Gilder Group are the first Volkswagen dealer in UK, up until recently they represented Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT and Honda brands. Through innovative thinking and great use of technology we have brought their site to the very top of the game, so much so that we later saw influence of our work in Audi's own site (one of the brands represented by Gilder) and their success ultimately got the company acquired by JCT600, who sadly scraped the system in favour of their existing solution.
The project began with Jerry Lampson, man in charge of Gilder's on-line presence for many years. Having done an experiment on what Gilder website could be if the norms of the car retail industry were left behind and instead applying the streamlined user experience (UX) thinking which is winning customers for the technology start-up in Silicone Valley. Jerry sent this experiment to Peter Sutherland, marketing director at Gilder Group. Having seen the potential of this approach, Peter asked us to develop it further and pitch the idea to the board of the company.
Working on the idea with Jerry, we have developed a set of criteria which would align the goals of the customer and the company. Starting with the user journey we made the "ideal" vision of what the customer experience would be. From first arriving on the site (not necessarily on the homepage) to finding the suitable car or booking the service at the nearest dealership, everything was tailored to customers pleasant experience from start to finish.
Following this we developed a set of tools for Gilder's use, advertising was incorporated to highlight offers, promotions and services in way that complemented the user journey through the site and aided them in finding the right service and information. A few SEO techniques were employed to help generate traffic and help people arrive in the correct section of the site based on their search query. Great importance was placed on optimising used cars as many buyers are looking to buy used and it provides a great profit margin for the company.
The pitch was fantastic and we were all set to make it reality. Starting afresh we have decided to replace the ZendFramework (PHP based) system we have developed for Gilder and replace it with one built around the the ethos of the project. We chose Ruby on Rails as the new base. The great ecosystem and tools surrounding this open source platform allowed us to develop a complex new system in record time and maintain a great quality of service through the whole life of the project.
- Used car stock management: a massive data engine processing hundreds of cars across many dealerships. As stock changes every day, our system classified the cars, managed thousands of images, financial calculations and in turn supplied other outfits (eBay, Motors.co.uk, Vcars, etc) with this data based on given criteria.
- Statistic engine: an internal statistics system was developed with a JS API and Redis as storage. As users used the site to find information, we would record what information they found and how they got there. This was used to dynamically alter parts of the site to make finding frequently needed information easy. It was also used to make design decisions on improving the service and provided insights into customer behaviour through a monthly report generated for the directors of the company.
- Dynamic content: having lots of data on the car stock and user's use of the site allowed us to dynamically alter parts of the site to help people find what they want faster. For example the used car listing would prioritise popular models and show the price brackets of these to help people get to the car they want with little hassle.
- Feedback system: whenever someone buys or services the car, we would contact the customer and ask them to rate their experience simply by clicking a choice of 3 smiley face icons. Since this required less effort than filling in a conventional feedback form, many did. Apart from providing a nice morale boost for the Gilder staff, in a rare situation of a bad experience we would contact the customer to put things right straight away. This feedback was also included in the monthly report for the board.
- Purpose built CMS: to let Gilder staff manage this wealth of information we have developed a content management system around the tasks. In a similar exercise to the streamlining the customer journey through the website, we made the administration interface intuitive and easy to operate which makes Gilder staff much happier.
After the launch, the traffic swelled until we were serving a few hundred thousands visitors every month and just under a hundred thousand prospective used car buyers. Gilder were very happy with the results achieved, we continued to work closely and add new features to the site - providing customers with new and better services.
It was a great pleasure working with Gilder team, their open-minded view allowed us to provide a ground-breaking service which greatly improved the customer experience and through doing so, the business itself.
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