Dealership Marketing

Do videos really help sell cars?


Is Video an effective tool for your dealers online marketing?

Video seems to be all the hype, BUT for selling vehicles, I’m not sure where and if fits into the landscape for dealers. With sites like and others on the horizon, maybe we’ll find out soon enough.

Until then, will dealers be willing to spend the extra effort and money it takes to produce videos of their inventory (I’m not referring to the cheesy photo stitched videos)? Most dealers are still struggling to get decent photos of your inventory and now we’re throwing videos in the equation!

How can a video walk around of a car be any better then several pictures? Photos are usually less grainy, larger in size and load faster. I can merchandise a vehicle with the right photos with a detailed description as well if not BETTER then using video and do it in ¼ the time it takes to shoot a video. I have dabbled into inventory videos and still do with particular vehicles. The time it takes to do it right is consuming.

Someone had commented on a TechCrunch posting..

“Do videos help sell cars? Maybe if your car is not a commodity, like a highly modified 800 hp Z06 Corvette that I saw listed on ebay a couple of months ago. Yes that you might want to watch the video to see how the car pulls etc. But I won’t be going to a site like that to watch a 10 min video grainy video of a regular civic”.

I’m going to agree with this commenter. When I do video a car, it’s usually a premium high-line or performance vehicle. Not only do I record a full walk-around but I have gone as far to include motor and exhaust sound bytes as well. This brings some interesting and positive feedback from the eBay community and shoppers.

Can videos of your inventory increase conversion on your dealer website?

During a webinare interview with Mike Lavezzi of Pacific Honda, Mike tracked an adverse effect in conversion.

“I tried the videos, and I tried expanding the amount of information online, and I didn’t notice much of a difference. In fact, I actually found video to have an adverse effect at times. Customers would notice something that tuned them off about the vehicle. We stopped doing videos, and things started turning back around.”

Now that’s an interesting statement and one that I personally have a few questions about.

  1. Were you using actual video footage or photo stitched videos?
  2. Did you have a 10 second intro commercial before each video?
  3. How was the quality of your videos and were you using a text to speech voice over?
  4. What amount of information were you “expanding” with your videos?

Mike..if you happen to read this, we would love to hear from you!

Another avenue to consider with video is your major search engines allowing videos to show up in keyword search results (mostly in Beta at the moment). This could be a huge factor to consider as search engines continue to have an impact on your automotive dealer online marketing efforts.

Sean Bradley of Dealer Synergy really pushed the envelope with his article in Digital Dealer and is a huge advocate of Video Search, stating..

“The latest multi-media/video trend is video Internet marketing or Internet 2.0. Video search is the foundation for the next Internet evolution.”

Uploading your inventory videos and dealer commercials to YouTube, Google Video and other online video hosting websites could benefit in terms of branding, local market awareness and driving traffic to your dealer website. You can also make use of these videos on you dealer blog, Myspace page or other micro sites as well.

With all of this evident, it still comes down to time and money it takes to produce your dealer and inventory videos. Will or does the ROI makes sense?

How many of you are currently using video for showcasing their inventory?

Do you think video will have a huge impact on how we market our inventory online in the near future?

We would love to hear your feedback!

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
  • J
  • August 2, 2007
I'm obviously speaking from more of a consumer point of view Jeff; but I agree with you on the point that there is no way I am going to spend 10 minutes watching someone give me an online video tour of a car. Now, if I am interested in a hyped up "fast and furious...oo fast too furious" ride; maybe I will want to see a video displaying the NOS canisters in the trunk (or wherever they go). But for the average car buyer, it just does not seem like they will want to sit and watch an online video showing off the cars' features. Even if there is some demand, I can't see how demand will become strong enough to warrant the investment it will take to do this effectively.

However, I think there is great potential in utilizing video in order to increase your brand and customer loyalty, which it seems the Internet has had an adverse effect on in some cases...but I don't think that was what this post was meant to push discussion on.
  • J
  • August 2, 2007
Personally, I feel videos don't make enough of a difference to warrant the extra costs, time spent, etc. In my eyes it's an example of something that CAN be done but not something that necessarily SHOULD be done. You pointed out an important issue or two with the current video quality and time spent to shoot videos. These can be overcome with time. I really just don't think a video is necessary when 10, 20, or even 30 photos of a vehicle do just fine in showing the highlights of that vehicle. The purpose of most online marketing is to generate leads, not to actually sell the cars. Closing the deal still takes place on the lot, and I don't see that changing any time soon. So, will videos generate more leads? In my opinion, no. It's not surprising to me that Pacific Honda "found video to have an adverse effect at times". Sometimes certain dealers do things just to have something their competitors don't have, but the ROI has to make sense, otherwise it's just an ego buy.

