Four Steps to Great Merchandising

Four Steps to Great Merchandising


When discussing Digital Marketing success, there are few elements more important than vehicle merchandising excellence. Vehicle merchandising includes the content, descriptions, images and videos associated with individual online inventory listings. Unfortunately, many dealers fail to understand the importance of vehicle merchandising. Instead, they look for the lowest cost method capable of getting photos and inventory online.

Perhaps these dealers are not truly thinking through the way a consumer wants to shop for a new or used vehicle. Not all automotive dealers think of themselves as being in the eCommerce business, and simply do the minimum requirement to “check the box” on inventory listings. The important distinction for dealers to recognize is that, unlike other digital investments that only affect certain advertising channels, investments in great vehicle merchandising impact 100% of online shoppers. All of these potential buyers view a dealership’s inventory, so isn’t it worth the investment?

When evaluating a dealership’s overall ad spend, effective vehicle merchandising is not a large percentage of the budget. For instance, if a dealer spends $60,000 per month on advertising, only $2,000 of that budget goes towards complete vehicle merchandising- including new and used vehicle photos and videos. That is a mere 3% of this dealer’s ad budget. It takes only 3% of the budget to impress digital shoppers and create inventory preferences. Keep in mind, the goal is to differentiate your vehicles from that of competing dealerships. Great merchandising is a key part of that.

If great inventory merchandising is key to digital success, then what are some best practices for standing out among the competition? Much of the advice in this article will reference the recently published “2016 Auto Shopper Influence Study” from PCG Consulting. This study, published in February 2016, surveyed over 1,500 U.S. consumers from December 2015 through February 2016. The survey questions were designed to explore the influence of merchandising strategies, including investments in photography, video, and more. Here are a few recommendations dealers based on the results of that survey:

  1. Capture a large number of photos
    Consumers indicated they were more likely to visit a dealer website containing more photos vs. a dealer website containing no photos, or containing only a few photos. Specifically, 95% of respondents preferred up to 30 photos for used cars, and 85% of respondents preferred up to 20 photos for new cars.  Consumers clearly prefer a large number of images, especially on used vehicles. When dealers skimp on photos, consumer trust goes down. They feel the dealer is not being transparent regarding the vehicle condition.
  2. Use actual new car photos
    74% of survey respondents indicated they expect to see actual photos of the new cars vs. OEM stock imagery.  When a consumer sees actual images of the new car, they know that it is very likely that the new car is actually in stock. In addition, they can have confidence that the trim level and options are as listed in the description, since they can see it themselves in the actual photos.  Capturing actual new car photos will build trust in the dealership and help you to stand out in a competitive marketplace.
  3. Use VideoThree-quarters of new and used car shoppers indicated they would watch a vehicle video from the dealership if it showed both the interior and exterior conditions of the vehicle. Since very few dealers are taking advantage of individual vehicle videos today, this is clearly an opportunity to differentiate. Smart dealers have made sure that these videos also contain plenty of dealer branding, including compelling “why buy here” statements and imagery.
  4. Include rich descriptions in all vehicle listingsAs consumers grow accustomed to great content on the web, simply listing vehicle options will no longer differentiate one vehicle from another. Consumers want to hear a unique story about each of their vehicles of interest. What makes the vehicle special? Why is it unique? Whether using some of the great automated story-building tools, or entering seller’s notes yourself, make sure to take the time to tell a story about each and every vehicle.

Some of the items outlined above may be outside of a dealer’s comfort zone. After all, it was only ten years ago that simply including a few vehicle photos was enough to consider vehicle merchandising completed. Today, consumers have more choices, and are accustomed to seeing great content on eCommerce sites. Consumers shopping on popular retailers such as expect to see a large collection of actual photos, along with detailed descriptions, and detailed videos. If dealers want to truly enter the eCommerce business, it’s time to embrace these best practices and start building trust with online shoppers through sincerity and transparency.

Dominion Dealer Solutions,
"automotive inventory marketing", "dealer marketing service", automotive inventory management,

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