Carmax, the Automobile Business with IT at the Core

Shamim Mohammad, SVP & CIO, CarMax
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Shamim Mohammad, SVP & CIO, CarMax

I am the Senior Vice President (SVP) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) at CarMax. I also consider my role to be the Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Integration Officer and Chief Idea Officer. I’m excited to be at CarMax as it is truly a leader, disruptor and innovator in the retail and automotive industries. Founded more than 20 years ago, CarMax has transformed the way used car buying is done by providing the honest and transparent experience customers deserve. We make the car buying process more ethical, fair and transparent by offering a no-haggle, no-hassle experience. CarMax is the nation’s largest retailer of used cars and annually sells more used vehicles than the next three largest competitors combined. We are also very proud to be on FORTUNE Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For® list for eleven consecutive years.

Technology at the Base CarMax has been using information technology to become a disrupter in the automotive retail industry.

CarMax provides exceptional customer experience and technology has been a critical part of that. We enable outstanding customer experience by empowering our customers and associates with the right tools and analytics through innovative technologies.3

“We enable outstanding customer experience by empowering our customers and associates with the right tools and analytics through innovative technologies”

For example, we have a centralized vehicle inventory with an incredible selection of nearly 50,000 CarMax Quality Certified vehicles. Our customers can explore these cars from their mobile devices or online. They also have the option to transfer their dream car to a store near them, and nearly 30percent of the cars we sell are transferred from another location.  

CarMax buyers appraise vehicles both in-store and offsite at auctions. We’ve empowered both with innovative technologies. For example, we provide offsite buyers with critical data about the thousands of cars they evaluate on a weekly basis at their fingertips via their mobile devices. This allows them to buy the best cars at the best prices so that we can make them available to our customers.

We are also deploying sophisticated mobile capabilities to our in-store buyers. This will reduce our already efficient appraisal process time, which in turn will make the car selling process for our customers even better. CarMax will continue to use actionable consumer insights and research to aggressively innovate within the marketplace.

Technology For Business Technology must not prevent rapid innovation but should deliver outstanding customer experience

CarMax isn’t just being compared to the auto dealership next door. It’s being compared to the Amazons and Starbucks of the retail industry. This means we must be nimble and agile to stay competitive. One way we do this is to test and iterate constantly, just like Silicon Valley tech companies. For example, we know that approximately 90percent of CarMax purchasers start on carmax.com or the CarMax mobile app. That’s a huge percentage. So we are constantly evolving our website and app to ensure our online customer experience is unparalleled in the industry. We are operating like a high touch e-commerce company and therefore technology vendors need to provide platforms for innovation that are simple and seamless.  

Customers are in the drivers’ seat at CarMax and we want to support their journey from start to finish, in the channel of their preference

To support our customer’s journey, we are creating a rich experience digitally and in stores and being part of their ownership experience as well. We are leveraging all of these technology trends to help us accomplish this. For example, we’ve adopted a “Cloud First” and “Mobile First” strategy. Also, we are an extremely data rich environment and are leveraging data to make every aspect of the customer experience even better. We constantly survey and listen to our customers and will continue to lead the industry by delivering the car buying experience customers want, wherever they want it. For example, through our research, we’ve learned that Millennials, a growing target audience for CarMax, have different retail expectations and compare their CarMax experience with other retail experiences across various industries. This means we need to find new and innovative ways to make their experience with us as simple and seamless as they expect it to be.

A Master Plan Ahead-CarMax is currently looking for and hiring the best technology talent

CarMax has more than doubled its store base since 2006 and still only reaches 63percent of the U.S. population, so we have a long runway of growth ahead of us. Our aggressive growth plan includes opening 13-16 new stores each year for the next two years and we will soon be opening in a number of new large priority markets, including Boston and San Francisco. At CarMax, IT is a trusted partner, not just a service provider. We have always been an entrepreneurial company and lead our industry by being relentlessly customer and associate centric, and then leveraging agile methodologies to build experiences that are innovative. In the next two months we hope to hire approximately 60 new technology positions and I encourage innovative technology professionals to visit jobs.carmax.com and learn more about available opportunities. These new hires will help us continue to be a disrupter in the automotive retail industry.

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