Best Practices

Are You Adding Actual Photos and Prices to Your New Car Listings?

New Car Merchandising

Are actual photos of your New Car Inventory necessary?

AutoTrader.com says YES!!

According to AutoTrader.com, using the standard AutoTrader.com ad format, adding actual photos and prices increased the VDP views by approximately 140% and increased shopper interaction by 110%.

I’ve been including actual photos and custom comments for our new inventory for other a year now at my Nissan Dealer (photo above). Our new car photos are of course fed out to not only AutoTrader but also our Nissan Dealership Website, Cars.com and the select other 3rd party listing sites we use. This also allows us to cut New Car videos with Unity Works.

Have our New Car leads increased?
No not really
Have our New Car phone leads increased?
A little but nothing real significant
Has our VDP views and engagement increased?
They have – to about the % that AutoTrader.com is reporting
Has my Nissan Dealer new Car Sales improved?
They sure have!

Are you taking photos of your new car inventory?

If so, what have your results been so far?

Follow the jump for the Press Release

ATLANTA, May 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Research released today by AutoTrader.com shows that dealers who merchandise their new car inventory online by adding actual photos of each new car and real prices garner significantly more traffic to their online vehicle detail pages (VDPs) and generate more interaction with their listings than dealers who do not include this information.  While many dealers use stock photos for new car inventory online, listings with only stock photos didn’t perform much better than listings with no photo at all, which highlighted the importance of taking actual photos of each new car.

To assess the effect of proper merchandising, AutoTrader.com looked at two key metrics: the percentage of shoppers that visited a VDP after seeing a listing in the initial search results (referred to as “VDP views”) and the percentage of shoppers that interacted further with the listings by clicking through photos, printing pages, clicking on a dealer’s website link, viewing a map to the dealership or other shopper interactions.

In order to compare performance, AutoTrader.com analyzed inventory listed in both the standard new-car listings format and the recently released Front-Line Listings format.  For new car inventory posted using the standard ad format, adding actual photos and prices increased VDP views approximately 140% and increased shopper interaction by 110%. For new car inventory posted using the new Front-Line Listings format, dealers who added actual photos and prices increased VDP views more than 450% and increased shopper interaction over 235%.

“We want our dealers to get the most out of the products and services they utilize, and these numbers paint a clear picture of how two elements—actual photos and prices—can have a dramatic effect on how well their listings perform,” said AutoTrader.com Vice President of Sales Alan Smith.  “Merchandising takes time, but this research proves that the return on investment is worth it.”

Front-Line Listings Amplify New Car Merchandising Success; Real Dealer Sees Results

With the recently released Front-Line Listings, which aggregates a dealer’s new car inventory into a rich multimedia listing on the search results page, the effects of good merchandising are amplified.

Stingray Chevrolet, a Tampa Bay area dealer, knows first-hand the difference that using Front-Line Listings and having properly merchandised cars has had on their dealership.  Supported by their consistent use of actual photos and prices on most of their new car inventory online, Stingray Chevrolet experienced great performance of their listings throughout 2010.

But their listings performance was amplified when the dealership participated in the Front-Line Listings test in the fourth quarter of 2010: just 10 days into testing, VDP views on their new car inventory increased significantly, and with one full month on the new solution, VDP views increased 241% compared to their previous monthly average, resulting in one of their best sales months in 2010.  The success continued in January, with their VDP views increasing 287% over their previous monthly average.

“Month-over-month and year-over-year, the amount of activity for our new-car listings on AutoTrader.com has gone up, and that increase has turned into more traffic on our showroom floor,” said Andrew Conrad, New Car Director at Stingray Chevrolet.  “Even though sales typically slow down at the end of the year, Front-Line Listings gave our new car inventory the visibility needed to attract more buyers in December, and we ended up having one of the best sales months of the year for new cars. That trend continued into January and February with even more record sales and March is shaping up to be yet another great month for us.”

Smith of AutoTrader.com added: “For years, we’ve worked to help dealers better understand the importance of properly merchandising their inventory online, and we’ve evolved our products to enable them to continually reach more in-market shoppers. We’re gratified that the most recent research reinforces both our message and methodology, but we’re even more enthused that the metrics we’re seeing on the site are reflected in our dealers’ real world successes.”

About AutoTrader.com
Atlanta-based AutoTrader.com, created in 1997, is the Internet’s ultimate automotive marketplace and consumer information website. AutoTrader.com aggregates in a single location millions of new cars, used cars and certified pre-owned cars from thousands of auto dealers and private sellers and is a leading online resource for auto dealers, individuals and manufacturers to advertise and market their vehicles to in-market shoppers.

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
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    Dennis Galbraith
  • May 13, 2011
Great call to action Jeff! 

Adding actual pictures doesn't make your new vehicle any better than an anyone else's exact same vehicle, but it does make your store the right place to buy. You've demonstrated that you actually have the vehicle and you know your product. You care enough about your customer to provide the highest level of transparency possible online. When dealers think about actual photos for new vehicles they often get hung up on its minimal impact for establishing preference for the vehicle, but that's not the point. The objective is to maximize preference for your store. It works on AutoTrader.com and it works on Cars.com. My hypothesis is that is will even work on the dealer's site, where a fair amount of preference for the store often exists already. Any dealer paying to expose their new-vehicle inventory on a variety of services should consider doubling down by investing in actual photos. A good test is to start with photos for the slowest moving inventory. Paying for a competitive boost may not be worth it for a vehicle if you only have 30 days supply. If you have 90 days supply, making sure that vehicle is properly merchandised and maximizes preference for your store starts to look like a darn good investment.
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    Jim Bell
  • May 15, 2011
I started using actual photos of our new cars about a year ago. I am definitely seeing the same results as you Jeff. I think people want to see the car that they are interested in. They can see stock photos on any car in the world, but what makes yours unique is what they want to see. I have heard it from customers in the showroom 'you're website looks great and I love how you have photos of everything.' I will say this, being a Honda dealer or a Nissan or a Toyota dealer, it is easy to do. I have a huge file with all of the exteriors of each model, then a file of all of the different interiors. When the car hits the system, I go to the appropriate files and upload them from there. An silver SE Accord is a super SE Accord just like a black Altima S is a black Altima S.
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    Jeff Kershner
  • May 15, 2011
Bill, great idea. I too had built out my own library of photos for new cars. You can get away with it for several of the imports that you listed.

