The remarketing industry has been at the vanguard of adopting new technology to sell used vehicles, with thousands of cars and vans now being sold through the internet from remote bidders. With around a fifth of used cars sold at auction via online bidding, it’s a sector of the market that will only continue to grow as more technology is developed.
And with the rising level of processing power now contained within smartphones and other small devices, it means that before too long trade buyers could be bidding for a car at auction while walking the dog or eating a sandwich in the canteen.
The big two – BCA and Manheim – have both launched mobile bidding platforms to compete against the burgeoning band of specialist online vehicle remarketers that are fighting for a share of this increasingly competitive sector.
Convenience is the key factor. BCA’s website has been redeveloped to recognise what device a visitor to the site is using, whether it is a laptop, desktop PC, smartphone or tablet. It then reconfigures the layout and automatically presents all the pages in the most suitable format.
D’Vidis Jacobs, BCA’s commercial director, says that mobile solutions offer the flexibility that customers require nowadays. He explains: ‘Responsive design and browsing does not care what device you are using, it will simply present the website in a format best suited to you, whether you are at the auction centre with an iPad or smartphone, in the office using a desktop, or at home in the evening on a laptop.
‘It is a much more flexible and useful solution for customers than developing an app, as there is nothing to download and install and from the users’ viewpoint it never needs updating or changing.
‘We are making the site more specific to customers when they are online, making their time on the BCA website more personalised, effective and relevant. We will continue to develop this functionality so that it best meets our customers’ needs.’
While mobile users can already access BCA’s Bid Now and Buy Now sales, developments currently in the pipeline include a streamlined version of the Live Online facility for mobile users. This will allow a near-instantaneous data transmission, allowing mobile users to bid against online bidders and those in the auction hall.
It’s a similar story at Manheim, which has modified its Simulcast online bidding platform to work better with mobile devices. The company’s head of marketing, Andy Cullwick, says: ‘A reflection of the online success seen in the industry is in the launch of Manheim’s Simulcast 2.0 solution, a mobile-compatible version of the original virtual bidding platform.
‘This application will allow users to open multiple sales from different centres in one single platform, providing them with the ability to use their desktop, smartphone or mobile tablet to both view and bid virtually at auctions across the UK.’
SMA has taken the stock viewing aspect even further with its Live View service. This offers buyers an advance video preview of stock with a 360-degree video of their chosen vehicles. The videos are voiced over by SMA technicians and registered buyers can book a slot to talk with the technicians in order to fully investigate the car, even though they may be miles away.
According to SMA’s managing director, Bob Anderson, technology is ‘redefining the remarketing experience’. He adds: ‘SMA Live View provides the confidence to bridge the gap that can occur when a buyer is unable to see what could be an ideal purchase.
‘Not only can they see, but they can hear too, in real time by working with our technicians to discover details about the vehicle on offer.’
Eastbourne Car Auctions is also embracing technology, with the launch of a standalone mobile phone-accessible website and the use of QR (Quick Response) codes to let buyers and sellers get to the vehicles they want quickly and easily.
The company’s managing director, Jon Mitchell, says: ‘Technology and methods of communication are changing rapidly and the initiatives we have introduced enable buyers to keep track of auction entries 24/7 and while they are on the move.’
Customer confidence in key
The only barrier to further online integration in remarketing is from sceptical or technophonic buyers.
But with the current dearth of good-quality three to four-year old cars in the trade (sparked by the recession which bit in 2008 and saw new car sales in Britain fall from a peak of 2.4 million in 2007 to a low of 1.94 million in 2011), buyers know they have to adopt every trick in the book to secure the right stock at the right price.
As a result, dealers and buyers are being forced to adopt the technology more quickly to enable them to compete for what little quality stock there is.
Jon Mitchell, UK sales director at Autorola, points to more efficient data integration which allows an easier flow of information between different systems. As a result, buyer confidence grows as the systems work together far better.
He says: ‘As the confidence of buyers grows, so sellers will use the online medium more extensively and the two will stimulate each other. Consequently, growth will rapidly gather pace and online remarketing will flourish.’
Autorola estimates that up to 30% of all used vehicles in the UK will be sold online by 2018 and also points to a growth in cross-border trading on the continent, where buyers from the former Eastern bloc countries are using online auctions to buy stock from European markets, which are struggling financially.
Tusker’s head of data and pricing, Scott Lloyd, agrees: ‘The stock shortage has increased the acceptance of buying online by some buyers more quickly than would have been the case. The type of car being sold will become less important over time as people become more comfortable with this way of trading.’