Startup company Tred is looking to revolutionize the automotive industry by delivering test-drive vehicles straight to consumers’ homes. With Tred, car shoppers can schedule test-drives online, a Tred “concierge” will drive the vehicle straight to them, and they never have to enter a dealership.
To use Tred, consumers log on to the website or mobile app; choose the type of car, the make and the model they’re interested in testing (they can choose more than one); and schedule an appointment. One of Tred’s employees brings the vehicle or vehicles to the buyer’s location of choice. If the customer buys the car, Tred takes a portion of the selling price.
The service provides a more convenient shopping experience. Consumers can test-drive a vehicle in their home environment, see how well a vehicle fits in their garage, and easily determine whether the trunk is large enough to accommodate all the kids’ sports equipment.
At first glance, it may seem that the value Tred has to offer falls squarely in the laps of consumers. The service eliminates the need to ever step foot at a dealership, where many shoppers feel uncomfortable or pressured.
However, Tred has emphasized that they aim to help dealers as well as consumers. The vehicles the staff delivers will come from local dealerships, and the Seattle-based company has already partnered with several dealerships in the area for their launch in spring 2013.
With a claimed 83 percent conversion rate, Tred does look like a rather appealing partner, though the service is still only in beta mode. Because many shoppers dread going to the dealership, Tred is a means for dealers to reach customers who otherwise would not visit their showroom.
Plus, through Tred, dealers are able to provide a superior level of customer service. Shoppers will feel more relaxed test-driving vehicles on their own, instead of feeling wary while listening to a sales pitch. The convenience of shopping online and test-driving multiple cars at once could reduce the car-buying process for consumers, allowing dealers to turn around sales faster.
Services like Tred demonstrate the key shift in how customers are shopping and what they expect from retailers. Online shopping is nothing new, but Tred’s easy scheduling process and delivery capability underscores how society expects a faster, hassle-free shopping experience—even when it comes to their cars.
Long term, a site like Tred could make showrooms a thing of the past, as customers do their research online and order cars straight to their homes, but this doesn’t have to be a death sentence. To acquire new customers in such a scenario, an online presence is required—but it’s more than just having a website to list inventory and special offers. Staying ahead of the curve, knowing where customers are shopping, requires constant learning and flexibility.
Building relationships with current customers will also be key. In an age that relies on the highly competitive market that is the web, providing quality service to create loyal customers should be a given. Shoppers won’t have a reason to look online if they already service their vehicle at a dealership and know they can get a good deal by purchasing a new vehicle there.
For now, Tred will only be available in Seattle. We’ll be following their growth and progress throughout the year, so check back frequently for updates.