Latest Project

People-centred design in action

The world turned upside down

The global COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital transformation beyond recognition. Almost overnight, businesses around the globe found the way they interacted with their customers, had been turned on its head.

For some businesses, this meant an entirely new business model needed to be put in place - and rapidly. For others, including our client, their reliance on existing digital tools massively increased.

Aston Barclay are one of the UK’s leading car remarketing businesses: They auction and sell vehicles for their clients. Prior to COVID 19, the overwhelming majority of their sales took place at in-person auctions across the country and just a small number used their digital platforms to supplement their primary face-to-face business.

When lockdown restrictions hit the business, those digital tools were thrust into the limelight. While their competitors struggled to keep doing business, Aston Barclay were able to keep going and achieve record sales through their digital tools.

The challenge

Inevitably though, this increased throughput placed the tools under greater scrutiny and pressure. And with the whole market facing the same disruption - with the big players all investing heavily and immediately in their own digital tools - Aston Barclay’s senior management team identified a need to keep innovating to ensure they held and built on their increased market share.

But where to start? With only a limited pool of data to act upon from before the pandemic substantially increased traffic, there was no clear picture of what was needed. Without a built-in feedback loop or
analytics system to show areas requiring improvement, the senior team knew there could be costly flaws in the tools but lacked the certainty and clarity to be able to intervene effectively.

Our approach

YaYa were asked to help by implementing a user-testing programme at Aston Barclay. Starting with the highest priority tool - the one that was responsible for the most revenue - we recruited a pool of car dealers from around the UK to scientifically assess the efficacy of the technology. During a series of observation-based tests, we collated extensive qualitative data on this tool and compiled it into a detailed report for the business. This wasn’t just bedtime reading for the senior team, in it we helped them identify and act upon:

  • The ‘quick-wins’ that could be implemented immediately to unlock value for the business rapidly; increasing the conversion rate of users hitting the platform and revenue through their online channels for a small investment.
  • The psychological barriers getting in the way of mass-adoption of online car buying through this kind of platform.
  • Clear sight of the steps needed to create a best-in-class platform.

Once we completed this initial phase of work, it was clear that there was a huge opportunity to improve. We began working, in parallel, on two work streams: the ‘quick wins’ and a further phase of research into the full suite of digital tools and the market as a whole. We did this through more extensive user testing, in-depth desk research, and working side-by-side with people within Aston Barclay’s Operations, Sales, and IT teams.

This gave us enough insight to map out the touchpoints and user needs for an omni-channel experience at Aston Barclay. One that had the potential to transform the way they operated as an online business and provide a genuinely differentiated experience to their clients from the rest of the market. In addition, the resulting operational changes we proposed would increase efficiency and automate many time-consuming processes.


Rather than the myriad digital tools available previously, we advocated streamlining their offering and aligning it to the customer journey more closely. This would make the tools more useful, increase adoption, and integrate them more seamlessly with their users’ existing workflows.

The results

We mapped out a full omni-channel service that would dramatically shift the experience to one centred around the users. This rethinking of the interaction points between Aston Barclay and their customers was central to repositioning the business as primarily an online platform during the Coronavirus pandemic, in the absence of in-person auctions for the foreseeable future. It also created a path to leveraging Aston Barclay’s own data to increase the value of their service to clients and improve the ‘stickiness’ of their product.

  • Helped the business identify cost-effective but high value ‘quick wins’ to rapidly increase revenue.
  • Set a direction of travel towards becoming a truly integrated business and adapting from a face-to-face business model.
  • Helped change the culture from engineering to customer-led development of digital tools.
  • Removed subjectivity from the creation of a business case for digital transformation. Using the data from user-testing, Aston Barclay have de-risked the creation of a strategy and investment in implementation with objective data around what their market needs.