Brand loyalty is something we Filipinos are very familiar with. It’s what’s helped keep automotive manufacturers like Toyota Motor Philippines remain at the top of sales charts throughout the years.
But how exactly do carmakers instill this among the consuming public? Do they lure customers in through marketing gimmicks such as discounts, freebies, and promos? Or do they simply make it a point to display sheer consistency over time?
According to a report by Nikkei Asia, the two automotive giants are now opening ‘experiential stores’ in their home market of Japan. Toyota and Nissan are looking to build brand loyalty with the youth—the “would-be customers of tomorrow”—through these outlets that offer children and even adults various activities that allow them to experience the brands’ products.
In December, Toyota subsidiary Toyota Mobility Tokyo opened its Ariake Miraie store in a shopping mall in Koto Ward. The 140sqm space features several toy vehicles on display, a playpen, and a few large tables. The shop is aimed not just at children but also ‘power couples’ in their 30s and 40s who live in nearby high-rise condominiums.
“This place serves as a community space for local residents,” said store manager Takahiro Arata. “Our purpose here is not to sell them cars but to make them fans of Toyota.”
As for Nissan, it displayed the new all-electric Ariya as part of retailer b8ta’s experiential store in Shibuya from November to December. The site allowed guests to touch the electric crossover and experience some of its features firsthand. Cameras then monitor how long visitors stay in front of the product, while staff watch said visitors’ reactions and report the feedback to Nissan.
“We aim to help the car brand reach out to those it hasn’t been able to approach before, such as young people in their 20s and 30s, who love to try state-of-the-art things,” said b8ta Japan chief operating officer Hiroki Hada.
Event-goers Tazawa and Fujioka shared how excited they were to have been able to see and touch an electric car for the first time. “We thought that electric cars were something far away that we would never use,” said Tazawa. “But the Ariya will come into our minds from now on when we hear about electric cars.”
“Through the experiential store, we can have a touchpoint with young people who are not necessarily interested in cars,” said Tomo Kosaka, senior manager at Nissan's brand and media strategy department. “By letting people experience first hand how much cars have evolved, we want to leave people an image that Nissan is trying something new.”
According to Interbrand Japan CEO Masahito Namiki, amassing fans among non-users will be crucial for car brands. The branding consultancy recently conducted a customer experience survey and found that many non-user consumers support powerful brands, suggesting people who do not drive or own a car can like a brand through customer experience.
“The auto industry is in a time of change and carmakers will probably not just be selling cars in the future as the industry seeks to shift to MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) and become a provider of services,” Namiki said. “Fostering more fans or potential customers among non-users today will be key to thriving in the future.”
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