Concierges to help auction giant with new sales app
Manheim is deploying a concierge service to help dealers learn how to use the auction giant’s Manheim Express tool to buy and sell used vehicles.
To ensure dealers get a good grip on the hand-held power of Manheim Express, the Cox Automotive unit said it’s hiring concierges this fall to personally show them how the mobile app works. The company decided to send the trained personnel as part of a national rollout that began in July, which followed testing in eight markets.
“Dealerships that have lots of trade-ins, or lots of cars, they don’t want a self-service tool,” Nick Peluso, president of Manheim Digital Marketplace and RMS Automotive, said the company learned. “They want assistance. They want a concierge.”
More than 500 people have been interviewed for the openings, but Manheim declined to say how many concierges have been hired thus far. New people are brought on daily, so that number keeps changing, a spokeswoman said. Peluso said there is not a hard number for how many concierges the company expects to hire overall, though he can envision 500 within the next two years. “We’re going to continue to hire people as long as we have demand,” he said.
Manheim Express is one piece of a $100 million-plus investment Cox has made in its digital tools over the last three years.
With Manheim Express, dealers can scan a car or truck’s VIN and get market information, a history report and 3D imaging of the vehicle. The app also can be used to order an inspection, consign a vehicle to a Manheim auction or instantly list it on Manheim Marketplace. Dealers also can get a guaranteed first bid, which Manheim underwrites so long as the vehicle is listed for at least 48 hours. More recently, the app was integrated with the vAuto inventory management software.
Since the app’s launch in May, more than 4,000 unique dealers have used it, and more than 30,000 vehicles have been scanned. The concierges are already on duty in some markets, Peluso said. The company is focused on deploying concierges in 25 key markets first — such cities as New York, San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles, plus other markets in the Northeast and states such as Texas and Ohio, he said.
The Manheim Express mobile app represents the next step in what Manheim sees as the natural evolution of auctioneering. A couple decades ago, a vehicle-condition report still was done on a physical clipboard, Peluso noted. And about 15 years ago, with technology improving and the rise of the Internet, the idea came that a car could be run down a lane at an auction and at the same time dealers could remotely sign in and bid as part of a simulcast; dealers could thus buy cars without showing up at a physical auction. Meanwhile, the eBay model of bidding for vehicles online became more prevalent.
Through it all, dealers have become more comfortable buying cars online. Manheim said it saw record growth across its digital channels in the first half of the year, and 45 percent of all vehicles were sold to an online buyer, up from 39 percent in 2017. At the same time, transactions that happened outside a physical auction grew 33 percent.
As Manheim sees it, the market is going to a place where more cars and trucks will be sold from dealership lots, marshaling yards and places other than physical auctions. “We’ve moved to a place where selling a car electronically is at least half of our business,” Peluso said. “And so now you come to the next frontier.”
In this frontier, Manheim believes dealers can save money: Doing the auction process from wherever their smartphone is could reduce transportation and holding costs, Peluso said.
Manheim Express was rolled out first on Apple devices, and Android smartphones were added last month. Additional improvements will happen this fall and winter, including the addition of dedicated buy-side experience. All the while, concierges will be helping dealers, especially ones with higher volumes, get acquainted with hand-held wholesaling.
“What we learned during the pilot is there’s such a wide spectrum of how dealers approach their wholesale process,” said Derek Hansen, who heads off-site digital services for Manheim.
Smaller, independent dealers tended to gravitate toward self-service. But some bigger, franchised dealerships wanted experts to do the legwork for them, Peluso said. For those customers, concierges will walk to the targeted cars, go through the steps to capture the vehicles in the system and then consult with the dealership manager on listing decisions.
Hansen said it’s about expediting the work.
“We heard a lot of the bigger dealers say, ‘Hey, that’s great, and I love the technology, and I love the disclosure. I just have so many cars on a Saturday that I want them all ready on my back lot on Monday.’ ” Hansen said.