October 2011, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
For the most part, dealers are doing the necessary things to get their inventory online and in some cases, at a considerable expense. You pay someone to take pictures. You pay for the software to manage your inventory online and help you do the price research needed to be competitive. You also pay to have your inventory exported to multiple sites, and you’re probably paying for a CRM or lead management tool. All in all, you make a big investment of time, money and manpower.
But is that enough? The e-commerce landscape for dealers is extremely competitive. Your listings stand on their own merit, and whether you’re getting clicks depends on a listing’s ability to attract shoppers, hold their interest and hopefully generate a lead.
What can you do to get more opportunity from your inventory online? Here are some best practice guidelines to attract consumers and capture their interest. Let’s start with pricing. Offering a competitive price is rule number-one. Think about how easy it is for consumers to sort and shop by price. We all do it for nearly everything we shop for on- or offline. If your car is priced too high in comparison to others, it will be overlooked. This is an easy thing to verify; just lower the price to market value to see if clicks increase.
Some of the best-converting used car listings employ a comparative pricing strategy. By listing the retail price (KBB, NADA, etc.) and a lower Internet price, these dealers get more clicks and leads. Consumers feel compelled to verify a car’s price. Are you sending them away to do the research? They may go to KBB and come back to your listing, but can just as easily go elsewhere and be gone for good. There are a billion websites; when a consumer finds your car listed on your website, it’s kind of a miracle. The last thing you should do is give consumers a reason to leave.
If you have cars listed without prices, have your default sort filter set to alphabetical. Otherwise, all your “please call” cars could be listed first, leaving a poor first impression when the consumer lands on the inventory page.
With your new car inventory, your competiveness is market-driven as well. Listing your cars at MSRP may or may not be the way to go. Another option is to list cars at MSRP minus the public rebates. Only by monitoring your competitors’ pricing philosophies can you be sure your prices are attractive to online shoppers. If another dealer in your market prices cars at or below invoice minus rebates, you need to either adjust your pricing or just concede the clicks.
You want to have the most and highest-quality pictures in your market, for new and used cars. Taking pictures in-house is a good idea. Dealers who take pictures internally get their inventory online faster and more consistently than those who outsource. Your cars’ pictures get shot as each vehicle comes out of PDI or recon (not in groups a couple times a week or after they’ve sat on the lot for a while).
I would encourage you to stay away from stock photos. Try a tile that says “just arrived” or “new arrival.” These phrases create urgency and convert to clicks more often than stock photos that may not even match the color of the vehicle in stock. If that “just arrived” car is not yet priced, the “please call” is a little more appealing to a potential prospect. Of course a photo studio is great but not absolutely critical, especially in areas with fair weather. The angles, lighting, clarity and relevance of the pictures are what make them interesting.
Video is cool, but it doesn’t stand up to a shopper’s scrutiny. Police detectives don’t shoot video of a crime scene, they take pictures. Pictures can be studied and analyzed and really tell more of a story than a video. You should certainly use video, but not for inventory.
Your biggest opportunity for improvement is likely in vehicle descriptions. Look at your vehicle descriptions. Do they tell the story of each car? Does your description reveal the car’s history, condition and cool features, or does it read like a parts list?
The most compelling descriptions are conversational in tone. You don’t tell people about the day/night mirror; you tell people about beautiful red paint, powerful acceleration and how the corners even on a wet road. You talk about the quiet ride, the comfort of heated seats or ice-cold AC. Being descriptive makes your audience picture themselves enjoying the features, which plants the first seeds of mental ownership.
All this takes some extra work. It comes down to processes, and a streamlined merchandising process is very valuable. Price your cars as soon as they go into your inventory and write the descriptions immediately. Shoot the photos when the car comes out of clean-up and get them uploaded to your inventory management tool as quickly as possible.
Remember, your cars are on their own in the digital marketplace. Following these guidelines will help your cars get the clicks they deserve and lead to more sales.
Vol. 8, Issue 8