Let’s face it – we ALL do it. Call it window-shopping for car geeks – and it’s why car-buying portals are among the biggest websites in the country.
But the vast majority of them are just that. Car buying portals, first and foremost. Their roots are in the trade, in the commercial world, and they’re geared up for that. Look that. ‘Feel’ that. They force enthusiasts to excuse a trade-focused visual experience in the search for the car of their virtual dreams, rather than work with them to enhance the experience.
Which is where Ian Griffiths and Makeandmodel.co.uk come in. Here is the country’s first car-buying site for petrolheads – one that does everything the established players do, and more, but has the look of a high-end online motoring magazine that you can’t help but fail to be impressed with.
What gave him the idea? ‘My partner and I used to work in London, and spent rather a lot of time searching car buying websites in our breaks,’ he somewhat unsurprisingly reveals. ‘We’re petrolheads, so were always looking for the flashiest cars on the market.
‘Increasingly though, we were becoming frustrated with the sort of sites we had to use. In our eyes, they weren’t really providing the best of services for people such as us.’ Which is why, about a year ago, a career change saw Griffiths contact a web developer, to see what they could do…
‘We were interested to see if we could come up with something that worked for people such as us,’ he said. What they came up with is, well, in the process of being launched right now. Welcome to Makeandmodel.co.uk…
On first glance, it is one of the slickest-looking car buying websites out there. It indeed could be a premium motoring title or prestige dealer, so clean are the graphics and so web-friendly are the features. It’s deceptively simple, and focuses immediately on quick car searches.
In seconds, you can have called up the Porsche 911 Turbo of your dreams. Or the Aston Martin Vanquish of your dreams. Or… well, you get the idea. Simple pull-down bars mean the route to the cars is as direct as possible – presenting you, in every instance, with a standardised layout to continue the professional feel.
This was intentional, explains Griffiths: ‘We use CAP to provide spec info on all the car listings: this, incidentally, means entering a single car is simply a matter of inputting registration, mileage and price. CAP fills in everything else – which means every ad has full performance, specification, economy and dimensions data.
‘At the end we have a “free text” box, where advertisers can type all the specific information they wish. We kept this at the back of the advert, to make it as standardised as possible – this helps the buyer and means nobody gets lost.’
‘We are in the process of finalising our bulk uploads, that can take .csv files for upload via ftp server,’ he adds. ‘A lot of Top 100 car dealers have shown interest in this.’
Once there, Makeandmodel.co.uk hooks into social networking techniques to enhance the process further. ‘It is NOT social networking for cars though,’ Griffiths is keen to point out. ‘This has been proven not to work. Instead, we take techniques which work well on Facebook and Twitter, and incorporate them into our site.’
This includes a virtually instant direct messaging service, so conversations can be struck up between vendor and potential buyer, without the tricky phone calls or ignored emails. ‘These are stored, Facebook style, in the vendor’s account – it highlights any unread messages, and also “threads” conversations so dialogue about a particular car can be started. This is already proving popular,’ he says.
Griffiths will also exploit the power of Twitter and, when the site is fully launched, has plenty more trick features up his sleeve to really maximise value for car dealers.
Not that anyone can argue about the value it offers right now, mind! Currently, the site is FREE to advertise on – both for private buyers and car dealers. ‘We want to keep it free to the trade for as long as possible. It will always be free for buyers, but we will not charge the trade a single penny at least until July.
‘If we can gain the critical mass and find a revenue stream before then, it will remain free forever.’ Griffiths says his idea is not to make money from car dealers, but to use the back-end functionality of the site to generate revenue. That will, he adds, NOT involve flooding the site with advertising, either! ‘We will always continue our clean, crisp look,’ he promises.
Car Dealer Magazine likes this idea – particularly as there are some real innovations on the landing page. Take the ability to ‘theme’ it, for example: have the background of your favourite supercar sitting there, and change it when you get bored of it. It’s super-easy to search fast, too, and the interaction with Facebook and Twitter means it’s even simpler to share these finds with your mates.
Perfect lunchtime browsing for car nuts, in fact. ‘It’s just the sort of site we’d like to have used,’ adds Griffiths. THIS is why you should be interested: see, his former job gave him the ability to buy cars such as these… given that it’s free, can you really afford not to have your stock in front of buyers such as him? Find out more by emailing [email protected].
by RICHARD AUCOCK