I recently completed a new car purchase. Because I work in the industry, I treated the car buying process as a learning and testing experience. As expected, I was disappointed with the response time on email correspondence. I felt dealers were in dire need of strong phone training, and I hated the negotiation process. But most of all, I discovered that online new car descriptions are severely broken.
But most of all, I discovered that online new car descriptions are severely broken.
Like most shoppers, I started my new car shopping experience on the OEM sites. I found the sites to be well done. They contained great content and provided education on the way new vehicles are both manufactured and configured. After researching, I decided on a mid-size truck, determined the desired trim level, additional options, and lastly, chose the color. My next step was to connect with live inventory. I clicked the button on the OEM site to find local matching inventory and to my surprise, and disappointment, the most painful process in my shopping experience began.
I found it was completely impossible to quickly find live inventory that would match to my desired detail – details that I gathered by using the OEM “build your car online” functions. The inventory sitting on dealer websites was not normalized, or configured in the same way that the OEMs described it. So, I began a manual and completely inefficient journey to find the vehicle of my dreams.
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I began collecting a list of local new car dealerships who carried the make/model I was searching for. I searched their inventory, and the closest I could come was make, model, color, and sometimes trim level. Option package choices were either partially listed, or not listed at all.
I made a written list of vehicles with matching make/model/colors and began either calling or chatting dealers to ask a series of canned questions. I asked, “Does this have the XYZ package?”, “Does this have the JBL stereo and tonneau cover?”, “Does this have step rails and a cold weather package?”. This information was not consistently included in the listings, and most of the dealers just used stock new car imagery; therefore, their photos were not helpful. The few dealership websites that did include actual new car images, were incredibly helpful in answering my questions, because I could visibly see the options included. I even made a wasted trip to a dealership where the chat agent told me the truck had certain options, only to arrive and discover they were mistaken, making the time spent completely inefficient and frustrating.
…most of the dealers just used stock new car imagery; therefore, their photos were not helpful.
The most frustrating part was that I know these problems are relatively easy to fix. The OEMs have the build record data; they know how they built these cars on a VIN-by-VIN basis. If only they could tear down the walled garden of OEM build data, and share it industry-wide on dealer websites, the problems for consumers could be eliminated. Better yet, the OEMs could help the dealer website providers by standardizing the front-end search functions so the consumers can find the vehicles in exactly the same manner they configured them on the OEM website.
Most successful ventures today disrupt traditional markets, and make markets more efficient (think Uber). Today’s new car shopping experience is inefficient, and we can all do better. Let’s help our consumers and dealers make the new car buying process more effective and efficient by sharing OEM build record data and helping us all to be better.
Until the time comes when this walled garden is torn down and OEM VIN data is accessible to all dealerships, do the best you can with available merchandising techniques. Ensure you have a plethora of custom photos, videos, and even 360 views of the vehicle. Keep customer’s on your VDPs with engaging vehicle comments, and make sure to include all relevant details.
Need help with the huge task that is vehicle merchandising? Dominion Dealer Solutions can assist with all of your needs. Call 877.421.1040 for more information.READ MORE >