Toyota Unveils Expanded Online Car Buying Experience to Keep Up With Shifting Retail Patterns

Toyota Motor North America's complete online retail experience, SmartPath, gives customers the ability to purchase a car without ever visiting a dealership.

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Plano-headquartered Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) has released the latest iteration of its online retail experience to give consumers flexibility in how they lease, finance, or buy their next vehicle.

Called Toyota SmartPath, the technology aims to be a one-stop-shop for purchasing a Toyota. From browsing to vehicle delivery, SmartPath sits at the intersection of online and brick and mortar retail—giving customers a personalized process that they have full control over.

Developed in partnership with Toyota Financial Services (TFS), the experience was built on the idea that shopping can be flexible, convenient, interactive, connected, transparent, and customized. TMNA took on research and development for the comprehensive retail solution, and initially began piloting SmartPath in 2019.

“Our goal is to ensure we create the best experience for our customers and our dealers,” Jack Hollis, SVP of Automotive Operations at TMNA, said in a statement. “As our customers’ expectations evolve, SmartPath provides our dealers the technology to exceed those expectations. Our shared mission is to make the experience of shopping, buying, and owning a Toyota as easy and carefree as driving one.”

The innovation began with TMNA’s desire to expand its retail footprint amidst changing purchase patterns. A recent digital shopping survey showed that two out of three shoppers are more likely to purchase a vehicle 100 percent online, according to TMNA.

But then COVID-19 hit, and the automotive giant realized that the demand for digital transactions was only going to accelerate.

That’s where SmartPath comes in. The complete experience has expanded to allow customers the ability to complete all facets of the car buying process online, without ever needing to physically visit a dealership.

[Image: Toyota]

The experience is integrated across Toyota.com, buyatoyota.com, a dealership’s website, and the physical dealership store. Customers are able to pick their own path, as TMNA has partnered with dealerships across the U.S. to give SmartPath users options that best fit them.

TMNA describes it like this: A shopper can start their journey online, save progress in the “digital garage” and finalize things at the dealership, or complete their purchase online through a digital appointment with a SmartPath dealer. That gives the customer more control, increased transparency on inventory and pricing, and flexibility, according to a statement.

SmartPath is also meant to provide time-saving tools, enhanced analytics, and advanced lead handling on the dealer’s end of the process.

For Toyota dealerships, for instance, the technology integrates with the customer relationship management system and TFS financing so sales associates can have the opportunity to better understand a customer’s necessities.

Currently, SmartPath is available in select markets throughout more than 50 dealerships, with the complete experience expected to roll out market by market starting in mid-February. TMNA said it also has an additional 50 dealerships that are planning to launch SmartPath this spring.

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