Tag Archives: ecommerce

The Hard Decision carsales had to Make

Very early in in the founding of carsales.com.au, it’s founders had a pretty big business decision to make which had an easy option and a hard option; the answer would have a material effect on its life span.

Here’s a little snippet that I believe is a great example of sound business decision making.

The rise of carsales.com.au was no accident and showed how the leaders at Dealer Management System provider Reynolds & Reynolds (R&R and now Pentana Solutions) were/are extremely astute business people who used business nous and previous learnings to make the right decision to forge what has turned out to be an incredible journey.

carsales grew out of R&R back in the late 90’s leveraging the DealerLink network between it’s dealers to seamlessly collect used car information.

R&R had a choice to make between two alternatives very early in the life of carsales:

The Easy Decision
Was to partner with one (or more) of the biggest media players in Australia to supply inventory as the infrastructure was already in place to collect the inventory and it really was just incremental revenue for not doing a real lot as well working with some of Australia’s largest and most well known brands, which could have been attractive to a small(ish) software house in Mt Waverley.

The Hard Decision
Was to go hard with carsales.com.au which was going into the unknown of competing against these media giants (at what they considered was their “bread & butter”) as a small software services provider.

Here’s my take on two important decision points that drove R&R to making the Hard Decision to turn their back on the media giants and compete against them with carsales.com.au:

1. “If it is this f&@king hard for us imagine how f&@king hard it is for them.”
This quote has stayed with me for nearly 20 years now. R&R had been trying to get dealers to list their cars on carsales.com.au for a little while and the process was a difficult sell even though there was a seamless, automated inventory feed from the dealer’s computer system to carsales.com.au. So when the big media players and newspapers came looking for (exclusive) inventory data deals, the leaders at R&R realised that if it is so hard for us to get inventory with our setup and relationship with the dealers, just imagine how hard it is going to be for them. They realised they had something of real value to build on.

2. They were quick learners.
R&R US acquired DealerNet.com in 1995 and was one of the first automotive sites in the US list used cars (cars.com and Autotrader.com started in 1997). In 1997 R&R sold DealerNet.com to The Cobalt Group so that it could focus on it’s non-equity strategic partnership with Microsoft’s Carpoint.com which was launched in 1996 (an excerpt from Automotive News, 1 December 1997DealerNet was a pioneer in providing dealers with Web pages in the early 1990s. But Reynolds wanted to sell it to focus on its relationship with its new partner, Microsoft CarPoint. ‘With CarPoint, we’re better able to fulfill our mission of linking dealers to buyers,’ said Kevin Distelhorst, Reynolds director of online services).

Fast forward a year to 1998, R&R US knew they had given up something that was potentially huge and missed their first mover opportunity (imagine their grief now, 20 years on when they see carsales.com valued at ~$2.6b). Generally speaking the US market is 2-3 years ahead on the take-up of new technology and/or processes which gives us in Australia an opportunity to learn.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s easy to say now that the right reign was pulled when the wrong one could have been so easy had the media companies in Australia actually got their act together.

I take my hat off to the leaders of R&R who made it happen.

Note: All views are my own and not those of carsales.com Limited or Reynolds & Reynolds (now called Pentana Solutions)

An Example of Easy E-commerce (the way it has to be)

carsales.com launched tyresales.com.au a few years back as a complimentary market for our consumers and dealers to benefit from.

It differs from our core businesses as it is pure e-commerce as opposed to the marketplaces we run that introduce buyers and sellers. We have learnt that e-commerce is somewhat different to an online marketplace but there is one thing that is the same – they both have to be easy.

carsales.com.au is easy because of its superior search technology, easy design, quality data, the largest, cleanest inventory in the market and most of all because “it works”. We are striving to make Tyresales.com.au “just work” too and here’s an example of it working.
Last month I had my car booked for a service at Ritter Land Rover on a Friday. From my previous service I knew that I was most likely going to need new tyres so I had a choice – get on the front foot to order them myself ensuring I get a good deal or I could just wait until Ritter called me to say I need new tyres which they would source, taking away my control and most likely costing me more.

So I decided to use Tyresales.com.au to find my tyres, buy them and have them delivered to Ritter in time for my service. This is an absolute plus in buying tyres on Tyresales for consumers and dealers.

One of the benefits of being a carsales dealer is that they have the opportunity of accepting tyre fittings from Tyresales which then provides the opportunity to up sell know a service. For a consumer, combining a service with tyre replacement just makes sense.

The process of finding the tyres I need was dead set easy, even for someone as car illiterate as I am. Not only did I find tyres easy, I found quality tyres that were 22% off retail price which for 4 tyres added up to a $600 saving. The real beauty of it though is that before I paid for the tyres online, I had the option of selecting the dealership I wanted the tyres delivered to.
So in virtually 1 swoop I found the tyres I wanted, paid for them (with real savings) and had them ordered for delivery to Ritter in time for my service on the Friday.

Come Friday I took my car to Ritter for a service and when I picked it up, 4 new tyres were making their mark on my Land Rover.

The process couldn’t have been easier or more convenient, exactly the way e-commerce should be (and thank you Ritter for the same in service!).

2 Critical Factors in an Ecommerce Site

carsales.com has made its mark with online marketplaces. How hard can it be to take that into ecommerce?

Like anything, it’s not hard when you know what you don’t know. Simple right? Let’s look at it.

carsales.com.au is an online marketplace connecting buyers and sellers of cars. Tyresales.com.au is an ecommerce site where buyers purchase tyres through the online store and have them delivered to a Tyresales accredited dealer for fitting.
Put simply, an online marketplace connect buyers and sellers but doesn’t play a part of the actual transaction whereas an ecommerce site is all about facilitating the transaction and providing the goods purchased online.

We have found from a website perspective that changing wording, colors and layout on both sites can move the needle as far as generating leads or sales, vital metrics. Above all, they both have to be easy to find what you want and easy to action.

There are however, two factors in an ecommerce site that are material to success:

Price on an ecommerce site is absolutely vital. Online buyers will shop around to find the best deal so it is ultra competitive. Remember, the price is the price on an ecommerce site, there is no haggling as you are paying without talking to anyone whereas the price on an online marketplace is generally “negotiable”; the marketplace connects buyers and sellers to then make the deal.

A competitive price on carsales.com.au is important to attract buyers but it is not the be all and end all. On Tyresales if the price isn’t the most competitive we will lose the sale to one of the many competitors out there.
Once a buyer has purchased something through an ecommerce site, it is imperative that the goods are supplied in the timeframe given. Not doing so ruins all goodwill which effects word of mouth recommendations, could create negative online reviews and most definitely cancels out a repeat purchase.

We have found on Tyresales that these two factors are critical in creating a trusted site that is top of mind when drivers need new tyres.

These are only two differences between the online marketplace and an ecommerce site (there are plenty more) and wow, they take some experience to get it right.