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More than just a secondhand marketplace: How Carousell became S’pore’s largest autos platform

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carousell

It’s almost the end of 2021. As we bid adieu to the year, we are also reminded of how the pandemic has changed the way we live our lives.

With more working from home and not heading out amid living with the virus, we embrace shopping online for our needs — from home furniture, to newfound (home-based) hobbies, and even cars.

When I think of a store with a huge variety of products, it’ll have to be Singapore’s online marketplace Carousell. There, I can get an assortment of my sourcing needs met, be it finding great deals on electronics, browsing and shopping for the bicycle that I want, to looking for repairman services all within the same app.

While perhaps almost everything can be found on Carousell’s diversified marketplace, we are not surprised that Carousell is Singapore’s largest auto marketplace too. In fact, it has leadership positions in categories like cars for sale, vehicle rental, car accessories, workshops, and motorcycles.

In this “new normal” of limited travel and stay-home measures, Singaporeans seem to have shifted their focus onto their long-running love affair with cars. This is seen by how the demand for vehicles in the country during the pandemic is higher than in January 2020, before Covid-19 hit Singapore.

cars singapore
Image Credit: Cars & Stars

Additionally, as more people stayed home to shop for their needs, they also did the same for autos. Statistics from Carousell revealed that there are more than 500,000 live listings on its autos categories.

This is a huge number of listings given that Singapore is a tiny nation — as of 2020, there were only approximately 974,000 motor vehicles in the country, according to data from research site Statista.

In Singapore, five out of 10 cars sold annually get transacted through Carousell’s marketplace and more than half of Singapore vehicle owners engage and use Carousell’s autos categories on a monthly basis.

It is no mean feat for a nine-year-old company to be dominating a significant proportion of the auto market in the country, beating incumbents such as retailers as well as online competitors. We take a closer look at how Carousell built its credibility and expanded into the autos space.

Becoming Singapore’s largest autos marketplace

In early 2016, the Singapore-based peer-to-peer marketplace noticed that more people were looking to sell and buy cars on the site and decided to step up its offerings in that department.

It went on acquire Caarly, Singapore’s mobile-first used car marketplace and dealership platform.

“We got serious with autos when we acquired Caarly back in 2016 to lead the automotive segment. The autos category was the first category that we started monetising in Carousell,” said Sanjay Shivkumar, head of autos at Carousell, adding that cars were a natural evolution of Carousell’s business.

“We started our journey with our community of users when they were schooling (selling and buying textbooks and fashion items). Then they started to enter new phases of their lives, such as starting their careers in the workforce and their own families. With higher disposable income, (they) were also purchasing cars and properties,” he explained.

The growth and demand seen in the autos segment prompted the group to acquire OneShift in 2018 to expand its automotive content and network of dealerships in Singapore for its users.

carousell cars autos
Screenshot from Carousell website

Jumping onto the autos e-commerce bandwagon proved to be a right move for Carousell, as this segment has since grown to contribute to one-third of Carousell’s overall revenue. It currently has leadership positions in automotive markets like Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

It has successfully evolved to become a marketplace that sells more than just your general items. Within Singapore, its automotive categories like car for sale, vehicle rental, car workshops and accessories, and motorcycles, all form Carousell’s top categories by traffic.

For this year, Sanjay said that Carousell is set to more than double in overall revenue for its automotive business, compared to a year ago, driven by OneShift’s transactional business and advertising revenues on Carousell.

Customised and tailored experience for autos users

Taking a look at the autos section under the Carousell app, I realise why the group has grown so rapidly over the past few years and captured a big share of customers in the market.

For one, the Carousell app is easy to navigate, and I can do a search for my dream car and browse the various tabs to check out relevant cars on sale almost immediately when I open the app on my phone. There are also tools and services such as ‘Determine Your Buying Power’ to help new car buyers like myself conduct research before buying the car of our choice.

The ‘Loan Calculator’ and the ‘Affordability Calculator’ helps car buyers to estimate their monthly car loan payments and browse vehicles that are within their budget. These tools are located in the same platform and are easy to refer to with just the click of a button.

