The latest news from iVendi and the industry


The latest news from iVendi and the industry

Imperial Cars of Swanwick case study

Thu, 17/01/2019


In a sector – car supermarkets – that is often seen as among the most progressive areas of used car retailing, Imperial Cars still stands out as among the most forward thinking.

That sense of ambition can be seen in many different ways – the way that the business has grown from four sites to 12 in a little over a year and its determination to maximising the potential of online motor retail, for a start, but perhaps the really striking thing is its degree of customer focus.

Neil Smith, operations director, explained: “Many businesses talk about placing the customer at the centre of what they do but we genuinely try to take that to the next level. We are always asking ourselves how we can create good and better outcomes? How can we give the customer the best experience? Everything else flows from there.”

Imperial specialises in 2-3-year-old prestige and sub-prestige cars, bought from auction or direct from leasing companies and prepared to a very high standard using impressive in-house processes.

Neil said: “We want the vehicle to be placed before the customer in the best condition possible. It is important to ensure that happens in the showroom but most people now first see the car they are going to buy online. Therefore, we work hard to make sure each vehicle is presented on our web site in a manner that is comprehensive and thorough.”

Online, each car is the subject of at least 40 different high resolution images, including a 360-degree spin, a hero shot, an interior cockpit shot, and hot spots to show specification highlights. There is also a service history, MoT history, HPI provenance and specification checks, log book, and a Car and Driver used car review.

Neil said: “Whatever we know about the vehicle, we tell the customer. This is a business that is all about transparency and trust. We only buy good stock and we prepare it to a standard that is outstanding, so we underline this commitment to the customer in as many different ways as possible.

“Effectively, we aim to give the customer enough information to make the decision to buy while they are examining the car online. We want people to come to the showroom ready to make the purchase. In this respect, the web is a crucial sales enabler.”

Imperial’s commitment to the strongest possible online presentation is one of the results of an ambitious approach adopted three years ago to advance its online retail strategy ahead of the rest of the UK used car market.

Neil said: “We took a look at what was happening in car retail across the world and especially in the US and it was clear that the web was going to be an even bigger part of both our future and the future of used car retailing. We wanted to lead the way.

“It was very much as part of examining what was possible and implementing this strategy that we began to work with iVendi. Today, they help us to provide what we believe to be among the most advanced online customer journeys available in the UK used car sector.”

Following the high quality online presentation of cars, the process created by Imperial in partnership with iVendi progresses from a finance calculator through to quoting, a soft search, and proposal and submission.

Neil said: “All of our lender panel is integrated with iVendi, so everything works with a very high degree of efficiency. Once the customer applies, for example, the information is auto-proposed and the data also goes to our call centre to be further advanced.

“All of the parties involved – the customer, the lender and us – are provided with a fast, efficient and transparent online process that moves forward the purchase of the car quickly and easily.

“A key part of all of this is the attention that is given to compliance. This is a crucial area and, in working with iVendi, we know that important aspects of the process such as GDPR are being taken very seriously.”

Imperial has also spent a lot of time and effort on creating a sophisticated online part exchange process that is designed to place the customer very much in control.

Neil said: “We were determined that the part exchange shouldn’t be a brake on online sales, so our process is designed to be as easy, fair and transparent as possible. A sign of its success in this respect is that we often buy part exchanges from potential customers who don’t ultimately buy a car from us. The offer is independent.”

Important to the understanding of Imperial’s online strategy is the company’s acceptance that its online processes are, in many respects, still ahead of many consumers’ comfort zones. Resistance often remains to using entirely web-based processes to buy a car.

Neil said: “Our approach is to be ahead of the curve and ready for the customer, rather than running to catch up with their aspirations. We see this as an investment for the future and, even over the last couple of years, already see larger numbers of under-25s who are happy to buy a car online. This is part of a longer term shift.”

Because of the need to deal with a wide spread of attitudes to online motor retail, the company is using the technology available to create a number of innovative offerings that are designed to meet customer needs in new ways.

Neil said: “An example of this is a system we have created called ‘Click, Call, Collect.’ The customer completes the largest part of the purchasing process online, comes to the dealership and, provided everything meets their approval, the deal can be completed in minutes. About one in 10 of our cars are bought this way.”

As consumer acceptance of online motor retail progresses, Imperial see their partnership with iVendi as becoming even more important to their ongoing commitment to maximising the potential of online technology.

Neil said: “Our relationship with iVendi is very much a partnership. We only work with people we trust and they have been able to help us realise key aspects of online offering.

“They also have a good understanding of where we are heading as a business. For example, they have introduced a pricing structure that is designed to take account of our growth plans. Also, we know that when we need help, it will be provided quickly and efficiently.

“When we get together with iVendi, ideas spark and many of them happen. It’s a satisfyingly creative and productive way of working that fits well with our ambitions.”

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