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Disruption and used car salesmen

car, headlight, autoWhen Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars, people said, ‘Nah, what’s wrong with a horse?’ That was a huge bet he made, and it worked.

Elon Musk

Described as a cross between an Apple Store and a modern hotel lobby, EchoPark Automotive is an inspiring new concept disrupting the second-hand car dealership sector. The store, one of three in Colorado, opened in 2014 and takes a customer-centric, technology-enabled view on buying, selling and servicing previously owned cars in a community-based setting.

EchoPark has recently been recognised as one of the most innovative retailers in the world, as voted for by consultancy businesses within the Ebeltoft Group, from over 25 mature and emerging retail markets across the globe,  due to its reinvention of the traditional car buying and service experience.

The store experience itself is similar to that we have described of a telecommunications company like Telstra Discovery Store in Sydney, with docked iPads lined up around standing stations, tech-friendly waiting areas and video walls to assist and enhance the shopping, financing and servicing experience. Dramatically different to what we may imagine from a typical second hand car dealership.

Based on the theme ‘every car deserves a happy owner’, the store concept was developed from the customer’s perspective: a contemporary, low-stress, pre-owned car shopping and service experience designed to build long-term relationships with guests, by bringing transparency, ease and speed to all of their retail automative transactions. Customers can pre-shop on the website or via phone, as well as schedule an appointment online to shop or for service.

It can also be seen that the success of this concept comes from the seamless integration of technology in a highly personalised human to human experience. Upon arrival, customers are assigned an ‘Experience Guide’ – a non-commissioned associate – to help them with their auto needs. Not only is this recognising the importance of being good at ‘the basics’ of retail such as greeting customers individually, and delivering impeccable tailored customer service; but utilising this human element alongside the emergence of technology in stores, helps customers of all demographics and backgrounds adapt, explore and ultimately gain the most from their retail experience.

The hub store, located in Thornton, Colorado, has around 300 vehicles in stock, while other smaller, neighbourhood locations have around 40 vehicles, or fewer, on hand.

EchoPark’s role in the community is a key focus and the company strives to make a positive impact on the Denver area. The auto repair centre is staffed with highly trained technicians with years of experience working with domestic and import manufacturers. The store offers a plethora of services – from routine oil changes and tire rotations to managing serious mechanical and electrical issues.

EchoPark is a shining example of how to differentiate the customer experience by integrating innovative retail strategies from outside the auto industry and successfully integrating technology into an already strong customer experience. From low-pressure sales strategy to top-notch technology, Sonic has designed a format to create customers for life.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group, Australian elected Ebeltoft member, and can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or Vikki Weston, co-author of this column, is part of Retail Doctor Group’s Retail Insights team and can be contacted via email at

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