On the other hand, one could make the argument that the online classified sites were in the same situation years ago. Cars were selling by magazine and newspaper ads, and although they could be listed on the internet, was it worth the trouble? We all know how that turned out. After all, none of us would be here on this blog if it didn't work. It took time to perfect the process of merchandising vehicles on the web, and maybe the same will happen with videos. Until that time, I'm not buying into it.
Being a vendor on the production side of providing dealerships websites and Internet-based marketing innovations I'm in Sean's court on his opinion of the coming importance of video for a wide range of commercial purposes on the web. But, I think video can be applied in a broad sprectrum of short tactical and strategic video pieces that each have their place in a website and all serve to help the dealership.

Some wisdom has been conveyed here - individual vehicle presentations done in video are great for special inventory and not worth it for others.

Consider the opportunities, though, as consumers' computers and connectivity increasingly allows rich media presentations of high quality that can be used to hype this weekend's sale, tell a of dealership's legacy in it's community, introduce the professionals who make the buying experience a surprisingly pleasant event, present, in video, the good reasons for an absent service customer to come in.

There are endless possibilities in bringing the presentation power of Internet multimedia into the dealership website equation, all of them with the upbeat "call to action" that asks potential customers to put their name in so you can segue them to the next step in your sales process, with individual vehicle presentations getting ho-hum status among the cornocopea of video marketing opportunities. The keys for the inclusion of video in a dealership website are: ease of production, cost, traditional advertising coordination, inclusion logistics, and post video metrics.

The online used car classified companies will jump on, and package video because it is beginning to get hyped and dealers are talking about it (how many seo companies are out there now?) But they are in the classified advertising business so their focus is obviously - on vehicle presentations.

There are many more online video opportunties around the bend.

Video inventory as a valid lead generating, traffic generating tool is not far off. It doesn't work now because few (if any) have put the effort and thought into making it work.

To truly be effective, it would have to be something that is done all out or not at all. Could a dealer do it? Absolutely, but not likely.

A company will need to emerge that offers a full video solution. Just as Dealer Specialties key selling point is their ability to take, manage, and push inventory and photos across the internet, so to would this hypothetical service need to be. Full service and profesional.

High quality vehicles. Visits once every two weeks. "Inventory" pushed to YouTube and everywhere else that takes videos. A partnership with a classified site. A full setup that includes video walk-thrus of the dealership, the process, everything.

Most importantly, they would have to help market it.

If (when) a company emerges that is able to do all this in a way that is high quality while low in cost, dealers will jump on board. Not a ton, mind you, but with a product like that, all you would need is 1 new client every other week to get the steam rolling as the company grew.

Dreams and speculation, I know. But it COULD happen.
  • C
  • August 2, 2007
One of the largest problems with video ads is policing spam. For example, search for "acura tl" on HotSwap:

The first video is for a '97 in Dublin, OH. Watch it. Let me know if you see an Acura.

Without a human review, there's practically no content guarantee.
<blockquote>One of the largest problems with video ads is policing spam.</blockquote>

Agreed, which is why Universal Search for Google irks me.
I am going to give one example and I would love your feedback...

Lets say someone is searching for a "Toyota Dealership" in "Limerick Pennsylvania" and There is a video of a testimonial for Peruzzi Toyota. A video of customers saying how wonderful their experience was at Peruzzi. How strong is that?

Just so you know... Google is still in Beta mode with You Tube and Yahoo Video. but in less than 2 months, you won't have to click the video button on the top left on Google to find videos. You will simply have to just log on to "Google" and if there are videos posted you will find them.

Try this:

Go to Google, click "Video" in the top left hand corner and type in the search field "Toyota Baltimore" and you will see that Mile 1 owns that search. But if we took that to the next level... If we had videos other than just product videos, like testimonials, or videos from the Owner or GM... videos that from people of authority stating their value package proposition. How strong would it be if someone was just researching the net, types in a few key words and the next thing they know, they are looking at the owner of ABC Honda telling them that he promises them an amazing experience and a great deal... but wait there is more... Free delivery to their home or office, free oil change, car wash... or whatever else you or your store does.

