Renowned as South Africa’s most trusted motoring marketplace for 27 years, AutoTrader SA is moving into an exciting, new, transformative era
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Josh Hyland
When it comes to ecommerce, Africa has been highlighted as a world of opportunity.
Owed to internet access, education, logistical and other development-centric challenges, the continent has often experienced lag in the way of embracing new technologies in the past. Yet the tide has begun to shift in recent years.
According to Ovum’s Africa Digital Outlook 2019 report, for example, data access and mobile banking are both on the rise, while Africa is also seeing expansion in 4G and even movement towards 5G in some cases.
It is no surprise, therefore, that a number of agile organisations and early-adopters have experienced great benefit when readily aligning their own capabilities with this evolving landscape.
“In any industry, ever-changing buying behaviour is a challenge,” explains AutoTrader South Africa (SA) CEO George Mienie. “It is clear, however, that the internet is providing transparent and accessible information for buyers.
“As a result, a big chunk of purchasing journeys are now completed online, and this is why we became a fully digital business in 2017.”
Having been at the helm of AutoTrader SA since 2007, Mienie himself is the architect behind what has been an extremely successful digital transformation.
Owed to both recent progressions in Africa’s technological backdrop and the company’s own marketing nous, the enterprise’s reach has grown 20-fold since introducing its online operations and publishing the final copy of AutoTrader SA magazine on March 30, 2017.
“We’ve had to constantly evolve and innovate to remain relevant in a competitive industry, ensuring that our platforms are accessible and available from anywhere, anytime, 24-seven,” Mienie continues.
Putting this stature into context, the brand has become the home of the largest automotive marketplace in South Africa, receiving over six million visits each month to its online platforms and hosting advertisements from 70 percent of the nation’s vehicle dealerships.
Shaping the mould
The size of this portfolio is not AutoTrader SA’s sole differentiator, however.
Indeed, the company has been able to amass such a status for a reason, brand power which the Chief Exec attributes to three key factors.
“What consumers want is transparency, and businesses that give them transparency end up winning in the long run,” he states, outlining the first of these.
“It’s central to our success. We maintain no transactional barriers and directly connect buyers and sellers by displaying dealers’ physical addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and website addresses. All of this psychologically builds trust with the consumer.”
Upholding its customers as a priority, the firm has introduced numerous other innovations and continually addressed pain points, all in the aim of maximising user satisfaction. One such example can be found in the launch of We Sell in 2018, a managed process that is geared towards improving service for people seeking a hassle-free and safe car sales process.
The implementation of a vehicle check service further validates these attitudes, helping provide peace of mind to customers by offering the option of uncovering any vehicle’s history before a purchase is made.
“The second key thing that separates AutoTrader South Africa is our culture,” Mienie continues. “We have spent many years and a large amount of resources on moulding our strategies that we’re particularly proud of.
“What has developed is under-standing that consumers, sellers and our dealer network aren’t just numbers on a dial that keep the business running. We believe that by having our customers’ best interests at heart, we will continue to innovate and improve the consumer vehicle buying journey.”
Transformation through tech
Lastly, Mienie alludes to the company’s extensive investments into research and solutions – a major part of its strategy that directly links back to AutoTrader SA’s recent digital transformation efforts.
In developing the database that powers the marketplace, for example, the firm cleaned and captured over four million pieces of metadata using 11 million vehicle identification numbers, resulting in the creation of one of its foremost assets – a first of its kind for South Africa.
“The value this vehicle taxonomy wields is far-reaching and demonstrates, like never before, how big data has become the new capital,” Mienie explains. “Combined with vastly improved search capabilities, it has given us the ability to not only revamp our website, but completely reimagine how buyers and sellers interact.”
For buyers, the benefits are immediately apparent in the form of vastly improved search functionality, making seeking their next car quicker and easier than ever before. For AutoTrader SA’s dealers meanwhile, the changes have been equally profound, the company’s revolutionary AutoFuzion product helps to provide live market car valuations.
“By combining vehicle taxonomy data with other critical information like transactional values, retail prices and market supply and demand data, we’re in a unique position to provide accurate, live market information to our customers,” Mienie adds.
AutoTrader SA’s own efforts aside, Mienie is quick to highlight the two-way street that is the role of its partner dealerships in enabling the organisation to reach new heights.
“They’ve kept us ahead of the curve and ensured that our business goals and strategic outcomes have been met whilst providing the best possible service to the customer,” he states. “Due to the fact that we operate in a time sensitive industry, we’re also reliant on other various partners so that we can be agile and adaptive in a digital world.”
Similar appreciations are equally shown towards the firm’s employees, again highlighted as being crucial.
“From a talent retention point of view, the company is only as good as its people. Retaining employees means that we can retain skill and knowledge which is strengthened by valuable experience that no amount of money can provide,” the CEO adds.
“Each employee is as important as the next.”
Considering the company’s staff and partners, combined with its forward-thinking, customer-focused attitudes and sound investment strategies, AutoTrader SA is tipped for further success moving forward.
With an eye to the future, Mienie’s concluding statements are fuelled with optimism: “We’ve come a long way and have made a real name for ourselves in bringing buyers and sellers of the motor industry together. From being the first company in the industry in South Africa to launch a fully responsive website to achieving record growth in 2019, we’ve made great strides.
“This journey, however, is far from over – we’re excited to continue driving trust and transparency and improving the vehicle shopping journey online.”