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Toyota launches mobile shopping tool app for customer service

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. has added another asset to its suite of mobile applications that increases consumer touch points and assists in the sales process.

Toyota tapped mobile application platform provider Kony Solutions Inc. to develop and deploy its Mobile Shopping Tool application. Kony developed a mobile application that leverages new technologies, including optical character recognition (OCR), to let customers shop for a Toyota vehicle anywhere, anytime.

“The app targets Toyota intenders and smartphone users,” said Michael K. Nelson, interactive communications marketing manager for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Los Angeles. “In addition to our desktop and mobile sites, having an app for smartphone users allows us to engage tech-savvy customers.

“When Toyota started seeking partners for this project, Kony demonstrated a deep knowledge of the mobile space and the ability to develop what Toyota required,” he said. “We leveraged both Kony’s Write Once, Run Everywhere solution and Saatchi & Saatchi LA’s design expertise to reach multiple mobile platforms.”

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. is the marketing, sales, distribution and customer service arm of Toyota, Lexus and Scion.

Established in 1957, TMS markets products and services through a network of nearly 1,500 Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealers, which sold more than 1.77 million vehicles in 2009.

Kony Solutions uses its proprietary Write Once, Run Everywhere single application definition to design and develop applications just once, in a device independent manner, and deploy them across multiple channels, including on-device applications, mobile Web, SMS, Web gadgets, desktop applications and tablets.

Mobile shopping leads to sales
Designed as an extension of Toyota’s sales team, the Toyota Mobile Shopping Tool is an on-device application that delivers an on-the-go shopping experience, with an emphasis on customer service.

Customers can browse a mobile catalog of 16 Toyota cars, trucks, hybrids, SUVs and minivans, with the ability to spin and rotate a vehicle to view all its features.

This one-stop shopping tool also helps users locate a dealer in their area to find a vehicle and request a quote.

“Toyota sought to include information about the Mobile Shopping Tool app in several locations,” Mr. Nelson said. “We took advantage of traffic on both and, as well as provided links on the Toyota USA Facebook page.

“We also leveraged Edmund’s new app launch with exclusive ads for the Toyota Shopping Tool app,” he said.

Consumer like mobile mLot
In addition, the application includes Toyota’s mLot feature, a first for the auto industry.

The mLot feature includes:

• OCR technology that lets customers use their device’s camera to take a picture of a vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), capturing key vehicle information

• The ability to save vehicle information as a “Favorite” for future reference

•  The option to compare “Favorite” vehicles against other Toyota models, or against other comparable makes on the market from within the application

• Integration with social media applications including Facebook and Twitter, so that users can share their “Favorites” with their friends online and via email

• Streaming instructional video embedded directly within the mLot feature

Leveraging Kony’s proprietary Write Once, Run Everywhere single application definition, the application has been made available for Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry devices.

Toyota claims that it is the only automotive manufacturer with content available on three mobile platforms.

Kony’s mobile application platform provides companies with a way to generate native applications, mobile Web, SMS, MMS, social media gadgets and tablet applications.

The platform supports all mobile systems on the market today, including more than 8,000 mobile devices, tablets and various operating systems such as the iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, J2ME, Windows Phone 7 and Palm devices.

In addition, it is compatible with more than 15 browsers, such as Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox, as well as the HTML5 specification.

While Toyota decided not to enable in-application payments functionality, a user can request a full quote via the Toyota Mobile Shopping Tool, as well as do full comparisons with other manufacturers.

Kony also built out a full dealer locator feature where a customer can search for a dealer by ZIP code or use their current location to get directions.

“Toyota wanted to introduce an application with an advanced level of functionality that would allow customers to shop for a Toyota vehicle anywhere, anytime and on any mobile device,” said Stewart Elliott, director of corporate development at Kony Solutions, San Mateo, CA.

“The Toyota team also wanted to leverage new mobile technologies including optical character recognition and advanced graphics in order to make the process of shopping for a vehicle even easier and customer-friendly,” he said.

“With our experience developing and deploying mobile offerings for Fortune 500 companies, coupled with the power of our Kony Mobile Application Platform, we were able to help Toyota deploy a feature-rich mobile application that increases valuable touch points and assist in the sales process, showcasing more than 80,000 Toyota images.”

Final Take
Mobile shopping for Toyota vehicles