One last point. The average dealership spends over $50,000 per month in advertising and there are over 20,000 franchise dealerships in the country...

They spent all of that money and most of it goes to intrusive advertising... spent on ads WHEN PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO BE BOTHERED... but hoping they will succumb.

But, Dealers do VERY little when people are actually interested in them. When someone goes to an engine and is seriously looking for information that is the time you blow them away, and exceed their expectations.

Harvard communications 101... the "Science of Communications”-

55% of communication is visual perception and body language
38% of Communication is auditory inflection of tone (sound)
7% of Communication is simply the words we use (text)

All I know is that it is VERY difficult to sell a $20, $30, $50,000+ automobile over a 7% communication medium.

It is just hard to build that value, plus you have to understand that people learn in different ways... there a visual thinkers, auditory thinkers as well as kinesthetic thinkers. Video is a powerful medium to sell, brand and simply build value.

I just watched the Presidential Democratic debates the other day on You Tube… That tells me that video is a powerful way to communicate.

I would like it for just once… just ONCE that the automotive industry does something at the same time and level as normal corporate America. We traditionally are years behind, resistance to change.

I wish you all the success in the world… My Cleo the psychic prediction… Video and Video search is going to blow away other forms of antiquated advertising and soon there will be vendors rushing to meet the need. I suggest you all that are wise and progressive start to do your research and stay ahead of the curve-

Hi all,

I would like to throw in my two cents, based on experience, of course.

About six months ago a company singing the praises of this very same concept approached my dealer group. They absolutely had great technology, but would it work as advertised and drive incremental leads/customers to my store...

I decided to run a test.

I chose two stores from my group who typically did a very good job when it came to their eCommerce initiatives. So as not to appear biased, we randomly chose half of the used inventory at each store and created quality videos with good audio walk-arounds and posted them to our site marked with easy to see and understand icons denoting that a video was attached.

I ran the test for 90 days.


At the end of the day its all about moving metal.

We found that customers were looking at the videos, some through to finish and some for only a few seconds, however, we saw absolutely no increase in the turn rate of the vehicles with video vs. the vehicles that simply had multiple pictures, and no overall significant increase in number of units sold in the internet department or the store as a whole.

My personal opinion, and it's just that, is that the consumer will respond just as favorably to quality pictures and good, relevent text descriptions of a vehicle as they will to video...

Just my opinion.

Best regards and happy selling to all,

  • J
  • August 3, 2007
I agree 100% with Sean that video can be incredibly effective, but the way it's used is the determining factor, at least at this point in time. Sean's examples are more of a branding use: customer testimonials, commercials, owner messages. I can see these being extremely valuable today and even more so down the road, especially as video search becomes more and more mainstream.

My previous post (and I think Jeff's, for the most part) was with regard to videos of individual vehicles. I think Steve's experiment over a 3-month period is a good indicator that customers can get as much information as they want with traditional photos of vehicles. Sure, video could be a good supplement to specialty pieces, but in general, is it any better than having 20 or 30 photos of the car? You can cram more content into a video but I think for the purpose of generating web leads, just having photos is equally as effective.
  • R
  • August 3, 2007
Hi Everyone,

A comment on Steve's experiences during the video test. It would surely seem that a 90 day test would be enough to provide a gut feeling as to whether or not there was any benefit to using video. Dividing the inventory randomly seems to be a good idea, but I wonder if a more effective test would be to have a pair of identical or almost identical cars and video one and not the other and see which one moved the fastest. Just a thought.

Another thought, I think there would be some benefit in having a nicely done video presentation available for specific cars that might be hard to keep in stock. For example, in our dealership we are sold out of the new BMW 328 Hardtop Convertible until November and have none to show an interested prospect. I think it might be a good idea to film a walk around and post it to be able so show interested prospects. Anyway, that's my theory and as soon as the camera gets here next week that I've ordered, I'll be testing it to see how it works. I'll keep you posted.
  • L
    Lao Shi
  • August 3, 2007

Clients learn more about a car by seeing it in a video, particularly if the video is well narrated by a person with a clear pleasant voice and if the video does close ups and shots of the interior, which all helps to streamline the grinding search for a used car.

The video should only be 30-60 seconds depending on the uniqueness of the vehicle, interior and exterior footage. The image does not have to be professional, just well done. With the quality of digital cameras with electronic stabilization today priced at $5-600.00, software available at affordable prices and computers that can take the download from the camera who can say no to the technology?