The chat function also makes it convenient for buyers and sellers to discuss pricing and car specifications. What’s best is its reviews function, which helps buyers discern if the seller is trustworthy.

carousell cars autos
Screenshot from Carousell website

For existing car owners, there’re more e-services like ‘Renew Your COE’ and ‘Scrap/Export Your Car’. There’s also the Carousell Certified Cars service, which offers buyers cars that are inspected, with up to 24 months warranty. This aims to allow buyers to shop for cars with a peace of mind.

These plethora of services make the user experience feel personal, customised, and tailored. It’s a stark difference compared to the past, where a car buyer would have to flip through the Classifieds section in the newspaper to search for secondhand cars.

“We facilitate the most direct owner transactions in Singapore and without a middleman within the transaction, the direct owner generally takes back a higher margin,” he added.

“The speed of a transaction varies on a few factors: the type of car, whether the car has an existing loan, whether the car seller has already gotten the next car, and so on. We’ve had users who listed their cars, transacted and had the car transferred within a few hours.”

However, he noted that most car transactions in Singapore will take a few weeks from listing to handover of keys.

“This diversity and breadth of our products allows us to build deep value and ensures stickiness, and we believe that we have the responsibility to be on the forefront of reimagining the autos marketplace,” Sanjay said.

Fetching the best vehicle price on the marketplace

When direct sellers list their cars on Carousell, one way that’ll help them to sell faster is via Carousell’s subsidiary platform OneShift.

“When you list a car for sale on Carousell today, there is a one-click option for you if you would like to send your car for bidding to our network of dealers. This allows you to have two different sell options, where you can continue to sell on Carousell to other consumers, or if you are in a hurry, to get a “buy price” from our network of dealers,” said Sanjay.

OneShift aims to help sellers sell their cars directly to its network of dealers via a bidding process to fetch the highest price. There’s also a “sell for me” service where the platform will help to sell the car on the seller’s behalf.

The site also offers reviews on new cars and editorial content for car owners. Around 40 per cent of the cars listed for sale daily on Carousell are sent to OneShift for bidding, according to him.

carousell oneshift
Image Credit: OneShift

Gone are the days where a car seller had to walk in or call multiple dealers themselves to try and negotiate for the highest selling or trade in price. OneShift steps in to automate this process and adds the element of competitive bidding from dealers for sellers’ cars where some bidders might bid higher to get certain cars in their inventory.

On why dealers will consider partnering with Carousell, Sanjay said that the business has the most number of direct car owners in Singapore and that massive inventory speaks for itself.

“Dealers are always on the lookout to acquire cars from direct owners and Carousell gives us that muscle against other competitors who would have to spend a lot more to acquire a car for sale,” he explained.

Carousell goes the extra mile by providing financing capabilities to car buyers and sellers via entities like Revo Financial and other banks.

“This allows us to be part of a car owner’s journey throughout: we have categories like vehicle rental or motorcycles when a consumer is not yet ready to purchase a car, to buying or selling a car on Carousell, to using our workshop or accessories categories as a car owner,” added Sanjay.

More personalised experiences for vehicle owners in the works

Looking back at Carousell’s journey, its decision to get serious about autos since 2016 has certainly paid off.

Its auto segment currently fetches about US$2 billion in gross merchandise value annually, and is a major source of revenue for the growing startup.

With Carousell, customers have been able to benefit too, as auto buyers have an easy to navigate all-in-one app that caters to many of their car buying needs and they do not need to leave the comfort of their homes when searching for their dream car. The ability to buy directly from sellers also cuts out the middleman, bringing down costs.

For auto sellers, the various options available — direct-to-consumer, bidding-through-dealers, and sell-for-you — makes it convenient to list the car on the app with the confidence of a sale.

Moving forward, Carousell has plans to step on the gas pedal with its auto plans to further enhance consumers’ experience.

Taking a user-first approach, it will be launching concept solutions Garage by the end of December, where the service will offer personalised recommendations specific to the car owner’s type of car model, like sourcing for car accessories and attending workshops. 

If you are looking to buy or sell your car, check out Carousell here today.

This article was written in collaboration with Carousell.

Featured Image Credit: Carousell

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