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Toyota Motor Corporation has 16 websites that deliver more than 100 million page views per month. The company’s GAZOO.com site offers car owners—as well as Toyota employees and dealers—vehicle information, social networking, news, and entertainment. To enhance site content, increase scalability, and reduce the cost of ownership, Toyota is rebuilding the site using the Windows Azure cloud development environment and Microsoft SharePoint 2013.
"Windows Azure lets us maintain around-the-clock uptime, which is crucial for a global business… It gives us a flexibility that was unthinkable in the era of on-premises deployments."
Toyota Motor Corporation, based in Toyota City, Japan, sold 9.75 million vehicles worldwide in 2012 and had revenue of US$181.3 billion. Toyota is the top-selling automaker in its home country. As part of its efforts to reach younger consumers, car enthusiasts, and even people who don’t own a car, Toyota offers the GAZOO.com web portal. The portal provides news, blogs, shopping, vehicle information, and even a three-dimensional virtual city, GAZOO Metapolis, where users can drive virtual cars and chat with fellow passengers. The number of registered users on GAZOO.com has more than tripled from 2008 to 2013 and is now 1.7 million.
The GAZOO.com site is based on a site Toyota created in 1994 to help Toyota dealers research used vehicles. In 1998, the site was renamed GAZOO.com, and the company added consumer features, along with functionality used by Toyota employees for publishing and analyzing corporate content and sales campaigns. GAZOO.com was originally built on an ASP-based web architecture, and over the years there were many expansions and modifications that significantly increased the IT management burden and total cost of running the site.
In January 2012, Toyota began working on a redesigned architecture for GAZOO.com to help the company reduce site maintenance and costs, make information on the site more dynamic, and enhance social networking, community building, and mobile access opportunities. “We felt that a cloud-based solution made the most sense, because it would dramatically reduce hardware and management costs and increase scalability,” says Hidehiko Sasaki, General Manager for the Internet Planning Department in the e-TOYOTA division at Toyota. “And it was important that the new site have a content management system that can quickly and accurately deliver customized information to meet users’ specific needs.”
Toyota evaluated cloud and content solutions from several companies, including Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and Sitecore. In the end, Toyota chose Windows Azure from Microsoft as its cloud development environment, and Microsoft SharePoint 2013 for content management and blogs. “With Windows Azure, we can provision server resources dynamically to meet fluctuating demand,” says Mr. Sasaki. “And SharePoint 2013 contains highly customizable functionality combined with very efficient features, which made it the best solution for us.”
Development of the new site started in January 2013, and Toyota worked with Microsoft Services on the project. “Having the support of experienced Microsoft personnel working with both the Windows Azure and SharePoint 2013 teams was key to our success, and they helped us keep to a tight schedule,” says Mr. Sasaki. “We worked in the Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 development system, and that sped up development because it’s a familiar tool and it offers a straightforward, seamless experience from development to deployment.”
Toyota is taking advantage of the customizability of SharePoint 2013 to help improve customers’ experience with GAZOO.com. “Toyota has 300,000 pages of content, and the SharePoint 2013 search capability lets us quickly retrieve the information that customers really want and recommend content that they’ll enjoy,” says Mr. Sasaki. “We are also using blogs—and, in future releases, other social features like Yammer—and SharePoint 2013 makes it easy to customize all of our content and templates to meet the requirements of different stakeholders.”
The rebuilt GAZOO.com website was launched on May 30, 2013, and Toyota plans to keep enhancing the site. “In future releases, we intend to use the mobile capabilities of SharePoint to optimize content for smartphones and other mobile devices,” says Mr. Sasaki. “And we are looking at using Yammer for enhanced social networking in a future release.”
With its redesigned GAZOO.com web portal using SharePoint 2013, Toyota will deliver customized information to users and provide enhanced opportunities for social interaction. By rebuilding GAZOO.com with Windows Azure, Toyota is also making the site easier to maintain, expand, and enhance.