Re-imagining the car buying experience

Get to know Singapore COE System.

As a designer from Vietnam, I was surprised at the cost of car ownership in Singapore. Drivers who wish to register a new vehicle in Singapore must first obtain a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) that represents a right to vehicle ownership for ten years due to land constraints and traffic congestion.

These regulations have resulted in a booming second-hand car market since it makes a lot of financial sense for the high level of the depreciation associated in the initial period of purchase.

What does the car buying experience look like?

It’s a bumpy road trip, with joys and pains at the same time. Owning a car is a considerable investment for average households, so it can be both a special moment and a daunting process when you decide to get a car for the first time.

From our user research, we learned that car buyer spend around 3 to 4 months in average researching cars online. Some even take up to one year to make a decision.

Moments when buying a car or expensive motorcycles

Besides, 6 out of 10 car buyers enter the market, unsure which car to buy — many start by consulting from reliable sources to narrow their choices. Still, many factors of the experience are broken and confusing to buyers.

One example is the information likes packages, pricing and inventory; they are often inconsistent across different sites. Shoppers are blurred by a multitude of factors: sticker price, internet price, invoice price, sales price, and a host of incentives they may not even qualify for.

There is also about the trust relationship between shoppers and dealers. For instance, shoppers nowadays are accustomed to comparing prices and expect transparency. Yet, counter-intuitively, they still want to negotiate the price because they don’t trust flat-rate pricing.

After all of that, the shopper is happy to get a deal, but the car financing is intricately intertwined with the purchase, they start struggling with paperwork, finance and loan process. According to an Autotrader study, only 17 out of 4,000 shoppers described the car buying process as their ideal experience.

So how can we help to improve the experience?

Product Strategy

In Carousell, we have advanced to move fast without legacy processes that restrain traditional automakers and dealers. Together with the ability to synthesize the needs of the customer with the current state of business into potential articulations that will deliver genuine impact and bring “Aha” or “Magical” moments.

Our vision is to create a one-stop portal for serious car buyers and sellers with a great experience to sift out cars, insurance, financial services, workshops, auto promotions and more. All services could be in the palm of your hand.

Car Buyer Experience Workshop. Brainstorm and discover opportunities for each touchpoint.
Six touchpoints throughout the car buyer journey

The Challenge

Shopping for a car is way more different than browsing for a shirt. Shall we separate from the cumbersome market site and create another app for dedicated auto experience? I guess all similar platforms out there are also facing the same question for their vertical categories like Cars and Properties. Both have pros and cons; it’s depended on your company size and business strategy for the short and long run.

At first, we believe a dedicated app for serious car buyers will give them a more personalized and breezier car shopping experience, and bring more excellent value to our drivers. So after we acquired Caarly Dealer (a Singapore used car marketplace and dealership tool in Singapore), we launched a new app called Carousell Motors, aiming to make the best experience leading by a very experienced team in the auto market.

Carousell Motors

Carousell Motors is a user-friendly, mobile marketplace that makes car-buying enjoyable and straightforward. Similar to the unique selling proposition of Carousell, the essence of Carousell Motors is essentially simplicity of use. Unlike other car sites, Carousell Motors utilizes the latest technology and focus on mobile-first.

However, we meet difficulties to redirect traffic between two apps, also keeping up and maintaining similar features for them, coming along with other questions: How could we build a robust ecosystem among categories within a humble team size? How could we convert potential users (who under 25 years old) to come back to Carousell when they have more purchasing power? How could we build Carousell to be a classified market, that has everything but still is unique and delicate for different targeted users, from casual shopping to expensive items like cars & properties?

Together with business and engineering team, we run multiple workshops to redefine the strategy and experience.

One step back to move forward.

Regarding those challenges, we decided to step back and enhance Car category in original Carousell app. Of course, it would take more time to deal with complexities and the cumbersome legacy system that did not design for Auto market. But the reunion helps to nurture the ecosystem better in the long-term with our current resource.

So we left Carousell Motor behinds and adopted another concept called app-in-app experience.

What is app-in-app experience?

It isn’t anything new. This concept is well applied in many Chinese apps, where users access utterly different experience, navigation, or even look and feel at specific categories. For complex journeys, it helps to deep dive and comprehends the task better.

