In a world of seemingly constant disruption and unlimited choices, what is needed to succeed? From a business perspective, is agility the key, or is it all about innovation? Or, is it to give our customers the choices they want, when they want them? 

Shopping experiences have drastically changed across all retail and wholesale fronts. Yet many industries are in full swing because they know their customers and have been willing to adapt to meet those customers where they are and as they wish. Companies who were primarily in the business of selling not just food, clothing, or cars, but experiences, have had to recraft that experience and deliver the product with limited or no in-store presence. They are reconfiguring their physical layouts and opening outdoor space to take their brand beyond the walls of the business. They are also enhancing their online presence to deliver intimate and engaging experiences virtually.

The same is true across the automotive industry.

Dealerships were forced, due to the global pandemic, to close their doors abruptly in March and reimagine how to have meaningful engagements with customers. The recent quest has been moving online shoppers into the store, yet dealerships have found success by adapting their business to meet customer needs in a new model. Live test drives have been replaced with touchless delivery with buyback guarantees. Multimillion dollar physical dealerships have been all about “the brand experience,” and those dealerships are figuring out how to make the shift from welcoming window shoppers to customers shopping through the browser window on their smartphone.  Dealership shifts prompted auction shifts. 

Like the dealers they serve, independent auctions are turning to their partners to help them demonstrate their agility by fearlessly innovating new ways to operate and stand up vibrant marketplaces. For most auctions, since in-person selling was not possible for a period of time, digital channels became the only avenue to offer inventory to their dealers. Even as many auctions began to invite customers back to the physical lanes, the industry is seeing increased digital sales volumes. The voice of the customer is clear - buyers and sellers alike want choice in where and how to sell and purchase inventory. 

We called ourselves Partners [Auto Auction] for a reason. We believe that if our dealers do well, then we will do well… the environment in 2020 has brought about a tremendous shift in dealer behavior. We have seen dealers change their habits regarding what they buy and how they are buying it.”  -Luke Semmelrock, Partners Auto Auction

By focusing on both sides of the auction equation, the independent auctions are finding success in expanding their brand experience beyond the physical lanes into the digital platforms of today and tomorrow. But how did they do it?

By Reimagining Their Business 

Auctions had to become agile in how they operate and grow their business by reimagining current processes.  Many auctions opened up their facilities for pre-work on non-sale day, reworked their lanes to safely distance dealers, and leveraged every digital tool available to better describe their inventory.

David Deidrich, VP, Dealers Auto Auction Group (DAAG) commented, “We saw significant shifts in our business when COVID first hit. Like most, we were scrambling to keep our employees and our clients safe and operate a viable business… through the pandemic we were able to turn on a dime and accommodate the immediate and expanding utilization of all online venues. As we go to market each week, we see our dealers take advantage of the various tools available to them via our strong partnership with Auction Edge”.

Many auctions had to ‘go mobile,’ which meant employees working from home and salespeople listing inventory directly from dealers' lots versus moving through the auction barn. In order to support the shift, auctions became creative with ways to gain insights and capture more inventory. Tools like 360 imaging, rich condition reports, and direct dealer inventory feeds via cloud-based EDGE Spark helped augment their physical footprint and give remote buyers a strong confidence to bid.

Fortunately, a lot of the innovations already existed to take advantage of these shifts to digital. EDGE Pipeline and EDGE Simulcast helped drive the agility of many independent auctions by allowing them to either continue or begin conducting online sales. More from Luke Semmelrock, “industry knowledge, coupled with the technical creativity within [Edge] software, is allowing us to meet the needs of ALL of our clients, large, small, franchised, and independent.” Other auctions strategically engaged their customers and industry providers to provide even more innovative new ways to sell vehicles.

By Experimenting with New Ways to Transact

Through a partnership with Auction Edge, EBlock lends a great example of auctions providing customers with choices through a new way to transact. As people everywhere have needed to consider ways to reduce travel and do business remotely, this partnership allowed independent auctions to capture and offer inventory right from their customers’ dealerships in rapid timed or live events.  A vast buyer audience could easily connect through the trusted Edge marketplaces while sales transactions were automatically recorded in the auction management systems. This partnership provides an efficient, integrated answer to an auction need. Inventing innovative channels to sell online has led independent auctions to resilience and greater success during challenging times.

Agility and innovation remain the hallmarks of successful transitions. It is key to demonstrate agility and innovate fearlessly to enable you to BE your customers primary choice. Independent auctions are well equipped to be a dealer’s most complete choice in lane, online, or from the dealership.