More of the retail vehicle transaction, both new and used, is moving online.
While this trend undeniably opens up a lot of new issues in the transaction, one really can’t ever get around the fundamentals in the sales process.
It is no secret that, absent an “on-location” visit, online pictures sell cars, and better pictures (and videos) sell more cars. So this part in concept is at least simple. The best graphics give any dealer a major advantage in being able to sell more cars (and interest more prospects) online.
Yet, outside of introducing video presentations a few years ago, it is unusual that there has been little innovation in this area. Until recently.
The fact is, from large dealer group to small, from dealerships to large third-party lead-aggregation sites, from high-end luxury vehicles to econoboxes, all are stuck in their tracks. They present the same staid vehicle photos in low-resolution glory (albeit perhaps a few extra and maybe a video here or there).
If pictures are so important to stimulating online vehicle interest and ultimately sales, why have there been few new developments in this aspect of online retail? Is it a lack of innovation in graphic technology in general, the hosting providers, or indeed, just an absence of focus in the fundamentals?
These are the questions Daniel Kim, an enterprising freshly minted Wharton MBA entrepreneur asked himself when working for the top management-consulting firm Bain & Co. with Fortune 500 clients in the automotive sector.
Experienced in technological innovation, but new to the car business, Kim saw the market need, and in early 2015 set out to develop a technology and process to greatly improve vehicle graphics in this industry, refreshingly in a way that helps, not sets out to replace the automotive retailer. He created a start-up, Orbee (orbee.co).
With a car dealer focus, Kim created an end-to-end software and camera platform. Priorities were ease of use and minimal expense so that even the smallest store can afford 360º views and high-resolution images with no slowdown on their website. This technology duplicates what used to require expensive equipment. It saves two to three hours a day by automating much of the manual process of uploading and processing photos.
This would be a useful step forward on its own, if his vision just stopped there, but it doesn’t.
Kim’s ultimate goal is to combine a vehicle’s online graphics presentation with the ability to track and report back to the dealership on just what a prospect zooms in on (combining this with perhaps “pop-up” feature presentation information). Crunching the data leads to predictions or suggestions on what the prospect might want to see next. The dealer gets an information alert whenever a prospect reaches out through the site picture to the store by chat, text, email or the like.
I see the Orbee technology satisfying two basic yet powerful needs for dealer websites.
First, it provides high-quality photos. The site with the best pictures sells the most cars. That’s a maxim few retailers would dispute. Second, it offers insight into the prospect’s thought patterns.
Although this is “disruptive” technology, it still all goes back to an attempt to satisfy both the automotive retailer and online shopper. Unlike some other technology, it doesn’t attempt to disrupt the dealer out of the process,