Site review: Carspring

I like cars. I like marketplaces. I worked at carwow. It’s fair to say that cars and marketplaces is a good combination for me. I was therefore very excited when I came across Carspring, a UK based marketplace for used cars. My initial thought was “why do we need another platform for selling and buying new cars, we’ve already got loads of those!.” However, I then looked into Carspring and this is what I learned:

My quick summary of the site (before using it): Another site where I can buy or sell used cars. Given that lots of people in the UK own a car, there are currently about 40 million cars on the UK roads, I’m not surprised to see another player enter the market for used cars.

How does the site explain itself in the first minute? – “A car for every journey” is what it says at the top of Carspring’s homepage. The strapline below that intrigues me though: “Hand-inspected, personally delivered.” This suggest to me that Carspring does more than just being an intermediary which connects buyers and sellers. It gets really interesting when I scroll down the homepage and see a section titled “How it works”:

  1. Choose a Carspring certified and inspected car – Carspring guarantees that all the cars on their site will have gone through a 128 point inspection by the AA and an additional inspection by Carspring’s in-house team before they arrive at the customer.
  2. Select a payment method (finance or buy) – Interesting to see that customers can apply for financing through Carspring, given that this service is heavily regulated.
  3. We deliver the car straight to your doorstep – This reminds me of Shift, a US based online platform for used cars which also does delivers cars to your doorstep. I listened to a talk by Minnie Ingersoll, coo-founder and COO at Shift talking about door to door delivery of cars to their customers.
  4. Relax with our 14-day money back guarantee –  Especially when it comes to buying a used car, I can imagine that customers will feel reassured by Carspring’s 14-day money back guarantee.

 

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Getting started, what’s the process like (1)? – After I’ve clicked the “Show all cars” button on the homepage, I land on a page which features a list of cars, with the top of the page saying “162 results.” I can see a “Sell a car” call to action in the top right hand of the page, which in my view could be more prominent in order to encourage more people to sell their cars through Carspring. There seem to be a number of cars that are “Coming soon” but I’m unsure as to when these cars will actually become available for sale. I believe Carspring could do a better job explaining what ‘soon’ means for each individual car and alerting the interested buyer as soon as the car has become available.

 

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Getting started, what’s the process like (2)? – I look at the product page for a 2012 Fiat 500, I’m presented with a rather large image of this car and a sticky footer encouraging the user to click on ‘buy’ or ‘finance’. There’s something to say for keeping the product page simple for the user to navigate, but the large picture and the footer feel quite overwhelming. As a result of the large image and the sticky footer, it’s not immediately apparent to me that this is a carousel which lets me see one more picture, that of the car’s dashboard. Having thumbnail images of the car e.g. its interior and exterior below the hero image would be more intuitive.

 

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I like how Roadster does its product pages, providing all relevant information at a fingertip. To be fair, the product page contains the same info that Roadster offers, but purely because of the way this detail has been laid out I feel I have to work harder to get to this information before deciding to buy the car.

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Getting started, what’s the process like (3)? – The filtering function on Carspring works well; the filtering options are clear and I can see at a glance the number of available cars per filter. However, because the supply of certain makes and models is still relatively small, filtering and sorting doesn’t feel as helpful as it could have been if there had been a larger number of cars on offer. For example, when looking at BMWs I started with 7 models and finished with 2 cars after I’d done all my filtering.

 

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Getting started, what’s the process like (4)? – Given that Carspring is a two sided marketplace it’s just as important that the seller of a car has a good experience. For me, Carspring’s biggest differentiator is that it inspects and grades your car. As a buyer, this gives me confidence about the quality of the car that I’m buying. As a seller, the process needs to be transparent and this will come from Carspring inspecting and grading your car upfront, providing sellers with a guaranteed sale price.

 

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How does Carspring compare to similar services? – Carspring does feel very similar to its US counterparts in the aforementioned Shift, Carvana, Beepi and Vroom. The points of differentiation between the various used car marketplaces seem minimal. For example, Vroom offers a 7-day money back guarantee and Beepi does the same within 10 days. What I liked about Beepi is the ability for the consumer to get in touch with person who’s certified the car in question.

 

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Did the site deliver on my expectations? – Yes. I can see Carspring’s model scaling rapidly, and I expect to see their car offering expand very quickly. The site lets users down in some places with usability issues that could be fixed fairly easily. I believe that the ultimate success of using Carspring won’t necessarily lie in the site’s experience, but will depend on the quality of the car delivered to a user’s doorstep. This ‘offline’ experience will determine whether people will come back to Carspring to buy their next used car and spread the word to their friends.

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/edmundingham/2015/09/10/can-tech-start-up-carspring-disrupt-the-42bn-used-car-market-in-the-uk/#7f2e331712f0
  2. http://techcrunch.com/2015/05/12/carspring/
  3. http://blog.carspring.co.uk/what-were-about/
  4. http://www.engadget.com/2015/12/02/what-are-the-chances-you-ll-buy-your-next-car-online/
  5. https://www.carspring.co.uk/content-disruption
  6. https://www.carspring.co.uk/england
  7. https://www.vroom.com/how

 

 

CarStory and its ways to enhance your car inventory

The other day I came across CarStory. Since I’ve started with car comparison site carwow I’ll always keep an eye out for similar sites, changing the way in which consumer buy new or used cars. Given that I’m not a US based car dealer, my testing of the CarStory site and app is limited. I did, however, learn quite a lot about CarStory’s service by reading reviews and watching videos.

