Logistics at Shift

Shift Logistics

At Shift, a foundational belief is that the used car market is local and that customers need to see, feel, and smell a car before they are comfortable buying one.

With this belief in mind, one of our core value propositions is we will meet you where and when you want us to, and when we meet we are able to do all things a traditional dealer needs to do in order to sell you that car from the comfort of your driveway.

Delivering this core value proposition may seem simple — companies have been doing field sales for ages — but to do it delightfully, efficiently, and at scale with vehicles is a tough problem. Here at Shift, we call the system that coordinates all of this the Logistics Platform, and its main responsibilities are to:

  • Model customer demand and manage our availability
  • Monitor and adjust operational schedules
  • Enable the field sale

We’ve built parts of the system so far, and have grand plans for the rest, so let’s dig in and see what these responsibilities really entail.

Model customer demand and manage our availability

What appointments will customers want on a particular day at a particular time? A seemingly simple question but devilishly difficult to answer. Does customer demand on a Saturday behave like a Tuesday? Or is a spring day the same as a winter day? What about differences in behavior between markets? San Diego and San Francisco definitely don’t behave the same.

The Logistics Platform’s vision in this area is to take this and other data and feed it into customer demand models. These models will inform what capacity we need to serve customers at various times of each day. But building a model on historical information is just part of the answer. What about what’s actually happening this Saturday at noon? Are we going to be understaffed? Overstaffed? By capturing data about customer demand and combining it with what is actually happening, our system can continuously predict how well equipped we are for upcoming demand and make changes to our staffing based upon this data. For example, if on Friday afternoon we predict that demand on Saturday at noon will outstrip supply, we ramp up our capacity to serve customers so that we have the time slot on Saturday that we know someone will want.

Monitor and adjust operational schedules

For all of our predictions and scheduling sophistication, reality is unpredictable. Our drivers run into traffic and sometimes appointments run long, yet it is the Logistics Platform’s responsibility to deliver a delightful experience — regardless of realities.

The Logistics Platform vision in this area is to rebuild the schedule to minimize disruptions. Can we shift resources around so that the schedule is maintained — moving the customer from team member A to team member B? Our data and intuition indicate that this is typically possible, but if it isn’t possible to update the schedule to satisfy all appointments, the system should automatically notify customers of the delay and even let them cancel the appointment at that point because we understand their time is valuable to them.

Enable the field sale

The final problem the Logistics Platform must tackle is to deliver a delightful field experience for our field agents as well as our customers, and we do this with a custom iPad app called the Assistant App — an app we’ve been building for a while.

Up to the point we arrive at the appointment, the app has gotten the agent to the location and walked our agent through some preparatory steps. Now the app will help our agent talk about the highlights of the vehicle and potentially walk-through a purchase of the car if the customer is ready to buy. Important features and selling points, car history, inspection results, ID verification, financing, warranties, down payments, deposits, and documentation — if it needs to be done to close the deal, the Assistant App knows how to do it.

In the near future, while this is going on, the app will be capturing metrics such as: did it take longer than expected to get there, is the customer taking delivery of this car now or are we bringing it back, and other vital pieces of information. This information is sent to our scheduling system, and informs our operations management of how things are going so they can manually (and eventually automatically) make adjustments.

Putting it All Together

So as you can see, Shift’s Logistics Platform is a set of interesting systems that work together to deliver a delightful experience to our customers (and our employees). Some of it has reached version 1.0 such as the Assistant App, but a lot of it is still under initial development with plenty of space for engineers to craft the solution from the ground up and have a big impact on our ability to deliver on our promise. If you’re one of those engineers, head over to our engineering page and drop us a note.