Back in 2019, at an automotive industry conference, Doug Murtha, Toyota Motor North America’s (TMNA) Group VP Corporate Strategy and Planning emphasized the importance of insights-driven decisions: “consumer insight should be at the center of every major decision we make at Toyota.”
With that kind of senior endorsement, Jon Ciarletta, Director of Consumer Insights & Analytics at Toyota Motor North America (TMNA), made it a mission to ensure that his team’s stakeholders were equipped with the proper data and insights to make the right decisions.
Since that time, Toyota’s market insights platform, “The Loop,” has given Jon and his team the chance to shine through both an interstate move (from California to Texas) and 2020’s global pandemic, and has become a trusted single source of truth within the organization.
As an insights function, Jon’s team faced the critical challenge of focusing stakeholders’ attention in the face of an overwhelming amount of global data while also linking information siloed across different functions within the organization. “For an organization as big as Toyota, we’ve got data streams coming from all over the place. That makes it a challenge for our stakeholders to know what to pay attention to,” said Jon.
The ultimate goal, Jon said, is to be a trusted strategic partner within the organization, delivering market insights that drive customer-oriented planning. To do that, they needed a platform that helped them connect the dots between the many sources of information inside, and outside, the organization. And they needed a platform that would provide the structure for the insights team to provide that information to TMNA’s executives and stakeholders in a way they could easily understand and act upon.
In September 2019, TMNA launched their Market Logic insights platform, “The Loop.” The Loop not only gave everyone unfettered access to Toyota’s wealth of knowledge, but it also gave Jon’s team the ability to push insights out to their stakeholders and insert them directly into business processes.
Within half a year after The Loop’s launch, the global pandemic arrived and intensified challenges of data overload while heightening the urgency for Toyota’s executives to understand the crisis in real-time. Jon and his team quickly saw the opportunity to leverage the Loop’s storytelling features with weekly, high-level summaries, or “30,000-foot views,” packaged in easy-to-browse knowledge zones for stakeholders.
If you had to sum up Toyota’s unique perspective towards challenges, look no further than the wisdom of the Japanese word for “crisis”: it’s created from two Kanji characters: “dangerous” (危) and “opportunity” (機). “I think that sums up the attitude we have,” said Jon. “We’ve made a lot of changes throughout our history to be more adaptable and better at confronting crisis because we’ve had more than our fair share.”
Using The Loop’s Covid-19 knowledge zone, Jon and his team pushed three to five simplified bullets of insights gleaned from a week’s worth of real-time data, so stakeholders could stay on the pulse of the pandemic and its impact on the business.
“We try to literally make it as simple as possible. There’s a lot more data and information behind those three to five bullet points, but our landing page for the knowledge zone is simple and to-the-point,” Jon said.
The Loop is turning heads at TMNA. The knowledge zones have been so successful that the team’s research and insights work recently received sizable mentions in large mid-year business strategy presentations by the president and top executives. “We’re at the front of all of our stakeholders’ and executives’ weekly,” Jon said. “And we’ve sustained that for over six months now.”
Other parts of the organization, including Business Insights and the Dealership teams, have started to approach Jon and his team to say, “‘Hey, this is also a part of the story: the economy, our projections for forecasts of sales,’ etcetera,” Jon said. “We just started merging all of this information into one excellent site that has grown and grown. It’s becoming the source for consumer information.”
In just one year, The Loop has become a single source of truth for all Toyota and Lexus employees. Jon credits storytelling on the platform for a massive increase in the team’s footprint across the business – use of knowledge zones has doubled during the pandemic while general usage has increased over 40% each quarter.
The insights team successfully seized the opportunity the Covid-19 crisis afforded them. They continue to produce insights that are being seen and used thanks to the Loop’s sleek and effective storytelling framework. “The ability to create the story and to simplify the very complicated situation that we’re all in has been critical,” Jon said.