Summon - Innovation in Car Retail





Project Overview

In early 2020 we launched Summon, with the mission “to provide Aussies with a better and fairer way to sell their cars”.

The first innovative service we launched is a concierge service for selling prestige cars privately. Think of it like a real estate agent for your BMW.

We do all the work for the seller (including test-drives), and thanks to professional car photography and advertising we reach the right buyers and maximise the sale price. Summon is paid a commission of the final sale price.

We are a digital business. Unlike a car dealership we have no real estate (the cars stay with the owner), and we pass these cost savings onto our customers. We don’t even have an office, our team work 100% remotely.

Despite the roller-coaster ride of starting during a global pandemic, Summon has been exceeding all expectations for our customers, and ourselves;

Since launching we have;
- Sold over $4.5m worth of prestige cars, with another $4m currently for sale
- We average a 15% higher price than a trade-in
- We average a 5% higher price than if the seller sold the car themselves privately
- Our customers love us! We average 9.5/10 in customer satisfaction surveys.




Tim Fouhy
Tim O'Neill
Gavin Little
Charlotte Parker

Project Brief

Because this service had never been offered before, prior to launch we needed to validate three things;

1. Feasibility - would we be in breach of Consumer Trading regulations that govern car dealers, plus State laws that restrict selling on consignment, and if yes how could we work around restrictions on major car marketplace Websites (like Carsales) that limit the number of private car sales you can post each year?

2. Viability - would the business model work? What is the right price?

3. Desirability - do people want this? Will they pay for it?

We progressed with an MVP of both the Web site and the service (e.g. photography, test-drives) to test viability and desirability, while in parallel we jumped through the three major regulatory hoops.

By November 2020 we had a partnership in place with Carsales and others, and had successfully proven that customers loved the service and that it can be profitable. We were ready to go!

The next stage involved scaling up our digital marketing, relaunching a new brand and Web site, and building apps and services such as our valuation app.

Project Need

For decades there has been a void in the market for selling used cars. Sellers have had two (crappy) options;

1. Sell your car yourself privately (very time consuming and a lot of hassle), or
2. Sell your car to a dealer / trade-in (where you don’t get a great price).

We spotted this void and wanted to create an amazing alternative - something with the convenience of selling to a dealer, but the value of selling privately.

We are often asked “why has this never existed before?”. The answer is that people filled the void with car-loving uncles and brothers selling cars informally for their family members - but nobody had professionalised and scaled-up a service like Summon is.

User Experience

We have a strong focus on the user experience of our customers (sellers of prestige cars), and we are thrilled this has been successful, as can be seen in our 9.5/10 customer satisfaction score.

The customer experience comprises four stages;

1. Valuation (we have build our own valuation app, which provides beautiful PDF valuation reports for every car)

2. Onboarding (where we learn about their car, we clean, take photos and advertise the car for sale)

3. For sale (we provide weekly email updates on interest, statistics, plus more frequent contact if we receive an offer or test-drive request)

4. Settlement (we assist with receipts, funds transfer, registration paperwork)

For each of these, we use good design to ensure all touchpoints are consistent, beautiful and user friendly, and we use technology to create efficiencies and ensure our systems can scale as the business grows.

We survey every customer, and ask for areas of improvement. Based on this feedback we are constantly making changes, for example thanks to a recent customer’s suggestion we have designed welcome ID cards to our concierge team.

Project Marketing

Marketing is perhaps our biggest challenge - as we are a new, unknown brand, and we are providing a unique service that people are unfamiliar with.

We have found good success with Facebook Advertising, and have created a marketing automation system whereby Facebook ‘Lead Ads’ use an API to appear in our CRM (Pipedrive), which then runs a triggered email and sms process - to qualify the lead and request details about the car they wish to sell. This allows us to scale up Facebook ads without also scaling up people to manage the leads manually.

We regularly run marketing experiments, to test new ideas. Two examples of this are:

1. During the Australian COVID lock-downs we created ‘Dream Garage Zoom backgrounds’ - free downloads to make your colleagues envious of your beautiful home studio and (naturally) your classic Ferrari in the background

2. Free PPSR Checks - a PPSR check is a requirement for anyone buying a used car privately (it checks if the car has been stolen etc), we have launched a 100% free service in competition with the paid alternatives, which provides a benefit to the user and also brand awareness for Summon

Project Privacy

We have three areas for which privacy is of huge importance;

1. Prospective Summon customers - managing customer marketing data

2. Customer data - which includes vehicles details, drivers licence details, bank account details

3. Car buyer data - which includes drivers licence details and other personal details

One of our benefits to Summon customers is that we maintain their privacy, something that is hard to do if you are selling a car yourself privately. This includes such tactics as blacking out number plates in photos, doing inspections away from their home, and not giving our customers name until the sale is agreed.

Fraud protection is another consideration, and we have blocked a few interesting fraud attempts on behalf of our customers.

To manage the above we use a combination of best practice software (e.g. MailChimp to ensure no accidental spamming) and our own technology (e.g. we are piloting our own software to provide secure online ID Checks of car buyers prior to test-drives).

This can be any new service or application from a start-up to an industry leader. It’s not just bells and whistles we're after but true innovation, exceeding expectations and filling a void that had previously been open.
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