13 Car Commerce Startups To Watch & Learn From
Lately, I have been watching startups in the space of car sales and rentals, given the growth in adoption and novelty of the service shopping experience online and on mobile. To my delight, besides TrueCar and Cars.com that I knew, there are over 13 startups that play on the market. Here are my findings of what those sites do well or not so well in terms of selling their services online with a few curious facts in terms of traffic traction.
With over ~ 100K UV has been growing up steadily since launch last year in Feb. The site is a marketplace where you can trade your old car within 30 days and buy a new one. Love the home landing page with all the right pieces. Even the explainer video makes sense and does the job in painting the why behind the service.
Testimonials are also like stories, which makes it so much more appealing.
Seems to have enjoyed ~ 485% growth YOY in traffic, with projected $50M in 2014.
I loved their landing page as well with a clear value prop, benefits copy placement on the top, excellent microcopy on why do this vs. going the usual route. Scrolling further, you see good work the team did following conversion optimization principles and applying behavioral science insights: you see the artificial progress bar, with the benefits copy, you see specific copy that addresses objections and differentiating statements to sell better. Scrolling further, you can see that they have a good use case for pattern interrupt within the design to help visitors focus on user reviews (with a humorous CTA – “read our worst reviews”) and the product hero shot as the landing page continues to sell it further.
And based on the traffic, both are rather similar in growth patterns as of date, so far.
Is a UK version of Beepi, has prioritized an email capture right in the header and has a very well written value prop with a supporting copy. The founders are experienced online marketers from Rocket Internet, who practiced well on removing the buyer friction on the dating sites and applying it now here to the pre-owned vehicles buys. Taking the car dealership angle and mixing ecommerce makes for a new ecommerce business model with a sizable revenue stream. If you want to review various ecommerce business models, see in chapter 1 in my book on Kindle and print.
4 Campanda RV
Is a German-born marketplace to rent RVs, which also offers its services in the US, makes for a decent niche ecommerce site. Why buy RV when you retire, when you can rent it and see the states and save the cash to enjoy on more travel? Or if you own it, rent it out and onboard on other adventures by boat, while someone else uses the vehicle. Could be a good business given the growth in the aging population worldwide. Also, I could see different demographics besides just the retirees – perfect for families too and groups of people. From the landing page review, loved the use of the rule of 3 in showing only 3 key functions to select a specific product, image treatment for text readability and sense of urgency in promoting last minute deals.
Is a local SF-based boat rental marketplace that does not sound snobby and seems easily approachable to the general public with its clear, outcome-driven value prop – “Own a boat for a day”, which is excellent because people buy experiences. Overall is also a very clean design, follows the rule of 3 or 4 and decent social proof with progressive display (not all is shown). The UX team behind the pages knows the conversion principles and executes well. Although, the marketing team might use more budget for paid customer acquisition vs. solely relying on Google.
Luxe is a parking service company, distributed via a mobile app and a site for busy commuters in the (and to the) high-density cities like SF or New York, where finding parking might take an hour. I was super excited by the sophistication of the landing page, specifically the use of HTML5 GSAP animations to demo the service visually and white space background for clarity. I had to take a video of it because it hard to show via screenshots the level of interactivity it provides. Nothing too much to read (which means = reduced cognitive load), all you need is just see what it is, very simple and friendly for a lazy brain of ours.
Is a ride share service distributed via a mobile app on either side (passengers “end users” and drivers), a rising star among consumers and startups in the valley, all trying to join or emulate its high growth. The team has excellent execution on its referral program (uses Desk.com on the backend) from the user acquisition perspective (which is 17% of total traffic on a monthly basis as of date), which is experienced as a seamless unique URL invite. Note how it is represented almost in every onboarding experience and is scaled to people beyond friends (coworkers), which makes it quite a decent channel of user acquisition, in comparison to the organic search being 33% and direct 43% (but of course you know that direct is not a channel).
From the service assortment, the company recently expanded into Plus (shared rides with 6 people) and Line (daily long distance commute), which makes it so natural for casual users to see its integration into more heavy use cases and allows for easy transition to a new level of the service, if it fits their lifestyle. This is a great example of product/service extension that complements the existing services and allows a user to stay within the range for a longer term.
