Auto repair is about grease and gears, and digital is taking it in new directions.
Speaking with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster for the J.P. Morgan Global Innovators in Payments series, Jeff Haynie, chief technology officer at auto repair shop management platform Shopmonkey, described a sector transitioning to the cutting edge of experience, data and payments.
Founded by Silicon Valley software engineer and auto enthusiast Ashot Iskandarian, what started as a business software firm is expanding with an array of digital services designed to improve every aspect of the auto repair experience, both for shop owners and their customers.
“We put a lot of emphasis on the design and user experience side,” Haynie said. “At the end of the day, a shop is really about hours and productivity around how they get customers in and out. It’s an operationally efficient business,” that calls for a streamlined management solution.
With supply chain snags keeping new car inventories low, repair shops are busy keeping used cars running. As customer experience is now shaped by smartphone expectations, creating a unified platform that handles everything from scheduling to payments is mission critical.
A prime expression of this is Shopmonkey Payments, introduced in 2021. Haynie said that before launching the capability, payments were often a manual-entry nightmare for shop owners, who are still typically independents and not up-to-speed on digital payment trends of recent years.
“With Shopmonkey Payments now, it’s a completely digital integrated experience, not only for the end customer, where they want to pay either over a mobile device before they even show up, or on in-person card reader experience,” he said, noting that the front-end customer experience has also been improved.
Shops running Shopmonkey Payments also have key aspects of their workflow automated and digitized, and “all that information is clearly synced from your invoices through your payment, all the way through how you pay your customers, how you pay your employees, etc. We try to take an end-to-end experience with platform payments,” he said.
It’s also leading to newer offerings like Shopmonkey Working Capital, which Haynie termed “instant small business loans. We’re thinking not just about the payments instrument itself, but also about what we bring financially to the shop that allows them to run their business more efficiently and be more profitable.”
Next up: a buy now, pay later (BNPL) installment product intended to launch in 2023, and after that possibly fleet cards and other line extensions creating new revenue streams.
A Truck Full of Data Drives New Experiences
Noting that over 70% of the auto repair market in North America are single-owner shops, Haynie said IT and digital support infrastructure were sorely lacking in the sector. That’s shifted to a higher gear.
Having raised roughly $110 million from investors since 2019, Shopmonkey scaled quickly and now has about 5,000 auto repair shops running on the platform. That’s a truckload of valuable data that the company is using to inform its innovation roadmap, with an emphasis on “road.”
Which is to say open road. Haynie estimates there are 400,00 individual auto repair shops in the U.S. alone, making for “a total addressable market that is pretty significant,” he said. “Especially as we move probably toward a recession globally, people are going to continue to invest very heavily in the cars that they own.”
As the business booms, Haynie and his team are using their wealth of data to design new and better tools for shop owners, while focusing on improving the auto repair customer experience.
“We have a tremendous amount of data. We have millions and millions of end users, millions and millions of cars, we know a lot about what’s happening in the supply chain in real time and the inventory that we hold, how movements are happening through the marketplace,” he said.
Given that, Shopmonkey is leaning into data intelligence and analytics and leveraging that to find efficiencies and enable shops “to be able to have an Apple App Store-like experience.”
That means marketing, remarketing, customer acquisition, and a host of things that “are not an innate skill” for auto repair experts but can be when properly platformed.
Auto Repair Under the Hood
As much as Shopmonkey has revolutionized auto repair shop workflows and payments, there’s still a lot of road to cover in terms of creating more efficient, profitable shops and better customer experiences than people are typically accustomed to when getting repairs.
“We’re thinking much more relationally,” Haynie said. “How does the shop create a much more direct experience with a customer” like himself, managing a five-car collection used by his spouse and kids. That’s got Shopmonkey working on innovations in automated services and automated recommendations directly to end users.
He envisions near-future additions like predictive analytics that automatically notify customers that it’s time for an oil change, to put on snow tires seasonally, and other helpful reminders that also drive reliable recurring business for repair shops.
“Our first step is, can we create an end customer portal and can we create a more relational experience with the shops and their customers that isn’t just reactive, it’s much more proactive,” Haynie said, adding, “I would take my car in more often if literally every 90 days I could get a reminder that I need to bring my car in for an oil change, there was a coupon attached, and oh, by the way, I could self-book it” using an online scheduling tool.
“If we can kind of re-engineer, if you will, the tooling of that experience, it does open up opportunities like subscriptions and mobile repair,” he said. “There are lots of opportunities for where I think the market’s going to go.”