I recommend a photo of the window sticker to verify options and such. But even then you can snap a shot of only the window sticker (no staging needed) and load it to the corresponding vehicle.

I also hear a reflection of the same words in the showroom from customers. We often forget how much influence our dealership website has on our floor/walk-in traffic.
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Very insightful.  No Joke, I spent 75 minutes going through this post and taking notes. 
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We've been putting tons of photos on our new vehicles and it's a pain in the ass but we do it because it helps conversion, helps co-navigating with a prospect on the phone while talking new and our sales staff has commented numerous times that it helps them have the photos on there... not gonna get into some of the BS reasons. 

Conversion has gone up dramatically but take that with a grain of salt. We did a few things, like more PPC driven to deep links and it's always going to be dramatic when your baseline number is a single digit of leads/month. 

I'm trying desperately now to find a data provider who can help me and get the programs and incentives up to date and juice some more out of our new efforts. 
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    Jeff Kershner
  • May 19, 2011
Mitch, do the incentives in Canada typically follow the incentives here in the US regions?
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    CraigH
  • May 19, 2011
This just seems like common sense to me. Many dealers don't do it, but it still seems like common sense. A stock photo to me, as a consumer, is a turn-off.

In the same regard, I hate shopping for electronics and finding that every site is using the same 200px x 200px blurry image of the electronic's box. I can go to NewEgg where they unbox the product and take proper images from every angle.  It only makes sense to me.
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    CraigH
  • May 19, 2011
 Mitch, if you can find a provider who can automatically update our incentives for dealerships - this would be incredible. We are currently using a very messy and difficult method of updating it manually each month.
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    Yago Paramo
  • June 7, 2011
The benefit is not only Autotrader, once you have the photos is also your own website, cars.com, craigslist, etc. Pay once to take the photos and use it in several dozen sites.
When was the last time you bought something that had a 'comic' or fake photo of the item? Never.
Cars are the same thing. We like to see the OEM photos but surely we would like to see the one I can drive right now and buy today. I've never been more bored in my life than checking a website that has 35 F150's in stock withstock photos and they all look exactly the same. They have a disclaimer that says: 'photos may not represent available unit'--so what the h... am I looking at then?
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    Bill Simmons
  • June 18, 2011
Our Toyota store has recently started using Dealer Specialties to post photos of new car inventory. I am not in that store daily but the staff tells me that it has definitely made a difference. Customers appreciate looking at the actual photo of the vehicle instead of a stock picture. In our case it is not just the picture that gets the customers attention, but the typed in comments and description about the vehicle listing equipment and features, as opposed to the random computer generated stock comments.
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    Doug Davis
  • June 28, 2011
I used actual pictures of new vehicles, market based pricing and custom descriptions for 5 or 6 years.  On AutoTrader, we had more new vehicle VDPs than any dealership in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  It didn't happen every month but it should never happen at a Nissan store.
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    Lenen Nicola
  • July 25, 2011
The most frequent objection I hear as a Cars.com rep is time it takes and who will do it/get credit after the sale.  A clear process for when/how/who is absolutely needed.  We see a ton of increased views for the dealers who take photos of new inventory.  A good setting for the photo is worth the investment.  Additionally, the 'story', we call them seller notes, is a great place to talk about the vehicle as well as other highlights at the dealership.  I'm amazed at how few dealers take advantage of this opportunity.  Point is, if the dealer takes the time to do it, it works.  
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Your own new car pics are a must! My 2 cents (well I have 2)
Take the pics in FRONT of your dealership.  Get that branding of your dealership and location in there.  I am not a big fan of taking pics in front of banners and the like.  (one local dealer actually puts big ugly MAGNETIC signs on the cars, yikes)
Another note is HOW MANY PICS?  Back a few, we were all excited to post 30 or 40 pics.. wow! Now I am settled down to just 15-20.  Customers attention spans are so damn short.   Just give them the good quality shots that show the options, the trim level and gadgets. Oh and a "marketing tile" would not hurt.  Like on Certified vehicles or a map or even a combo pic of the inside of the dealership.
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    Amykins
  • September 2, 2011
I don't sell new cars as a dealer but I sold Lincoln Mercury not that long ago. I think that in this world where instant gratification is the order of the day it is a must to put a photo of the actual car or one with the correct colors, equipment etc. There are used car dealers near us who will actually run print advertising with "stock" photos of 10 or 15 year old cars! There is one guy in particular who will run a two page spread of nothing but "stock" photos - wrong color and all. Yikes.
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I use original photos of the cars that are actually being sold on my site and not stock photos. I too have seen an increase in sales
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    Jeff Kershner
  • September 4, 2011
Thanks for sharing. Increase your new vehicle VDP's on AutoTrader buy jumping up a package and watch for increased incoming calls.

Jeff Kershner
Founder | DealerRefresh

[email protected]ealerrefresh.com
http://www.dealerrefresh.com
240 217 1740
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