These are the main things that I learned about CarStory:

  1. Mission statement – “Turn car shoppers into customers” is CarStory’s main tagline. On its homepage, there’s a succinct description of CarStory’s value proposition. The service is aimed at car dealers, providing them with a “CarStory” to their inventories. A CarStory is a market report which “tells a story”, highlighting your cars’ unique features and value in the local market (see an example in Fig. 1 below). CarStory’s goals are to (1) build consumer confidence and (2) accelerate purchase decisions.
  2. Use cases – I guess the main benefit for dealers using CarStory is that they will have a good bit of car specific info at hand, not having to check multiple sources to answer customer questions about e.g. fuel consumption, features or alternative models (see Fig. 2 below). From a customer’s perspective, dealers are likely to be set up well for specific questions e.g. about price comparison or the most popular features on a specific car.
  3. Infographics – Apart from vehicle specific ‘story cards’, dealers can also use CarStory’s infographics to provide their customers with more data and insight about a specific model. For example, I can look at high level supply and demand data for a specific model (see Fig. 3 below).

Main learning point: CarStory offers an interesting way of creating market reports and integrating these reports into a dealer’s daily workflow. It currently only seems to apply to used cars and it would be good to find out from a customer’s perspective how the CarStory data and insights help in making purchasing decisions, whether it’s for a new or a used car.

Fig.1 – Screenshots of a sample CarStory – Taken from: https://www.carstory.com/static/img/market_sample.pdf

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Fig. 2 – CarStory use cases – Adapted from: http://blog.carstory.com/business-development-sell-more-with-carstory/

  • Identify other cars in your inventory to match customer needs – A dealer is on the phone with a customer and can use CarStory to check his inventory to see if there are any cars in the other to meet a customer’s requirements.
  • Provide car specific info on the phone, email or on text – With the data included in a CarStory for a specific vehicle, dealers will be able to answer specific customer questions on the phone, email or on text. The idea is that customers don’t necessarily need to come into the dealership to find out certain details about a car.

Fig. 3 – Example of a CarStory infographic – Taken from: http://blog.carstory.com/market-reports-dodge-caravan-infographic/

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Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.dealerrefresh.com/carstory-app-interview-with-vast/
  2. http://www.autoremarketing.com/trends/features-info-used-car-buyers-want-most
  3. http://blog.carstory.com/get-to-know-carstory-part-3-vehicle-condition-is-key/
  4. http://blog.carstory.com/business-development-sell-more-with-carstory/
  5. https://www.carstory.com/static/img/market_sample.pdf
  6. http://blog.carstory.com/getting-to-know-carstory-part-1-can-you-trust-the-data/
  7. http://blog.carstory.com/get-to-know-carstory-part-2-good-deal-great-deal/
  8. http://blog.carstory.com/top-10-carstory-market-report-tips-and-tricks/

In-car platforms are growing, with Ford and GM opening up to developers

A while ago I wrote about Cadillac and its car infotainment system. Long hailed as one of the key digital trends for the next few years to come, it looks like in-car platforms are going to fulfil their promise this year. There are a few recent developments which clearly point into this direction:

  1. Launch of the Ford Developer ProgramEarlier this week, Ford launched its developer program which allows app developers to connect their Android and iPhone apps to Ford’s SYNC voice-activated interface. Ford’s SYNC application is essentially about drivers or passengers using voice commands to interact with their vehicle.
  2. Safety first! Even though Ford is opening up its ‘platform’, it will nevertheless apply a strict review process of incoming app submissions. Safety of the driver and passengers still remains Fords core focus. Safety is in fact one of the key reasons why Ford encourages developers to use its SYNC technology in the first place: “Our focus is to enhance the driving experience by minimizing the distractions caused by hand-held usage of smartphones while driving,” explained Julius Marchwicki, global product manager for Ford SYNC AppLink. “We know consumers are using apps such as music and navigation while driving; therefore, by making AppLink available to developers, we can help ensure relevant apps can now be voice-controlled.”
  3. Vehicle data – Whereas the current focus of most existing car apps is on entertainment, the next big development will be around vehicle data such as fuel efficiency and ride sharing. In an interesting article, Liz Gannes from tech site AllthingsD, points out that “carmakers opening up vehicle data to developers will be the next big step.” General Motors (‘GM’) is a good example in this respect. It shares “in-vehicle APIs” with developers through its website.
  4. More to come … – Like Ford, GM has opened up its API and is looking to build a library of apps. It is already integrating with popular entertainment apps. However, the main idea behind opening up its API through its developer site and providing developers with a Software Development Kit (‘SDK’) is to create car-specific apps, using vehicle data (see my previous point). The fact that both Ford and GM recently decided to open up their APIs and create developer programmes, indicates that there’s a lot more to come in this area, with other carmakers and technology companies likely to follow suit.

Main learning point: I believe that the full extension of digital experiences and connectivity into the car is going to be a big thing over the next year. It will be interesting to see the transition from purely entertainment oriented apps to ‘smart’ car-specific apps which will tell you about things like your driving behaviour and fuel usage. Even though the likes Google have started experimenting with cars that drive themselves, that’s future music. Instead, having external developers help car giants make better use of vehicle data is likely to be the next big thing.  

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Related links for further learning:

http://allthingsd.com/20130107/automakers-open-their-in-car-platforms-first-up-ford-and-soon-gm/

http://www.fiercemobilecontent.com/story/ford-developer-program-registrations-top-1000-first-week/2013-01-11

http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2234501/ces-ford-announces-developer-program-for-sync-applink

http://ces.cnet.com/8301-34438_1-57563405/ford-gm-open-up-to-developers-at-ces-2013/

http://ces.cnet.com/8301-34438_1-57562553/gm-opening-cars-up-for-app-development/

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2024572/the-open-source-car-automakers-eagerly-woo-app-developers.html

http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/08/qnx-concept-bentley-continental-gt/