Derek Tan, Chief Brand Officer, Carsome, tells WARC how the online used car trading platform has collaborated with partners from various industries to not only introduce innovation and convenience to its customers but also enhance its dealers’ user experience with the brand and most importantly, grow the brand.

This article is part of a Spotlight series on how brands in South-east Asia can develop effective marketing partnerships for growth. Read more

Key insights

  • Collaborations with e-commerce partners Shopee and Lazada attract younger and more digital-savvy consumers.
  • Financing and ancillary services partners also help Carsome better understand customers’ consumption habits.
  • Such collaborations benefit the brand by allowing Carsome to expand vertically and horizontally.
WARC: As a used car marketplace, how does Carsome use partnerships to build the brand and forge positive associations? Where does it fit within the overall marketing strategy and mission?

As a pioneer or leader that seeks to enhance and enrich our partners and the used car ecosystem at large, it is crucial to lay the roadmap at where brand and commercial opportunities lie for the industry at large.

The path forward for Carsome as a brand is clear: we seek to move and occupy the industry as a champion, from both the vertical and horizontal expansion perspective.

There are so many untapped areas, from financing accessibility and mediums that introduce innovation and convenience to our customers, to assurances that provide peace of mind to our stakeholders within the used car segment.

We have collaborated with partners from various industries to benefit not just our customers but also our dealers through enhancing the user experience along their journey or transaction with Carsome.

In July 2020, we collaborated with CIMB Bank to provide our used car dealers a co-developed inventory financing solution which is able to reduce loan processing time and minimise physical documentation via Carsome’s online platform in Malaysia.

As a result, we were able to drive inventory volume for dealers, which in return also helped them grow their businesses.

Derek Tan, Chief Brand Officer, Carsome

WARC: How does all this feed into the marketing that Carsome does? How does the brand leverage these partnerships to build the Carsome brand with target consumers? Does the company embark on co-branded marketing campaigns with partners?

We will soon be announcing collaborations with established organisations to deliver solutions built on enriched shared databases and customised offers built on Carsome’s proprietary pricing solutions.

These will present win-win outcomes for us and consumers. 2021 will be a year where we make our mark with exciting developments to be unveiled. More details will be shared when we officially push out our campaigns.

After we launched “The New Way of Buying Cars” in August 2020, we entered the e-commerce space by selling used cars through partnerships with Shopee and Lazada. This collaboration – one of our ongoing efforts to digitalise the used car industry – offered younger and more digital-savvy consumers to purchase quality used cars as well as cash vouchers at special promotional prices on the e-commerce platforms.

WARC: How has this collaboration worked out for the brand? Has the partnership yielded tangible benefits from either a brand-building or growth perspective?

The collaboration enabled Carsome to expand our business vertically and horizontally, benefitting us from both the brand and growth perspective. From a brand perspective, we strengthened our image as a wholesome, one-stop solution for used car transactions. Beyond that is the positive take-up across our services that continue to generate strong growth in ancillary income for us.

We will continue pushing for both depth and width in the personification of solutions that make a difference in each transaction. We are confident that in time, this will position us as the top-of-mind leader in defining our category and the ecosystem that we operate in for each market.

We also collaborated with Allianz Partners Malaysia to offer a one-year warranty to consumers who buy used cars from Carsome. The partnership provides peace of mind to Carsome customers and enables them to confidently purchase quality used cars that they desire, knowing the vehicle is covered by an extended warranty.

WARC: When it comes to crafting a mutually beneficial value proposition for marketing partnerships, what is the brand’s guiding philosophy or strategy?

We are guided by the thought that the world will be a better place if buying or selling a used car was as easy and simple as buying a new one. We want to solve problems and make experiences with Carsome better with technology as a catalyst towards innovative and simple solutions.

Our key objective has always been to digitalise the used car industry as much as possible to elevate the consumer experience. We will lead in applying technology to remove every inconvenience, regardless of big or small, so that our customers' lives can be significantly better.

We want consumers to move forward with peace of mind, be it selling their cars in the fastest, most transparent and most convenient manner, or confidently buying a quality used car that comes with a one-year warranty and a five-day money back guarantee.

WARC: What then is the pitch or approach when it comes to discussions and negotiations with potential partners?

We always approached our partnerships with a win-win outcome in mind. By providing and enhancing real world solutions in used car transactions, we are able to constantly develop new value propositions that make each partnership exciting.

We will also prioritise our customers’ interests while balancing the interests of our partners. We know what our customers need the most, so we are always on the lookout for suitable partners in the ecosystem to elevate the customer experience with Carsome.

WARC: Does your network of partners play a role in how the company identifies and expands to new audience segments?

Extending from a customer segmentation data enrichment exercise with our partners to cross product exploration, data informs us on how best we can curate new experiences and brand opportunities that enhance our customers’ interaction with us.

We will continuously work on a customer journey that is enriched with our partners and new offerings, proffering the promise of a sum more than its whole with Carsome.

WARC: Are you able to elaborate? Do share any examples of how new segments or opportunities have emerged from data enrichment exercises with your partners.

