More Toyota dealers now rely on SmartPath provide to customers a more convenient and flexible digital retail experience than any of the alternatives offered by third-party companies. If that trend continues, the system promises to further differentiate Toyota in the marketplace.
SmartPath, Toyota Motor North America’s (TMNA) digital retail solution, has established a foothold among Toyota’s dealers — helped rather than hindered by the pandemic.
The system — which allows customers to move seamlessly between the online and in-dealership realms when researching, shopping for and purchasing Toyota vehicles — was launched in April 2020. Since then, it has:
- Been adopted by more Toyota dealers than any of the third-party alternatives;
- Facilitated more than 150,000 customer enquiries;
- Completed more than 46,000 vehicle sales.
Meanwhile, Lexus Monogram — a parallel system optimized for the luxury vehicle market — has begun to roll out in pilot mode.
All told, TMNA now has 120 dealers on board the two systems with another 122 poised to go live within the next few months. Add it all up and it’s clear that SmartPath, several years in the making, is the right offering at the right time.
“SmartPath truly is providing customers with the experience that, more and more, they are demanding,” says Tim Bliss, general manager of Retail Transformation. “Since the start of the pandemic, we have doubled our dealership footprint every six months. We must continue to work and support our dealers to maintain that momentum. If we do, SmartPath has the opportunity to be a true differentiator for the brand.”
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that COVID-19 has accelerated this transformation. According to J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study, 45% of consumers now express comfort with buying a car online. And McKinsey estimates that digital shopping in the U.S. experienced 10 years’ growth in just three months.
Still, Bliss readily admits that dealers have multiple options to help them adapt to this change. SmartPath will only succeed if his team continually improves and expands the systems’ capabilities. This year that has meant extending support to used cars as well as vehicle financing, working in partnership with Toyota Financial Services. Next year? Look for the systems to help the dealers more fully shift their service and parts retail operations online as well.
“No third-party system can offer a complete solution like that,” says Bliss. “Still, we know our dealers have a choice. It’s up to us to win their business. Our goal is to be the best in class with our product, in the way we launch it and in our dealer support.”