The UAE’s auto market has solid fundamentals - a growing economy and a rising youth population, with 75 percent planning to buy a new car in the next two years. 1

Al Futtaim began importing Toyota into the region in 1955 and today, Toyota Al Futtaim is one of the largest car distributors in the region representing about one third of all cars sold in the UAE. Think With Google shares an exclusive interview with Patrick Fourniol, head of marketing for Toyota at Al Futtaim Group, to talk about Toyota’s digital strategy, their best campaigns, and what’s next for one of the most popular auto brands in the UAE.

Q: What do you see as major opportunities in the MENA auto market? How do you see Toyota positioning themselves?

A: The biggest opportunity in MENA’s fast-paced auto market is in the average age of our customer, that is at least 15 years younger than in Europe and many mature markets. This means previous experience with the brand is less relevant and they are more likely to choose a new brand. The role of conquest is much bigger in the market that we operate here.

Q: The last year and a half have seen you really expanding Toyota/Al Futtaim’s digital communication. Could you give us insight into your strategy and results?

A: One of first things I did when I joined Toyota in the UAE is to invest in a completely new digital platform. We built a new, more adaptive website that enabled us to have a fully tailor made mobile platform. Internet and mobile penetration rates are extremely high in the region. In 2014, we redesigned the mobile application through our websites and managed to trigger more lead and click-to-call rates than before. We multiplied the lead triggered by mobile by ten within one year.

Q: Is there a standout digital campaign you can tell us about?

A: From a YouTube perspective, we have radically invested since early 2014. Google was able to provide us with much more information regarding the performance of YouTube ads and we started to handle YouTube like a completely specific channel. It triggers contact that we can then retarget. It is a digital channel that we also use as a mass media channel given the power of YouTube in the region. From the information we have, targeting our audience of 20-35 year olds, YouTube is as powerful for us as television. It requires us to design campaigns and the media planning around YouTube.

To raise awareness and find a more personal way to engage with consumers for the launch of the Camry in 2015, we followed a 360 degree cross-channel approach, by using a YouTube Masthead, Google Preferred, Trueview, Drivebox and Search Products.

The media approach proved to be highly successful because of the positive digital metrics the campaign delivered, and particularly due to the fact that 2016 Camry Video Ad made it to the top 3 trending videos in the UAE on Youtube during the period of June 18th, 2015 to July 17th, 2015. On August 15th, 2015, using a YouTube Masthead, Al-Futtaim Motors created intense exposure by achieving over 8 million impressions in 24 hours.

From the information we have, targeting our audience of 20-35 year olds, YouTube is as powerful for us as television. It requires us to design campaigns and the media planning around YouTube.

Consumers and their Cars: The Behavior Shift

Q: What role does digital play in each stage of purchase?

A: Digital plays a key role in each stage. YouTube provides mass media reach to trigger product awareness, followed by digital advertising on our website and retargeting.

Digital also plays a role in a customer’s research for information outside of owned media. Customers have access to a level of information that is extremely accurate about cars, models and reviews. This has cut down on showroom visits, which are now focused on product experience for test drives and transaction negotiation.

We are currently working on a pilot with Google that has preset offers that adapt to our target audience. We are testing this in order to increase the conversion to request for a contact with our call center.

Q: Do you have plans to cater specifically to these digitally pre-informed customers?

A: We plan to develop more video content for them on specific features on our cars. If we look back, there has been a lot of emphasis on static information: specifications, data and some text. It used to be a bit of online brochure and now, where we see great responsiveness from our target audience, is to complement that phase of reading statistics with watching videos of how the car drives and key specifications. This is an area where, content-wise as a retailer and manufacturer, we have to focus our efforts.

Measuring Success

Q: One of the biggest advantages of digital media is the access to metrics and the ease of optimisation. What kinds of KPIs do you rely on as an organisation, and what is your approach to audience measurement and important customer metrics such as lifetime value?

A: There are two sets of KPIs. One is at the top part of the purchase funnel which deals with reach and views. The area we want to improve on is our ability to know the conversion ratio of lead into visit and those visits into orders. So it’s at the very bottom of the purchase funnel that we focus our efforts. What makes digital marketing particularly efficient is that we are fully integrated. We have great data that we collect: showroom enquiries, conversion ratio into test drives, from test drive to order and to an invoice.

Looking Ahead

Q: Ramadan is a big season for car sales. How do you address that and how does digital play into your marketing strategies?

A: We do special ads for Ramadan and digital will very simply be a key component across all channels. Digital will represent one of our key media efforts to communicate on our special offers and engage with target audiences. The trend is that within total marketing expense, year after year digital has increased its share steadily. The increase of digital media is higher than total media for many years and that is composed of all digital channels - YouTube, search content marketing, banner advertising and social media.

Q: Looking ahead towards 2020, how do you think the auto industry is likely to change, and how crucial a role do you think technologies will play in driving that change?

A: We will see a stronger emphasis on environmentally-friendly solutions, a space in which we are already active through our collaboration with companies like Dubai Taxi driving a fleet of hybrid Camry cars over 10 million kilometers successfully.

We also want to have more interactive content about our cars online. We are looking at developing creative video content marketing to showcase Toyota’s strengths, for example with Land Cruisers, which is one of our best sellers and one of the most popular vehicles in UAE.


1 Nielsen’s Global Survey of Automotive Demand in 2015