Check Availability

May 21, 2022

What if dealerships could offer you realtime video calls to check out a car on their lot?

For two years, I’ve been at Capital One trying my best to make the car buying experience better for consumers. The fragmented, massive industry leaks out problems like shady negotiation experiences, takes-forever-to-buy-my-car-in-cash experiences and don’t get me started on inconsistent and confusing maintenance plans. However, one problem seems solvable: show me what the car on your lot looks like right now.

A frustrating part of the car buying process is spending hours researching vehicles to find your dream car only to find out later in the day/weekend that the dealer already sold / transferred the vehicle. Most dealerships, franchise or independent, utilize inventory systems that are notoriously out of date; many times, it’s 6 hour old data!

On many dealer websites, you’ll see buttons next each car titled “Check Availability” or “Confirm Availability.” Go ahead, lookup a nearby dealer to you and check out one of their vehicle pages. You would think that this button would actually tell you whether or not the car was in stock, but no, the button will pop up a modal and ask for your info to send you an email. That’s it. It’s just a lead generation button.

Obviously, the best solution for this specific problem in the mind of the consumer is to fix the inventory systems to be up to date, in realtime. Yet, the Check Availability button is a powerful lead generation tool for dealerships. Most consumers don’t end up buying the car that initially caught their eye. Dealers love getting to talk with you about your vehicle needs because that is their business, satisfying customer needs and turning leads into sales! The issue is that this communication is not realtime. It’s an email or a text. We can do so much better.

What if? What if, the consumer could click on check availability and get connected with a dealership employee in realtime to get a video tour of the vehicle? Let’s solve the inventory status issue and give consumers more trust in their dealer.

Let’s empower consumers to ask a dealer to go kick the tires on their vehicle by changing the Check Availability button from just a lead generation tool to lead generation with a wonderful, personalized, customer experience.

The consumer would:

  1. Find the vehicle they’re interested in learning more about
  2. Click on the new and improved “Check Availability WITH VIDEO” button
  3. Give the dealer their contact information
  4. Be placed in a video call waiting room
  5. Be welcomed into a video call with one of the dealer’s salespersons to see a tour of the vehicle out on the lot
  6. If you like the car, start the deal process immediately and arrange a time to go to the dealership to take home your new ride

There is a ton of detail missing here, but I’d love to know what you all think. Send me a DM at @SDPopplewell.

We’re hiring at Capital One!! Come join my team. I lead our white label digital retailing product for dealerships called Showroom. Checkout one of our dealerships here. Send me a note if you’d like to join our team.

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Welcome, I'm Scott!
These are just some musings
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