for the model range, and as we saw results we could take it a step further, adding a different headline, or a different call to action. As we continued to get results these would inform further decisions.”

The gradual increase of personalised experiences has made Mazda’s customer-centric outlook a much more natural and seamless progression, avoiding the knee-jerk reaction experienced by many consumers when they are confronted with data-driven ‘solutions’ which deliver an intrusive experience, rather than a helpful one. “How many times do marketers hear complaints from customers that a product they’ve viewed once is following them around the internet?” asks Vonk. “That’s a misuse of data, particularly if the consumer has given you other triggers that they probably aren’t looking to purchase.” It may be easy, Vonk explains, for marketers to get distracted by the capabilities of their DMP or other tech, and forget that the humans on the receiving end of these data breakthroughs are human consumers. “There’s a lot of talk about data, and big data, and it all seems to be focussed on systems- but it should be focussed on the consumer. That’s where the data comes from. In the light of GDPR, consumers are more aware of the value of their data, and they will accept its use by brands when they understand how it improves their experience and helps them.”

Data-Driven Across The Board

The heavy focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its customer data has seen Mazda work closely with its partners, including Relay42, to make sure that this in-depth understanding of its customer data and its implications is deeply ingrained in the company ethos. “As a company we also want to have a solid understanding of these processes ourselves, because we believe that this knowledge should be at the core of what we are doing, and informing at every level of our strategy,” says Vonk. So what are some of the key data lessons that Mazda has taken away from this partnership?

“You don’t need to wait until you have a 360 degree view of the customer. This seems to be the first project that people start talking about. But if you have even the tiniest bit of data, you can start leveraging it. Start small – this might sound like a similar point, one of our processes was simply excluding irrelevant visitors and therefore reducing waste. It might not sound too sexy at first, but it immediately sets you in motion. And finally, keep on trying. If you are not seeing the results you expect, be flexible so that you can try something else, or refine your process. Just starting would be a good thing!”

Mazda’s dedicated approach to optimising its data analysis shows that competitors in the automotive industry can compete with more than just budget size and market share. By ensuring high levels of customer relevance, Mazda provides its customers, loyal and prospective, with the kind of experience that inspires continued engagement and satisfies discerning customer expectations. Filtering down the funnel, these insights inform the Mazda dealerships with the highest-quality customer information, so that this high level of service can be offered to customers whether they are online or offline.