Why people buy and what they believe?

From the psychology of selling, most people buy for one of two reasons — People buy when something hurts or when they want to feel good. For example:

  • Buy a brand new Mercedes Benz is a pleasure.
  • But need a car for caring for an elderly family member is a pain.

So, people buy to move closer to pleasure or to move further away from pain.

What can influence customers buying behaviour?

In Carousell, we want to bring values, trust, time, instant gratification and belonging to the community where both new and used items are hand in hand to nurture and support each other, where sellers and buyers have a win-win play.

What are we selling in Car Home Screen?

  • A pleasure lifestyle — car magazine/catalogue experience.
  • a solution for customers’ pain
  • Need a car for a newborn baby or elderly member
  • Need a car to have a girlfriend
  • Need a car for a road trip
  • Need a car for business.

Immerse users into a pleasant journey, and full fill their needs, whether they’re low/ high intend buyers, or even they don’t know much about cars, but we can make them get hooked.

The product should try to present to users as a consultant who care for their need and solve their problems, not just a functional app providing listings and filters.

Car shopping turbocharged

Learning from mistakes and cleaning up legacy constraints, I worked closely with the business team to redefine a newly upgraded experience for Car Home Screen within the Carousell app. The new Autos home screen aims to serve users as a one-stop hub for all things auto-related — find a car for sale, rental and accessories.

With more than 400,000 listings within the auto’s experience, we’ve created the right categories to help you find and access what you are looking for easily.

An offline event at a Motorshow to introduce new buying experience

Intuitive experiences

The mental processes, when buying a new car used car or renting, are also distinct. As mentioned above, buying a used car is the norm in Singapore since a new vehicle is merely luxurious and expensive there. When buying a used car, drivers usually have some criteria in mind already, starting with a budget, together with make/model and registration year or another way around. So bringing the filter upfront when accessing Used Cars category is a must.

Car Home Screens (App in-app experience)

On the other hand, drivers who can afford a new car, budget is considered as a secondary filter, while make, look and feel are primary. So in the new car home screen, we create a showroom experience where you can come to explore the latest models, with nice commercial video, high-quality photos, testimonials for particular models and more.

You can also consider this home screen is like a car magazine, where drivers may come to find the next luxurious car, or simply window-shopping.

How about renting?

Cars usually have a standard for rental prices, depending on types, seats and models. Then the very first questions when renting a vehicle are “What body types or number of seats that I want to rent?” “Is it for wedding/ vacation or swank with girls?”, and price come later. That is why we designed and customized the Rental Home Screen in this way.

Rental Home Screen and Filters

It’s not only about Buy & Sell

One step further, we want to build an end-to-end service that helps and guides our users going through a hassle buying process. Today, we added in more tools and from online to offline services that fully support users going through the process with hassle-free.

One of them is the Swift Quote service that gets a non-obligatory quote within 24 hours from our panel of trusted car dealers or gets the best scrap or export price for the car. Drivers can also extend the COE, SwiftQuote assists with COE renewal loans.

Besides, users could get instantaneous AXA SmartDrive Motor Insurance quotes for their cars or motorcycles. Users will typically be able to purchase your preferred policy and obtain policy documents in under 5 minutes and enjoy instant loan approval right here.

Moreover, math can be troublesome, so we provided the Loan Calculator to estimate monthly car loan repayments or use the Affordability Calculator to find out the specific budget for car buying journey. Everything you need is accessible in Auto Tools.

From left to right: Tools, affordability & loan calculators

Key results

The new browsing experiences and services received much positive feedback from users with steady bumps for WAU and MAU (weekly/monthly active users) consistently across different countries. In Philippine, Singapore and Hong Kong, we see a positive impact in Autos and Property after the launch with growing 14–31% weekly average.

It also opens more opportunities for monetization in each category home screen where you could run targeted campaigns and ads, but still, ensure relevances in user experience.


Thank you for reading this blog post.



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Anh Pham (AP)

Anh Pham (AP)

Product Designer. I believe joy exists in simple forms, so does design. I’m studying joys for a living.