Quite often, when you mention the name “Vast”, the response that follows is “never heard of them.” However, there’s a really good chance your dealer or one of your vendor partners heavily relays on Vast and their services, you’re just not aware of it.
Vast has powered or currently powers and partners with most of the largest online vehicle shopping portals in the United States. Portal and Inventory listing websites and services like AOL Autos, Yahoo autos, Everycarlisted.com, Road &Track and KBB (prior to the AutoTrader purchase) – just to name a few.
When you’re the backbone of online inventory distribution, while offering one of the most powerful search algorithms that optimize listings to those that best match consumer preferences - naturally your largest assets becomes, what everyone nowadays likes to call “Big Data”.
What if YOU could use this “Big Data” in the palm of your hands, and to your advantage help sell more cars each month?
Enter – CarStory™
Earlier this year, Vast announced CarStory, an iPad application that uses big data and complex analysis to help automotive sales associates partner with their customers throughout the sales process.
The CarStory iPad App uncovers the unique story behind every used car – hence the name CarStory. CarStory allows the sales professional the ability to walk the lot with the customer while armed with the best vehicle data one could ask for. Great data that allows you to not only shine as a professional but uncovers vehicle information to address each customer concern while driving momentum toward a vehicle purchase.
As the seven-year-old big data behemoth in the automotive space, Vast analyzes market signals from roughly 100 million used car searches across hundreds of online automotive sites each month. CarStory’s insights have been carefully developed by Vast data scientists, evaluated by industry experts, and battle-tested on the lot by dealers over several years.
“We not only know what’s out there, we uncover previously unattainable insights about why each car is unique and what makes it right for the buyer.”
“We aren’t simply supplying the data – we’re putting it to work for the dealer.”
The above quote is by Ben Cohen, a long time industry friend and someone that I have a great deal of respect for. I sat down with Ben for a quick interview and Q&A around CarStory.
Lets get started…
Jeff – Ben, after years of keeping all this great data within the walls of Vast, what has prompted you to go in a direction of providing an application such as CarStory?
Ben – About 3 years ago Gary Marcotte, automotive industry luminary and then CMO of AutoNation, came to us to help him figure out how to better equip sales associates for their conversations on the lot. Gary believed that if they could quickly deliver unique information and insights to their customers, then customers would feel more comfortable with the dealership, sales associate, and most importantly, with the vehicle.
Gary came to Vast because he knew that we had the automotive industry’s leading Big Data platform, top notch engineering talent, and believed that were just crazy enough to try to bring Big Data to the dealership floor.
Jeff – How and why did you choose the name “CarStory” for your mobile application?
Ben – Your DealerRefresh readers with heavy backgrounds on the dealership sales floor know that a good story is one of the most powerful sales tools out there. And yet, we had heard time and time again that it’s getting harder for sales associate to tell the vehicle story – to explain the unique characteristics of the vehicle and put that car in context of the local market.
This was a problem we knew we could help with. Our platform can keep up with changing inventory, find the unique and attractive attributes on every vehicle, and present the information in a targeted way for every customer.
Oh and the domain www.carstory.com was available
Jeff – We hear the term “Big Data” being thrown around quite often. What makes BIG DATA so difficult to work with?
Ben – Big Data applications require a high level of skill in data processing and analysis, but there is another incredibly challenging layer on top of that. In order to gain traction, Big Data apps must also be able to deliver complex results in a way that is meaningful to the consumer.
To put this into perspective, our platform currently reviews over 27 million units of inventory daily down to the feature level, processes more than 100 million monthly VIN specific searches, and examines billions of customer-marketplace touch points. All this data gets analyzed and then delivered into a tablet application that can be used to quickly and easily retrieve all this great data during any conversation.
Jeff – There’s so many services and tools out there to help a dealership obtain additional opportunities / potential customers. CarStory is a tool for the individual sales professional, mobile tool that allows them to work WITH the customer. What was your thinking behind this approach?
Ben – Once again, Gary was very influential in this decision. There has been a lot of great technology delivered over the last 20 years in the automotive industry, but very little has been done to help the more than 1.5M sales associates, who are with the customer at the most crucial part of the sale – on the lot and through the close. This is a hugely important and underserved market.
