Even with today’s fast-paced technological evolution, most software platforms in automotive enjoy at least a few years in operation before the need to rebuild is reluctantly brought up at a board meeting.
But with barely a year under its belt, the team behind eBlock is proving how important it is to adapt and develop with the market by totally rebuilding its online vehicle auction platform.
“It was all about maintaining the experience and taking the platform where both we and the dealers wanted it to go,” explained company president and CEO Ryan O’Connor.
“What you currently see from eBlock is going in the trash can. This is a total rebuild. It was a major decision, but doing it now makes a lot of sense with where we are heading with the platform.”
O’Connor said the new system, loaded with new functionality, should hit the market sometime in late Q1 of 2017. The rebuild represents an investment of “millions of dollars.”
He said when it launched in 2016, the team knew it had to stay nimble and bring new features to market in a timely fashion.
“Although the beta version of eBlock is still a killer auction tool, adding on new features was time consuming. The new version will allow us to develop a double the speed and we are expecting exponential growth over the next two years,” he explained.
“We are adding a skip to our walk and by the end of 2017, we will be running.”
One of the new functions O’Connor revealed was the chance for dealership groups to host their own private auctions at no additional charge.
Multi-store operations can hold their own closed sales, invite whom they wish and push anything that doesn’t sell out to the larger auction pool.
Also planned is the addition of a 24-hour auction. Any units that don’t sell in the live auction will enter a separate section of the system where potential buyers can continue to hash out deals for roughly 24 hours.
The anniversary auction, for example, had a closing ratio of 42 per cent or 190 units. When it is live, those 267 unsold cars would move to the 24-hour lot where they can run as many times as the seller wants.
Reruns will not be allowed in the live 3:30 p.m. auction with the idea of offering only fresh inventory to ensure dealer participation.
“We worked hard to get those vehicles on there and we want to work hard for our dealer partners to get that inventory sold. That’s where the Buy Now section with the 24-hour auction kicks in. We think we’ll be able to increase our closing ratio by and extra 20 or 30 per cent with this solution.”
It has been a frantic but successful first year for O’Connor and eBlock. The system had launched amid a flurry of similar auction sites in both Canada and the U.S., but O’Connor said that competitive landscape has calmed down of late and allowed eBlock to establish itself as real contender.
Built firmly on the premise of speed and convenience – its website bills the auction as a place where cars are bought and sold in 60 seconds – eBlock marked the one-year anniversary sale in late January by blitzing through 457 units in just over two hours.
They finished 2016 just shy of $100 million in sales and are poised to double in size this year.
Over the 12 months in market, eBlock also changed from daily sales to running twice weekly after the team noticed more units would run and conversion rates would climb when auctions were held on certain days.
And while the two auction days a week are likely to hang around for a while, O’Connor said there is still the opportunity when the cars are there to run sales every day as long as the units are fresh and significant in numbers.
In addition the necessity of a platform rebuild, eBlock has stumbled a bit. Efforts to develop a strong auction presence in Vancouver have stalled for various reasons, though he is confident western expansion is a certainty in the coming months and year.
The strongest market remains Ontario but there is a growing presence of buyers and sellers logging on from Montreal and Atlantic Canada.