International Newsmaker Q&A Rob Infantino

Jan. 11, 2018
In December 2017, Openbay announced that it is partnering with eBay Motors to make available millions of searchable parts and accessories.

Holding an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, Openbay is an online marketplace aimed at “transforming the experience for automotive repair and services for consumers and the way that automotive care businesses acquire and service customers,” according to founder and CEO Rob Infantino.

The privately held company is based in Cambridge, Mass., and backed by an array of investors that include Stage 1 Ventures, Boston Seed Capital and GV (formerly Google Ventures).

Although currently centered on American shops and drivers, Openbay aspires to eventually broaden its reach into other nations, especially Canada, Infantino said.

“Probably sometime this year we’ll make a move into that area,” he reports. “There are still some things that we need to do with the platform. Our focus is more on the product for repair providers and consumers rather than more expansion.”

In December Openbay announced that it is partnering with eBay Motors to make available millions of searchable parts and accessories. Through this collaboration with eBay, “businesses can research, source and acquire automotive parts directly through the Openbay dashboard,” says Infantino, who recently responded to a series of questions posed by Aftermarket Business World.

Q: What is the history of Openbay? When was it established?

A: The genesis behind Openbay came through a personal experience I had with getting my car serviced. I felt I had been unfairly treated, and that there had to be a better way. That night I went home and searched online for one site where I could find local, trustworthy mechanics that would provide high quality service at a fair price. But I couldn’t find anything. That was the genesis of Openbay – an online marketplace that allowed customers to compare quotes, read customer reviews and book service with repair shops that provide high-quality service in their neighborhoods. I launched Openbay in October of 2013 and I lined up some investors. That was the initial vision and it hasn’t changed since the company’s inception.

Q: What services does Openbay provide?

A: We have two customers on our platform. One customer is the consumer and the other customer is the shop. For the shop owner we’re introducing new online customers to them – we convert them from a visitor online (to Openbay) to a customer, especially millennials.

For automotive care businesses, we provide an online marketplace for customer acquisition. And we have a suite of subscription services to help align shops with the expectations and buying behavior of the modern-day consumer –  millennials.

Q: How does this collaboration assist the millennial generation of drivers?

A: There’s roughly 91 million millennials in the U.S. They carry mobile phones with them and many of them drive vehicles, usually an older vehicle that needs service.

Q: Can you elaborate a bit on how this directly benefits a shop owner?

A: You have a ready-made customer. They can do a search and find a shop. You have the ability to book them online and meet their expectations of the modern-day consumer.

That’s why Openbay is so important to shops. We have the ability to capture millennials because they’re used to using their mobile device, and we have the ability to deliver on that.

Q: What benefits do shops obtain through Openbay’s partnership with eBay Motors?

A: They have access to one of the largest catalogs in the world, and the catalog services many consumer needs. There’s not one supplier that offers such a wide range of parts, and that’s an advantage that a shop has with this platform.

eBay features a wide spectrum of value to include genuine OEM automotive parts, white label parts, national brand aftermarket parts, remanufactured parts, used parts, hard to find parts – especially for older vehicles; more than 60 million vehicles on the road today are greater than 16 years in age, no-longer-manufactured parts and obsolete parts.

eBay is one of the leading automotive destinations that couples both new and used inventory and parts and accessories. This collaboration allows shops instant access to eBay’s inventory directly from the Openbay platform. They can look at a customer-scheduled request and look at parts availability on eBay quickly and easily.

Q: How does this collaboration between you and eBay improve eBay’s business?

A: It’s another option for a customer to buy parts. Any shop has the ability to go on eBay to buy a part, but with this relationship with eBay we deliver a customer to the shop. We’re presenting eBay to the shop owner with a different point of view, and that point of view is that when a shop owner needs parts they usually don’t think of eBay: “I have a guy down the street with parts.” We’re introducing eBay into the parts and services provided by Openbay. We’re presenting eBay as a channel to buy parts. eBay and I are walking arm-in-arm to the shop owner. The brand is there, and the customer has an opportunity to buy a part.

eBay will be a great partner for Openbay. They don’t have a dog in the race. They are a neutral company. Lots of parts suppliers are selling parts on eBay.

This collaboration with Openbay is another way eBay is connecting with buyers, wherever they may be shopping. With Openbay, we’re making it convenient for customers to easily access inventory and connect with thousands of repair shops when they are looking at customer requests.

Q: How was this collaboration developed?

A: We’ve been engaged with eBay for over a year. When you think of a marketplace you think of eBay. We thought there was a lot of opportunity to work with eBay.

eBay and Openbay are both in tune with the need of their customers. This initiative allows both eBay and Openbay to ensure customers are getting the right part, at the best possible price, exactly when they need it.

The customer on our platform knows that they will be protected, just like they know on eBay that they will be protected. We’re hopeful that this is the first of many opportunities to explore with eBay.

Q: What are the key results of the industry survey that you conducted?

A: We reached out to several hundred shops in the U.S. We had 185 shops respond to the survey. We were surprised at the amount of shops that are willing to change their parts suppliers – over 93 percent said they were willing to change suppliers. If a shop can get the parts they need and get them on time, that’s a win for them.

More than 50 percent of their customers book their appointments two days in advance. Most shops buy their parts on the day of the job. If you can purchase them in advance of the appointment you save time for the customer.

You make it more challenging for them if their car is laid up for three days, and this happens all the time. If you can order your parts in advance you can serve the customer better.

Q: How does an aftermarket business apply to join Openbay

A: There’s a registration process that you go through (for analyzing a proprietary list of desired business attributes and performance standards). Not everybody qualifies to be on the platform.

We don’t want too many shops in one area (a maximum of 5 or 6 businesses within a given geographic locale). It’s not fair to the shop and it’s not fair to the customer. We’re really careful about not having too many shops in one area – so we pick the best ones.

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About the Author

James Guyette

James E. Guyette is a long-time contributing editor to Aftermarket Business World, ABRN and Motor Age magazines.

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