Jeff – Ben, give me some examples of how the app works. How would a sales professional use this on the floor?
Ben – Really the CarStory app is designed to work in any process. It is flexible and always changing…but that said, here are a few examples:
One feature CarStory sales associates particularly like is what we call the “ice-breaker”. This is a section of vehicle specific insights that calls attention to the most important things to know about any car. CarStory knows what any given customer is likely to be looking for on a given car and we make sure the sales associate knows those hot buttons.
Another feature people really like is the “show me something else” button, or similar vehicles as the app calls it. If the customer isn’t on the right car, CarStory will quickly pull up alternatives and even allows the associates to target to the alternatives against the issue with the last vehicle.
CarStory does this by applying the Amazon-esque method of “customers like you, also looked at…” along with feature specific analysis of every vehicle on your lot.
Also, many of our partner dealers are more than a single point dealership. Some of them have asked us to configure CarStory so that with a simple swipe, they can extend their alternatives search to their sister lots. And if there is still isn’t a match, across the home lot or sister lots, CarStory will keep watching their inventory and as soon as match appears, we’ll send an alert to the associates letting them know.
Jeff – What makes CarStory different from the other automotive iPad / Mobile applications that have come out over the past few years?
Ben – From a product viewpoint, we are focused on delivering the insights that only a true Big Data platform can. We are processing millions of data points each day to create dynamic & unique stories that sales associates can share with their customers. Our true value is in helping the sales associate provide some nugget of information about a vehicle that a customer hasn’t heard before.
We have created the application to work with anyone’s sales process. Each store and every sales person is different and the application is designed to remain flexible.
Everything in the application is one-click away and can be used in any order to mesh well with that sales person. CarStory is very easy to use and requires no formal training; and so, it’s very easy to make the tool your own.
We allow the dealerships to use whatever backend applications they want for inventory management, price setting, CRM, etc. because we want to integrate into the existing ecosystem of a dealership. In fact, we already have the one key integration already done for the dealers which is the ability to integrate into their already specified inventory management software of choice. We have no interest in trying to force the dealership into our system.
Jeff – What’s been the biggest challenges up to this point?
Ben – Initially, making it work within the conversation without interrupting the flow of the sales associate and customer dialogue. We addressed this through many cycles where we would build something, get feedback, and try again. We needed to show insights when they would make a difference and then make sure the app got out of the way.
This would not have been possible without our dealership partners. CarStory was literally built on the lot. Every single person who works on CarStory – our engineers, data scientists, and product managers – has spent time with sales associates, managers, and GMs on the dealership lot.
Our biggest challenge today is tablet adoption at this point in time. This is changing, but many dealerships are still working through this today. Jeff – maybe this is a good discussion topic for one of your forums?
Jeff – Great suggestion. I believe we have an older thread around this topic. Maybe this would be a good time to revitalize this thread. I’ll get started on that right away..
Jeff – What does it take for a dealership to get started? Do they have to go out and buy iPads for all their sales associates?
Ben – Very little, we just need them to sign-up via CarStory.com. For DealerRefresh community members and readers, we are offering a free 45 day trial and for the first 250 DealerRefresh dealers that sign-up. We will EVEN send out an iPad mini for the store to use. We just ask that it gets into the hands of a sales associates who is having multiple conversations today – to truly give it a test drive.
Jeff – Ben, as always it’s been a real pleasure. I’ve been toying around with car story over the last several weeks while introducing it to a few dealerships. I’ve quickly become an advocate for this product. I can’t imagine any dealership hesitating on placing this in the hands of each of their sales associates.
I only wish I had a tool like this when I was on the sales floor.
Thanks again for your time today Ben. As always, it’s a pleasure.
DealerRefreshers, this is an GREAT opportunity to take advantage of. An opportunity to use a technology that helps you and your sales associates close more deals.
Many sales people try to sell on emotion (especially when they do not have the proper tools). The reality is people make decisions based on logic. And application like CarStory helps present logic to the consumer, resulting in more closed deals.
If you would like to take advantage of the free 45 day trial and see what app CarStory is about, sound off in the comments and click here to request your FREE TRIAL. Be sure to mention that you’re a DealerRefresh community member!