One of the examples will be our collaboration with e-commerce platforms Shopee and Lazada. Through these partnerships, we are able to extend our B2C reach to more tech-driven consumers. Coupled with the data we have on hand, consumer targeting is optimised as well.

On top of that, through collaborations with financing and ancillary services providers, we are able to gauge and better understand customers’ consumption habits, be it dealers’ expectations on financing products or car buyers’ response towards the ancillary services.

WARC: How did the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic impact your partnership strategy? Do share how the brand adapted or innovated amidst such challenging conditions.

We launched a lot of new collaborations last year. During Malaysia’s Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) period in 2020, we launched our collaboration with CIMB Bank in July, just two months after we resumed our business post-lockdown.

After we introduced our car-buying service, we partnered up with e-commerce platforms Shopee and Lazada in September, followed by extended warranty provider Allianz Partners in November.

Arising from those, what really happened was also a fundamental shift in habits and lifestyles. We relooked our focus and reengineered our brand metrics to what we believe matters most in a shifting climate of the new norm, where there is a new demand for mobility solutions built on peace of mind among people desiring to move forward.

WARC: Could you share what brand metrics exactly the brand prioritised in line with the shifting climate and consumer sentiments to define success?

We always track our brand salience from multiple verified sources. From there, we build signals that correlate to growth from both offline and online behaviours of our customers.

From a simple share of conversation in correlation to our share of curiosity in one part of the funnel, we distill over 10 relevant triggers of conversion from each stage. This enables an in-depth view across a vast range of channels and media platforms in each unique market. We want to personalise each relationship and customise communications that will enrich our brand among people who matter to us. Consumer engagement is very important for us too as it indicates their interest in our service.

Of course, there is inherent danger of over-exhausting data-reading. As our approaches become more sophisticated, we develop more refined outlooks and defined metrics with the right triggers that will help us make better sense of what matters and drives actual conversions from brand to communications and to outcomes.

WARC: Many of your partnerships are currently with financial institutions; are there plans to expand your marketing partnerships to brands in other categories? What opportunities do you see for Carsome when it comes to partnerships, be it in terms of partnership models or compatible categories?

Apart from financial institutions, we also partnered with vertical alliances such as e-commerce platforms Shopee and Lazada, as well as warranty provider Allianz Partners Malaysia. We are also exploring potential collaborations with various automotive industry players for Carsome Academy, our first ever technical institution in Malaysia that offers youths technical education and guaranteed career opportunities.

We believe that the future of commerce driven by technology is an open field that now demands innovation from various industries. It is an opportunity to see how we can effect change in mobility solutions that move people forward. This then broadens the possibilities of partnerships from our current ecosystem of offerings to so much more beyond just the first transaction.

WARC: Any non-endemic collaboration examples that you can share that the company is currently considering?

For a start, we are looking at pillars extending beyond financial solutions, insurance and other ancillary endemic relationships that we have built. We will further leverage on our segment data and connect them to their periphery interests and affinities. This will be an ongoing exercise for us so that we can continue to build understanding and offers around them.

We consider our brand salience and customer surveys, which we will publish public reports on, as non-endemic opportunities. It allows us to continue expanding and enriching our understanding of consumer expectations, which contributes to our brand and go-to marketing campaign strategies. With that, we can go beyond mobility solutions into lifestyle shapers that remove obstacles to further enrich lives built on accessibility and enablement of technology.

WARC: How do you leverage partnerships to build or nurture new behaviour? The idea of buying a car online – new or used – is still a relatively new concept, especially for older consumer segments. How has the brand leveraged its partnerships in addressing this aspect?

We realised that our customer expectations are continually evolving; e-commerce and digital technology are critical components in remaining relevant throughout the new customer journey and our overall business strategy.

Customers have huge outcome-oriented value expectations. The credit crunch and economic pessimism arising from the COVID-19 pandemic demand more than just commitment to a brand and purchase. Instead, this is heavily skewed from both a trust and value perception.

Transparency in accessing the value propositions of mobility and technology continues to dictate the way value and product are designed and communicated. We continue to build our offerings around accessibility, such as home car inspection or virtual car viewing.

Carsome’s key objective has always been to digitalise the used car industry as much as possible to elevate the consumer experience. As we noticed more Malaysians turn towards online platforms to shop, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, our partnership with Shopee and Lazada creates real opportunities for Carsome and our customers to leverage e-commerce. Buying a used car from an e-commerce platform is part of “The New Way of Buying Cars'' experience.

WARC: How was this partnership executed? What else was done to help educate and promote purchase consideration beyond presence onsite with new buyers?

The most important thing for us is to understand and capitalise on trends. Along with this age of accelerated digitalisation comes the new norm of consumer behaviour – online shopping. We started with the bare minimum of creating the right offers and teasers on the e-commerce platforms but we have ambitious plans to deepen and enrich the levels of engagement built on the native features of these e-commerce partners.

However, we have a view of going where no brand has gone before and we are excited by the possibilities to come.

When it comes to making large transactions, delivering value is key. We need to cross-integrate, extend and enrich these new norm habits if we want to extend the online shopping behaviour to other big-ticket purchases or purchases that require higher commitment.

It is a natural approach to leverage on these new transactions, starting with elevating our presence through such partnerships.