From the landing page view, I absolutely love the simplicity principle, the use of rule of 3 elements at a time and guided design around the embedded explainer videos with good creative and of high production quality. And of course, the best part is a more actionable CTA – get a link to the app, which is a text into your phone, a nudge to help you do so vs. having you do all the work. We need nudges to get stuff done, works for engagement and conversion.
Is a growing car rental sharing startup that operates in 84 cities as of date, an AirBnB for cars, as it calls itself, has grown over 250% YOY in total traffic, with a huge spike in March 2015 (~ 175K) and leveled around 77K monthly unique visitors after. Most of its traffic comes from search (organic and paid), and ~ 7% from Facebook, likely due to its Facebook login option for growth and for identity verification. The entire booking process is self-served, automated and effortless, a good process to review and apply for your business. The owner/car renter experience is also automated – you can lock, unlock and track your car remotely via the app. Per users, the startup has developed a good community and the service stands for the best value, given the technology and peer-ownership, thus cheaper than ZipCar. From the landing page perspective, the experience is simple, yet could be more engaging.
One thing that could be improved is making their referral program more visible. At this point, I had to look for it. Consumers might not, while the incentive is pretty good and works wonders for competition (Lyft).
Is a UK version of peer to peer car sharing like Getaround in the US. The site is responsive and is designed to provide the same experience for users on tablets, desktop and iPhone. Great use of 1 click Facebook sign up for email growth and faster conversion and a welcome greeting from the well-integrated Intercom.io, one of the favorite tools that I endorse all the time.
Looks like the site was specifically build for mobile onboarding given the responsive design.
The site claims to get over 1000 signups and 300 cars within the month of launch (May 2015). A good European contender to watch.
Another ride sharing service. Not sure what is the rationale for some sites to use URL that are unconventional. It is probably super cool, but as a basic user, I could not even find it on google, because I looked for Sidecar.com and I hesitated clicking on Side.cr that looked odd, foreign, who knows if it was a spam site. Some conventions of the web experience should not be broken, because prior shopping expectations shape our perception and experience. Hence, I would try to stick to the dot come domains for consumer services and products. Traffic wise, the startup reached ~ 42K monthly with a highest spike in Feb of 105K with 42% YOY. Looks like a wordpress-built site to me, yet I wish the design was not so busy. The main value prop can be improved as it does not mean anything – so what if “shared rides are here”. The CTAs are lost and dis-joined, which makes them hidden and of course a lot of going on on the page, the unnecessary background treatment makes it super busy. I’d say Sidecar is a case of what not to do on a landing page.
Has been on the market for a few years and sure has a happy customer base. Its business model seems to be a hybrid of Getaround and Zipcar, using owner vehichles, yet enjoying access in public places and also having the convinience of a car – coming to you! These differentiating benefits for some reason hidden, pushed down or de-emphasized on the landing page. Not sure why the team decided to hide its key persuasive copy, while leading with a bit generic value prop – “Rent your perfect car”. What does that mean? Can be many things, while it would be ideal to piant the picture right away. To me, “delivered to your door” or “available at the key airports” are more convincing, why not combine the two and have a key value prop that paints those convinience and quality outcomes and makes RelayRides a distinct choice?
Uber is surely an 800 lb gorilla in the space based on traffic and investments, followed by Lyft and Zipcar.
I got curious what contributes the most from all the landing pages that Uber site puts to use. Of course, after the home page, the highest page in terms of traffic was the sign up page, and current customer pages (login/riders) and a mobile home variation. Of course, those reveal just a tip of the iceberg, yet give you enough of the glimpse to reverse-engineer some marketing initiatives.
Now, taking a closer look at the landing pages, I certainly see high quality work.
Is a 15-year-old veteran in the niche, one of the first startups that went through harder battles in the early days. Over the years, the company did solve many infrastructure challenges and today offers the widest product assortment of cars in many cities (over 148). Because, the fleets are owned by the enterprise, you get well-maintained vehicles, good technology at a slightly premium price, yet it covers all – the insurance and gas and you get your own car and control your schedule. So, it is a smart alternative to car ownership, especially if you live in the city. If Lyft is like eBay or Etsy of car ownership, ZipCar is more like Amazon.
It was super refreshing to see the variety and similarities of approaches in how those startups market the new avaialble services in the car use space. It was exciting to see new ventures that now sell a full vehicle vs. only parts or serving as lead generation sites. One brand that I wish to see on the list is Tesla. With its new product, a new industry rather, it can only benefit from intergrating eCommerce into its distribution model.
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