Online technology is revolutionising the business car remarketing arena, as Rachel Burgess reports

A decade ago, it was hard to imagine a world where vehicle remarketing happened online. Now, it is increasingly popular, with traditional auction companies working against online-only firms to try and capture the marketplace.

Remarketing company BCA claims it will sell 100,000 vehicles through online channels in Europe this year – more than anyone else in the marketplace it says.

“This shows that online channels are increasingly important as a route to market and are now delivering real volume, says Tony Gannon, a director at BCA.

“Online sales give sellers options, and a multi-channel strategy is potentially a win-win situation. It means more buyers can have access to more sales wherever they are in our network and more buying power means the best possible price is always achieved. Not only that but our experience tells us that many vendors want a range of channels to market and it is our role to make sure we offer those alternatives.”

BCA offers e-auctions, instant purchase, e-tenders and virtual auctions, logistics and inspection packages. In Europe it is also involved with export/import and cross-border channels.

Gannon says the company is constantly evolving to take advantage of leaps in technology – “and not just in the way we sell vehicles”.

“The majority of marketing and promotion is now online, using sophisticated e-marketing and customer relationship management techniques,” he says.

Quoting Experian Hitwise, he claims that the BCA website dominates the remarketing arena, taking more than 50% of traffic in the sector.

Eyeballs to cars

Meanwhile, online remarketing company takes cars directly from leasing companies and sells them to consumers – saving costs – which means “selling cars at a big saving to consumers”.

Its e-commerce platform “enables cars to be processed and sold in a fraction of the time that a traditional dealer would take”.

Fredrick Skantze, the company’s co-founder and chief marketing officer, says the business works “because we bring a lot of eyeballs to lots of cars”.

“Our focus is squarely on the customer experience, to ensure a customer can find what they wanted and be able to buy it – we add new functionality that makes it easier for consumers to do this,” he says. Skantze predicts that more people will use the internet to research, find and buy their car. According to a 2009 report, 44% of consumers are likely or very likely to buy a car online if the functionality is available. That’s compared with 30% in 2008 and 2% in 2001.

Online remarketing can benefit fleet buyers for many reasons: Gannon says BCA’s account card buyers who have access to the service profit from being able to locate and buy cars without leaving the office.

“The real benefit for sellers is that their stock is exposed to a much wider audience, generating more competition and potentially improving residual values. The average Live Online [BCA’s internet bidding site] sale now sells between 15% and 20% of the entry to net bidders and we expect these percentages to rise in future.”

It also gives access to specialist buyers and the opportunity to remarket vehicles discretely if required, adds Gannon.

“By getting vehicles on-sale quicker, holding costs and depreciation are reduced and money is back on the company’s bottom line sooner, improving cash flow,” says Gannon.

Skantze echoes Gannon’s word, saying Autoquake’s model gives higher returns to fleet and leasing companies plus fast sales: “With over 400,000 visits per month and an innovative e-commerce platform to drive transactions, Autoquake remarkets cars in 20 days from being listed on average.”

The website also offers fleets two further products: an affinity website, which is a customisable version of with a fleet’s branding integrated, and a pre-order service, which remarkets cars to retail customers before they come off-fleet, “substantially reducing the days to sale compared to normal auction and trade-based disposal routes”, says Skantze.

But Gannon warns fleets not to overcomplicate remarketing procedures, “when the existing strategy is working perfectly well”.

“Not every single seller needs to use every possible channel to market,” he says.

It is also vital, without the physical effect of being in an auction room, to make sure cars have good descriptions.

“Vendor descriptions need to be unequivocally precise and accurate when selling online,” says Gannon. “If buyers are expected to buy unseen, then sellers must provide a level of clarity in online catalogue descriptions that helps them make their decision – this includes declaring any problems with the vehicle and making sure the specification is correctly described.”

Future integration

In the future, Skantze says Autoquake will continue to improve existing features and add new products: “We already have groundbreaking features such as enabling customers to examine their cars warts-and-all before they see it in the metal. As a result, 35% of Autoquake customers opt for home delivery. On average, these customers pay £7500 on a car they have only seen on a computer screen.”

For BCA, the future is “integration of a number of flexible, complementary remarketing platforms in one place”.Gannon explains:?”We want the BCA website to be the first place that buyers think about when they are looking for a used vehicle – they will be able to log on, locate vehicles, value the­m and buy them in a number of different ways – instant purchase, physical auction purchase or via a variety of online remarketing channels.”

Gannon concludes: “Letting buyers see vehicles for sale sooner and offering them the opportunity to buy them earlier is good news for vendors – it will give them more opportunities to sell more vehicles more quickly and for the best possible price.”