Auto Trader is one of the UK’s best-known automotive brands, with a heritage that stretches back more than 35 years. It’s involved in around 65% of UK used car transactions, making it the country’s largest vehicle marketplace.
Although it started as a magazine, today Auto Trader connects car buyers and sellers through its website and apps. During this digital transformation, the company’s structure has changed so that small teams can focus on iterative prototyping and agile development.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked regularly with Auto Trader. Here’s the story of how we created and tested a content-driven prototype of a new digital product.
The problem with part-exchange
In the car business, part-exchange is when you use your car as part-payment for a new one. It’s also called ‘trade-in’.
Auto Trader customer surveys suggested there was an opportunity for the company to create a new online part-exchange product.
The research found that part-exchange is popular because it’s convenient. You take your car to a car dealer, hand it over, then leave with a new car.
But part-exchange also has a downside. People are often unsure whether they’re getting a good deal, and feel uneasy haggling with the dealer.
Auto Trader realised it was in a good position to address these concerns. With access to a vast amount of data on car prices, the company can provide an accurate valuation for most cars:
By sharing this information with a car buyer and dealer, it could give the two parties a starting point for a part-exchange deal.
This would benefit the buyer, by giving them an impartial valuation. And it would benefit dealers, by providing them with qualified leads.
The importance of the content
When developing a new product, Auto Trader takes a ‘lean’ approach. It aims to build a working prototype quickly in order to validate the product with real customers.
A small, cross-functional team was created to work on the part-exchange product. This included the product lead, a UX lead, a tech lead and a content strategist.
As we discussed how a part-exchange product might work, it became apparent that the customer journey could be complex.
This meant that nailing the content would be central to success. We needed to convey the right information at appropriate times, without confusing Auto Trader users.