With Cazoo about to launch promising used vehicles delivered to your door within 48 hours, this week I look at what retailers can do to stay ahead of these so called “disrupters”.

To prepare for this article I interviewed a number of people who consider themselves non-car people who are currently looking for cars.

Each buyer had different budgets and some had more of an idea of what they wanted then others.  They all fell within one or two of the following categories.

  1. They know very little about cars and would love some help in deciding what they should be looking for.
  2. Have a rough idea of what they want but do not know where to start.
  3. Know what they want but dread the thought of trawling through websites and dealerships looking for the right car or best deal.
  4. They find the process of buying a car complicated and time consuming.

One thing that did come through was that if there was an easy way to buy online they would love that.

Each time I see a big launch of the latest company to offer the consumer a better buying experience two things cross my mind.  Firstly, I am excited, can the consumer finally buy a car online and secondly if they can what does this mean for the dealers.

Thankfully my second concern is not an issue at this stage because no one has managed to offer the first one, a full end to end online buying experience that you get from say John Lewis or Amazon.  I say this cautiously because I do not expect it to be far away.  I am intrigued to see what the Cazoo experience is.

I decided a good place to start was taking one of these buyers and trying to buy online with them.  Can any of the below providers help this non-car person to buy online?

Helen is in her 30’s with a three year old child.  She has the following criteria.  A budget of £6k to £7k and does not want finance.  Works in London and will only use the car at weekends.  It must be petrol and ULEZ compliant.

Cinch

As Cinch claim to take the faff out of buying I thought I would try them first.  BCA’s move into a retail platform sharing cars of their preferred partners.

There was nice functionality to their A.I search criteria.  Firstly it asks budget, do we have a part exchange and are we financing.  It then goes on to ask who will be in the car and their height (small, average or tall).  Interesting but we are still with them.  It then asks what sort of driving we do, motorways, city and country and how often.  We are then presented with some lifestyle pictures and asked to select what we like.  We choose some sunsets and happy holiday scenes but not the lime green Lamborghini. Finally, how often is the car driven and what things do we value such as environment, space, speed etc.  The top recommended car was a Hyundai Veloster.  I wait for the reaction and it is fair to say Helen had not seen one of those before.  There is no way Helen would have searched for one.

It has gone quite well up to this point but should she choose one of the suggested Veloster all she can do next is request a call back or email the dealers.  We move on.

heycar

heycar is a Daimler/VW backed platform.

This time a more traditional filter.  It suggests their top five makes are Audi, Ford, Mercedes, Vauxhall and VW.  As there is a tight budget we select Ford and Vauxhall.  We then choose the budget £5k to £7k (£6k was not available) Mileage maximum 40,000, Body type Hatchback or Saloon then finally manual and petrol.  We are presented with 539 cars.  As a non-car person we have filtered quite well but this is just too many.  For completeness we select the first car and like Cinch we can message the dealer or call them.  We move on…

Carwow

Approaching Carwow from the same angle, looking for a used car I was expecting something similar to Cinch to help us choose but it took us to more of a traditional filter.  We filtered down by price, petrol and mileage which produced 60 vehicles for us.  I have to say that Carwow was a nice platform to use and nice touches highlighting cars that were a “good price, fair price and over-priced”.  It also suggested some cars to consider that were similar to the one that had been selected.  But alas contact with the dealer via email or phone was required to take it further.  What is a nice feature is that there was just one person to call and I had an offer code so it did seem like the process might have been a bit easier than phoning up and starting again on the phone.

Conclusion

Currently these platforms are not competing just helping drive leads, although in my opinion they are fighting for the same customer and advertising the same cars. As a dealer you do not need to worry about these platforms just yet, possibly Cazoo and I promise to write an article once I have tried to buy a car from them.  There is an American firm, Roadster launching a platform at AM-Live on November 7th this year.  As I will be on Stand D8 demonstrating our new free appraisal tool and live bidding platform I will be sure to pop along and report back.  Come and see me if your are there.

As a dealership you can potentially offer so much more than these platforms. You have bricks and clicks as they say. However, in my view, there must be some changes.

My top tips to make your website better for a Helen.

  • Keep it personal Ensure your website is more personal. Can they log in when the time suits, similar to Carwow so that when the customer does make contact they do not have to re-tell someone the story.

  • Keep it simple How do you make it simple for a Helen to buy a car. Online qualification. Do not give them hundreds of cars to plough through. 5-10 is enough.

  • Seamless Regardless of the customer visiting the showroom can they conclude the deal completely on-line.

  • Part exchange I think this is the biggest challenge but I have a solution through vAutoStock coming soon.

  • Be brave Let the customer know the can exchange it if they are not happy.

  • Work together To offer a national online service I think dealerships around the country need to work together to compete against the bigger investor lead companies.

  • 48 hour delivery Consumers are used to buying on-line and having it delivered the next day. Most businesses could not easily understand if a vehicle is ready to go without some physical checks. With vAutoStock you can.

It was nice to read the other night that one of our vAutoStock clients, Hendy Car Store have added the SilverBullet platform.  You guessed it, I went on to try and buy a car.  It was great to be able to build a deal and even add a part-exchange if I wanted.  Quite quickly I got as far as the deposit screen and I had the option to continue via email.  Whilst this is not 100% what Helen is after I am confident that should I have gone further as a consumer I could have had the car delivered and communicated via email or text.

For further information on any of the above please contact me on 07525161414 or [email protected] I will make sure you are ready to withstand any disrupters.

Chris Barrett

Managing Director