ADESA, and parent company KAR Global, have a long history of adopting technologies to better our customer experiences, an early example being the acquisition of OPENLANE in 2011. Based on success in the following years, ADESA continued to invest in technology platforms to enable a digital future. These sales didn’t run quite like the fully automated Simulcast+SM sales buyers and sellers enjoy today but rather simply allowed, for the first time, buyers to remotely bid on and buy vehicles.

At the time, digital-enabled auctions were convenient for buyers, who didn’t actually have to be on-site to bid and buy. They were attractive to sellers who liked the prospect of an even larger buyer base biding on their vehicles. And they were exciting for KAR, as we continued to invest in technology and lead digital innovation in the industry.

Fast forward to November 2020. ADESA has been running digital-only auctions for eight months and these fully remote-capable auctions are much more than convenient, attractive and exciting. Given our current pandemic environment, they are also far safer, necessary (in some geographies) and overall have proven to be a lifeline for our industry.

At the onset of 2020, nobody could have predicted the level of digital adoption we’d see this year due to COVID-19. So how did we get from first digital-enabled auction to where we are today?

To set the scene, in 2019, technology teams at KAR were charged with bringing the vision of a fully automated, digital auction platform to life. This platform would be an industry-first and further solidify ADESA as a digital auction solution industry leader.

When the coronavirus pandemic began to seriously impact North America in mid-March, our technology teams had been extensively testing a new digital platform called Simulcast+ with a rollout plan measured in months if not years. However, as states and counties began to shut down, and ADESA decided to idle physical auctions for the safety of our customers and employees, the expanded Simulcast product suite was launched nationwide.

Leading up to March 2020 nearly 60% of KAR Global’s volume was already transacted digitally; overnight that volume shot up to 100% with platforms like OPENLANE, TradeRev and ADESA Simulcast® and Simulcast+ carrying most of the weight. Simulcast+, for example, went from proof of concept—not intended for release until many months in the future—to a product launched across North America supporting each of ADESA’s 74 auction locations in a few weeks’ time. 

For the past several months our Simulcast platforms have been the place to buy and sell. They opened the ability for sellers to launch vehicles from multiple sites and seamlessly run through the same sale. And with geography becoming less of a barrier thanks to digital sales and advances in transportation logistics, there’s the opportunity to have more eyes on every sale, and who doesn’t like that?

We’ve made a lot of progress, but where does it go from here? What does the future hold for remarketing? It starts with listening to our buyers and sellers. Based on extensive feedback from our client base we are continuously enhancing our digital marketplaces. There are three key areas we are leaning into heavily.

  1. Vehicle Representation – with vehicles no longer close enough to inspect on your own, the digital representation of a vehicle is the only way to assess its condition. This starts with inspections and ends with the vehicle description page (VDP) on each platform. KAR is rolling out brand new inspection technologies to bridge the divide between kicking the tires and looking at a computer or phone screen.
  2. Data and Analytics – digital sales provide the opportunity for much richer data collection. With digital sales, every bid—not just the winning bid—is tracked which opens a new world of possibilities to curate a more tailored experience to buyers.
  3. Customer Experience – digital platforms are more than just the technology; they include everything from inspections to transportation and everything in between that make up a seamless customer experience. From start to finish, an exceptional experience for our customers is the goal.

When I reflect back on that first remote-capable sale, I’m struck by how far our industry has come. We started down a journey to fuel the auto remarketing industry with technology and launched something new and exciting: to open live auctions up to those who were not physically there. This was the beginning of our digital transformation and there’s so much more in store.