Not only are shoppers buying cars on the web at Carvana.com, they are buying vehicles—often a consumer’s second-biggest life purchase—via their mobile phones with Carvana, says Ryan Keeton co-founder and chief brand officer for the retailer.
20% of Carvana shoppers complete the whole transaction—from finding a vehicle to viewing it to financing—on their mobile device, Keeton says. For millennials, that percentage is closer to 30%, he says.
The car retailer, which launched in 2012 and sold its first car in Atlanta in 2013, went public in April 2017. Its sales grew 135% in 2017 to reach $859 million. Phoenix-based Carvana has nearly 2,000 employees who do everything from inspect vehicles that come into Carvana’s 20-acre inspection facility, to work on design and engineering for the website. Employees also create technologies such as the company’s 13 car vending machines across the U.S. and patented car photo booths.
Carvana invested in the car photo-booth technology, which is a partially automated studio setup that enables Carvana to take a picture of a car’s interior and exterior. The technology enables shoppers to get a full view of what they’re buying. Every car Carvana sells goes into the booth, which has a turntable built into the floor to easily maneuver the car for photography. On the site, users can pull up close-up images of imperfections and zoom in on interior features.
Carvana sells newer used cars—typically about two to three years old, Keeton says. At any time Carvana has about 10,000 cars listed for sale on its site, which Carvana purchases through the same channels a traditional used car dealership would, such as buying cars from manufacturers after a consumer’s lease expires, trade-ins, wholesalers and rental car companies. Shoppers at the site can examine a car, see detailed financing terms for vehicles, including trade-in value and interest rates, and purchase the car for delivery as soon as the following day in 70 markets across the country or pick up their new vehicle from a car vending machine.
At the vending machines, shoppers arrive at a scheduled time, meet with a customer service employee, place an oversized commemorative coin in a slot and watch as their new ride descends from the several-story building. “We are trying to make car buying fun again,” Keeton says. “We get families who Instagram the whole experience.”
About half of shoppers choose to retrieve their car this way, Keeton says. The machines are located in cities including Nashville, Phoenix and Washington D.C. Carvana also has four of the machines in Texas, Keeton says. Additionally, Carvana has sold and delivered vehicles to customers in each of the lower 48 states.
Each vehicle is guaranteed to be accident-free and have had no previous frame damage. Shoppers have seven days to return their vehicles after purchase, and Carvana provides a 100-day bumper-to-bumper warranty on the vehicles. “We call them on their sixth day to see how they like their purchase, and they can return the car then if they choose,” Keeton says.
Carvana says shoppers can buy a vehicle in 10 minutes via its site. It also offers an app where shoppers can track delivery of their vehicle, make their monthly car payment and get other information, such as notifications of recalls from car manufacturers. Shoppers can’t buy a car via the app because the retailer has’t integrated the financing, trade-in and other capabilities into it yet.
Keeton says marketing employees are busy—tasked with conjuring up new marketing campaigns to explain just what Carvana is and to convey the company’s mission to “make car buying fun again.”
Case in point: Carvana’s new fragrance—“The New Way to Buy a Car” smell—is an advertising play to communicate Carvana’s business model. Shoppers can buy the fragrance on Carvana.com, and the retailer created a parody marketing video, taking elements of typical perfume commercials—including whispering voices and details about the bamboo-infused fragrance—to promote it.