Unless you’ve been stuck on a desert island since the first years of the Bush (43) administration – and what a great time to be out of town! – you’ll know that the buying and selling of cars (and just about everything else) has changed dramatically over the ensuing 15 years. And even if you’ve been stuck on that desert island, if you’ve conserved the battery in your iPhone 6 you may have looked up Craigslist while checking Google Maps for your exact location. The advent of online retail has transformed the marketplace, to the point that many dealerships have as many employees off of the showroom floor handling online inquiries as they have traditional sales staff assisting walk-in traffic.
Into this hub of bubs enters a new online marketplace app – for both Android and iPhone – with what is billed as a ‘distinctive approach to online commerce.’ In press materials provided, 5miles (would make a great personalized plate, especially if you have a Sportster with the small tank) claims it is safer to use than Craigslist. With Facebook and phone verification, the 5miles staff enables its users to feel secure in their online dealings while the Awesome Experience team (really…) checks every item to ensure that items safety. With no cost to either seller or buyer, the business model is funded by lead generation.
A quick look online from my laptop found an almost bewildering array of items for sale using my zip code and an above $2K price point. Having once worked for American Suzuki, my fave was a well-used Suzuki Reno, but an assortment of machinery between $2K and $20K – from lawn tractors to X5 BMWs – kept me more amused than confused. With that, I didn’t try the phone app – but instead asked txGarage publisher Adam Moore for his take. And it is here:
Jumping into the app for the first time you’re immediately confronted with a login/register page. Unlike the web app, there’s no browsing as a guest on the phone – you must login. They do offer a Facebook integration, making the creation of an account as easy as two button clicks – so long as you trust them with your Facebook information, which I do. Upon logging into the app you’re confronted with a similar UI (user interface) that you get on the web. It consists of a very clean and easy-to-navigate masonry layout (much like you’d find on Pinterest), but you also see all the benefits of being logged in. You get your own profile settings, a tab for notifications, specialized searches, and because you’re using a modern phone that knows exactly where you are at all times, the app can find items around you without you having to do the hard work of inputing your zip code.
Once you click into an item you really see some of the benefits and safety David was talking about earlier. Every user has a rating, so the better you are as a seller the better you’ll do selling with, say, a 5-star rating over someone with only two or three stars. You can also view comments from other users who have purchased from this seller before. Scroll a little further down and you get a map showing your location and the seller’s location. If people have made offers on the product you’re looking for (presumably a car much cooler than a Suzuki Reno!) the app also shows you how many other offers have been made on that product. Stuck to the bottom of the screen at all times are two buttons allowing you to “Make an Offer” and “Ask” a question. These are easy ways to communicate to the seller straight through the app itself, so you don’t have to worry about sharing your phone number or email address. Then, as you get past the listing itself you receive another list of related products or more items from the seller you’re already looking at.
All-in-all, I think the app is very well done and is very responsive. The business model seems to be mixing the ideas of Craigslist’s local focus, Amazon’s seller reviews, Pinterest’s layout, and Facebook Messenger’s communication, supplying a truly unique way of buying and selling locally. I’ve spent about a week playing around with the app on my phone and on the web and I’m actually pretty impressed – the only thing left to do is try buying and selling on the app, which I can definitely see happening.