Consumer-facing auction app aims to bring ‘motivated buyers’, dealers together

Nicole Whittle, COO of CarSquid. Photo courtesy of company.

Connecting dealer and consumer. Facilitating the relationship.

That’s what CarSquid is all about, says its chief operating officer Nicole Whittle.

CarSquid, the COO told AuSM Canada, is an online wholesale auction app aimed at consumers.

The app aims to provide consumers with “insider access to dealer inventory and pricing before they are offered to the public,” and offer dealers a way to get their new wholesale inventory up for sale before they even physically receive the vehicle.

Whittle explained to AuSM Canada that CarSquid has two customers: the dealer and the consumer. And the app is designed to reduce friction for both parties in the vehicle-sales process.  

The CarSquid app entered beta testing this fall, and the tool hit the Apple marketplace for additional testing in October.

As of a mid-October interview, the app was set to go live and public in November.

“CarSquid eliminates the process of searching through auto directories and dealer sites,” Whittle said. “We are the first and only company in Canada that provides consumers that ability to via bid on wholesale vehicles in an online auto auction, and our pricing model seems to be very fair to dealers in comparison to what we are seeing out in the marketplace.”

A CarSquid auction

Say you’re a dealer and you set up a CarSquid account. You buy a few vehicles at auction, but you haven’t received the physical cars or trucks yet.

Through CarSquid, you can reach potential consumer customers as soon as you buy that vehicle at auction, and before it gets on your lot.

“Before they even put it on their lot, before they start advertising, the dealer has the ability to direct it into this auction platform, and sell the car within a day or two without having to go through all the expense, time, and effort to advertise it,” Whittle explained.

On the consumer side, a shopper downloads the CarSquid app and selects the make, model and features they are looking for in a vehicle. Then the app’s algorithms match them to every used vehicle in his or her radius that matches the criteria input.

“So what we do is we dynamically filter those cars for the shoppers, but we can do it 24/7,” said Whittle.

That’s one of the elements that makes the app stand out, she said — even when the app is closed, it’s still finding vehicle matches.

“Unlike a marketplace where you only find what you want at the moment you are searching for it, you don’t have to continuously have to go back and re-input all your search criteria,” Whittle explained.

The consumer is given a list of vehicles that match their criteria, and they can also search for a number of used vehicles at one time.

Then, they bid on the vehicle they want. Whittle pointed out this effectively removes haggling from the dealerships. Each vehicle runs as a 1- to 2- or 3- to 5-day auction, depending on the parameters chosen by the dealer. The dealer also sets a minimum reserve price on the vehicle.

After the auction is over, the winner then pays $20 to reserve the vehicle for seven days at the price by close of auction. The auction winner then gets a notification in-app that given them the dealer’s information.

“Then they can connect with the dealer,” said Whittle. “We connect them, and it now becomes transparent who everybody is, and they can set the appointment time, something that is mutually agreeable.”

Over the course of the seven-day reservation period, or the time before vehicle pick up and purchase, both the consumer-facing app and the dealer dashboard show a countdown clock.

“This ensures that they both are totally on board, and they are both aligned,” said Whittle. “There are no mistakes or misunderstandings about timing.”

Because the transaction is completed by the dealership, stores can still build “that strong relationship” with their customers, Whittle said.

Benefits for the dealer

One of CarSquid’s key selling points, Whittle shared, is that if a car is sold through the customer-dealer connection secured on the platform, the dealer has saved a significant amount of money on advertising and man-power that is normally used to get a vehicle ready for the dealership lot.

“When the dealer brings a vehicle onto the lot, he has got to spend all those advertising dollars. He’s got to engage with his sales team,” said Whittle. “There is a lot of human and physical and financial resources that have to happen in order to spend the money to get the vehicle to sell retail on their lot.”

CarSquid aims to help cut down on spend by letting the dealer take that vehicle directly from the wholesale buying level and onto the app.

Whittle offered this scenario to illustrate the process:

Say there is a car retailing on the market for $15,000. The CarSquid dealer sets the minimum at $10,000, and shoppers start to bid.

Consumers are motivated to bid so they can secure the vehicle reservation, so competition will drive the price up.

“But the reality is the consumer still gets to buy it for less than $15,000, because that’s the whole point of the wholesale auction pricing,” Whittle said, pointing out, “both parties get to save.”

At the time of the AuSM Canada interview in mid-October, dealerships were beta testing the app and dealer portal, and new dealers could demo the technology by visiting CarSquid.com.

Dealers demoing the tool had access to the dealer dashboard and reporting tools, which Whittle described as a major perk for CarSquid dealers.

During the company’s research while creating the reporting functions for the app they heavily relied on dealer back. And dealers expressed frustration with current third-party reporting tools.

“It seemed overwhelming to them,” said Whittle.

Even though CarSquid tracks 10,000 different data points for dealers, it focused on quality not quantity by providing an easy-to-use dealer dashboard and key metrics that aim to provide the most relevant dealer data.

“So those dealer dashboards are really built by dealers,” Whittle said. “They told us what was critical for them. They can not only learn what is happening at their dealership, but they can find out nationally what’s happening, and that helps them gain those insights on whether they are getting the right vehicles for their dealership”

They can also receive a full report that includes info such as vehicle matches, bidding info and consumer behavior, as well.

Ultimately, Whittle shared one of the most important aspects of CarSquid is how it can deliver “motivated buyers” to dealers.

CarSquid buyers are close to the end of the buying cycle, and have most likely already spent time consuming research and making vehicle comparisons.

“They know what they want. What we are really focused on is that motivated buyer and their experience. And when we are delivering that to the dealer,” said Whittle.

Reducing friction for the consumer

Tech-savvy consumers aren’t overwhelmed by technology, says Whittle. Instead, many are more worried at the thought of buying a vehicle.

“They are overwhelmed by a negative perception that car buying is a difficult process, and they are too stressed and time starved to deal with the dealerships in the same fashion that Boomers traditionally buy vehicles,” Whittle explained.

CarSquid is focused on removing the friction as it relates to the vehicle purchase process; that way, consumers feel more in control.

Since consumers bid “what they want, when they want” — above the opening auction price — this removes the widely unpopular haggling and negotiating phase at the dealership.

“We bridge the gap between the online and in-store consumer experience. We are providing consumers with insider’s access to fresh inventory that is not yet publicly advertised,” Whittle said. “Often these vehicles having just been purchased through a wholesale auction, and so the dealer can list them in our online auction and immediately find a motivated buyer.”

The future for CarSquid

CarSquid is currently focused on what it considers to be key markets, including Ontario and British Columbia.

That said, Whittle shared the company fully expects to expand geographic coverage with additional dealer groups over the next few months.

“We are really focused on our beta testing through British Columbia and Ontario,” said Whittle. “Those provinces are a bit more tech-savvy. There are some other pockets that we are going to tap into, but that’s where we have been focused right now.”

Further, CarSquid is also in discussions with partners about integrating new offerings that streamline “the entire buying journey.”

As for growth within the company, Whittle says she hopes to add to what she calls an “incredibly brilliant” team.

“I am really excited about scaling the company and bringing on new team members,” Whittle said.