Vantiv Omnicommerce Tracker™ - April 2017
Can auto repair find its online groove?
The auto repair industry has not yet fully realized the potential of the internet, according to the entrepreneur looking to bring the auto shop ecosystem into the digital age. April’s Omnicommerce Tracker, presented by Vantiv and PYMNTS.com, features an interview with Rob Infantino, the founder and CEO of online auto repair marketplace Openbay. In the interview, Infantino explains that most auto repair shops still seem to be unaware of the impact that the internet can have on their businesses in the modern economy. And Openbay is determined to change that.
Infantino says that mechanics often have a minimal online presence, if any, and operate instead on partnerships, referrals and calls for quotes from prospective customers. During Infantino’s research, he visited repair shops around the country and noticed a common trait among calls from customers looking for a quote.
“The interesting thing was that you would actually watch the service advisor go screen to screen, or even book to book, and go on a manual calculator and take a few minutes to give a person a quote,” he recalls. “You’d hear that time and time again, and it’s a time-consuming process for the shop. And then we’d ask them how many of those customers they actually converted and they said only 10 percent, in most cases. That’s a lot of time wasted for not a lot of customers, and it seemed like there had to be a better and faster way.”
Infantino notes that auto repair shops’ lack of online presence is a particular concern because of the typically high-priced nature of their services. Consumers in 2017 are educating themselves better than they have in the past, Infantino says, thanks to freely available pricing information available online. This is especially true for transactions with substantial price tags, such as auto repairs.
For example, consumers often expect to be able to comparison-shop online by finding prices for comparable items or services before visiting a physical location. However, due to the time-consuming nature of getting a quote for specific auto repairs and the variable costs that are involved, like labor and parts, many shops do not have the ability to advertise their prices online.
“They just aren’t acquiring the online consumer, which is really the modern-day consumer,” Infantino says. “There are 91 million Millennials out there who like to shop online and are used to immediacy and a high quality of service. They have high expectations around being able to push a few buttons and get results right away, and there were no tools like that for the shops.”
In February, Openbay rolled out its pair of subscription services after a pilot period in 2016. Their Benefit offering allows shop owners to give quotes quickly over the phone without having to waste time with calculations. ServiceAdvisor is a website plug-in that allows consumers to receive an online quote using the same technology.
“Auto repair shops have been kind of stuck in time for the past few decades,” Infantino says. “They have not really kept track of innovations in terms of getting an online user, so we thought this kind of subscription service could be a big opportunity for businesses in that market looking to improve what they do online.”
Along with Benefit and ServiceAdvisor, Infantino says the company is working to build more online solutions to help mechanics tap into the internet to acquire new customers. “We want to do that part of their job for them — their skills are in repairing the cars, and this is about making sure they can do that without getting bogged down in other areas,” he explains.
Part of that will be automating more aspects of the auto repair process, like scheduling. Infantino says that he and his team are currently building an online scheduling solution that will allow prospective customers to get accurate estimates of how long a repair will take and to schedule the work through an online portal. “The time management for repair bays is really awful right now,” he explains. “What we want to build is something similar to what OpenTable offers for restaurants, where you can go see the schedule online and make an appointment that works for you and be confident that will be the right appointment and the repair will be done on time.”
Read the full interview in April’s Omnicommerce Tracker, along with these other notable developments:
- Nordstrom announced that it will move its point-of-sale (POS) system to the cloud via a partnership with Infor. Through this partnership and cloud integration of its POS system, Nordstrom is looking to capitalize on new trends surrounding personalization for customers and an improved back-end data collection system.
- Like many other retailers, Kohl’s is downsizing — but unlike most other companies, that doesn’t mean closing stores. Instead, the chain is looking to open smaller stores around the country. At the recent Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas, Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell told those in attendance that the company would be looking to build stores with smaller physical footprints and more technology, including improved mobile apps that will offer interactive in-store experiences.
- In a recent interview, the head of the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, Scott Emmons, said the company has invested in varied omnichannel technology in order to bring stores into the digital age. The updates include self-service areas, fragrance and spa rooms, interactive mirrors and other in-store experiences. Emmons said that investments in these in-store improvements are nearly mandatory for brick-and-mortar retailers in the modern economy. “This is how the world is. You have to give a customer a reason to get into the car and drive to the store,” he explained.
- McDonald’s announced that it will introduce a mobile order and payment service to all of its 20,000 locations in the U.S. by the end of 2017. The new mobility movement is part of the chain’s efforts to upgrade its restaurant and ordering technology offerings. In addition to mobile ordering and delivery, McDonald’s is upping its in-store technology and planning to add self-service kiosk ordering, digital smart menu boards and custom-order options. The technology upgrades are expected to be fully rolled out worldwide by the end of 2018.