There are even site providers today that offer the dealer ISM a notice to know when the client opens the email and will notify the dealer ISM when it happens so you can call the client while they view the vehicle and do your sales presentation. How cool is this? If you’re not at your PC it will notify your smart phone.

Video search is the choice of the smart dealers who are wary of, traditional, antiquated advertising. “The Boutique Dealers” will embrace this new way of using technology and increase their margins at the same time.

The majors will continue to use the “cookie cutter” systems and pound away at the margins, pushing more metal at lower prices.

<strong>Hotswap ReviewParty</strong>

I’m late to the Hotswap review party, I know. Frankly, after reading about them on TechCrunch I was surprised they raised 2 million dollars. 2 million? For sales videos of cars? That must have been a great presentation. I think most dealers are sligh...
  • R
  • August 4, 2007
The piece everyone is missing is the delivery of the content (streaming video) through the network of servers. The dealer must have their media files properly managed within their website, and have a quality CDN providing them a solution that will deliver the videos quickly, clearly and consistently. If the video lags, and jumps and basically looks amateur, then it isn't worth the dealers time and money. Think of the early days when dealers had websites built by their cousin who dabbled in HTML coding...bad news. The dealers who spend money to do all the things listed above (essentially, video production) and dont have a quality content delivery network set up (not done on their own website servers) for the delivery of these streaming videos,will be wasting their money...period.

Then there are some other important factors...

First, people dont care about the dealer story or anything else. If they got video, it needs to be about the specific car they are looking at on that page. The only video should be car video.

Second, lets make this part pretty clear. There is a TON of research supporting this fact...anytime you have a streaming video clearly explaining a product, like a car, a home, or any consumer good, that video will improve the conversion of users to leads and leads into sales. People would much rather find what they want and watch and listen, VERSUS having to read and click through pictures. (even though quality pictures are ESSENTIAL in todays current environment.)


Third, it all depends on the value the solution brings the dealership, just like with anything in internet marketing. So if the dealership is selling into a market that has solid broadband penetration, then it probably is worth the time looking into these types of solutions, because the investment will improve conversions, and improve sales, while generating a positive profit ROI.

Hope this provides a different piece of info that is critical to this piece... A solid CDN needs to be taken into account... doing it on your web servers won't do.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • August 4, 2007
Ryan, you said "First, people dont care about the dealer story or anything else."

I don't know if I totally agree with you in this. I believe if you position your videos in the right area of your dealer website that you can help brand your dealer and dealer message while increasing conversion and improving the customers over all experience.

This is something that I will be playing around with in the months to come and will be sure to report back.

Thanks for your feedback Ryan!!

Look at the activity in this post. WOW! 13 comments since this post has been sent live and I am scouring the comments looking for the answer to video for my clients. I want to know who, how, and is there and efficient and effective way to streamline this process right now?

And wow, Sean Bradley is all over it!

Someone tell me . . . . or us . . . where do we go to get simple, streamlined service for videos that will produce better results that 30-40 quality, high resolution images will do on its own? That is really what I am hoping to take away from the time invested in reading this excellent "theory".

I agree with Sean Bradley, and disagree with everyone who is looking at the now results on video. I think that the results that have been realized thus far are because we as a group of automotive internet folk have not tapped into the true channel of how video will produce sales for us, or our clients if we are vendors.

What needs to be done to really find the place for video in this market?

I think that is what Sean is pointing out to us all . . . that regardless what has happened thus far . . . it is coming and will be part of how we market vehicles to the online customer. We have to tap into this medium and make it an effective way to do what we all do . . . which is drive the #2 driving force of this economy. I just want to know how??


A Video Zelot weighs in...

Shoppers are out there sitting in chairs for hours and hours in a sea of flat, lifeless, 2-d information.

Video Commerce is coming!
The more complex and expensive the product, the more valuable video is. Car sales are the poster child of video commerce.

Would a good, personal video walkaround by a knowledgeable rep. help you pick up the phone?

CONSIDER... If we're here to sell something OTHER THAN PRICE, can anyone tell me a better way to get a shopper off of price than a good walk around video??

I can't even believe there is any debate on this topic. The "dark side" of this debate is rooted in the production... I agree, It's a PIA to do video right!

Video helps make the net personal!
Can you overlook google's jillion dollar buy of YouTube?

Video adds another dimension to the shoppers experience and we all know the best customer is the one that is tired and ready to end the process, video appeals to the EMOTIONAL side of the brain.

I have to agree that informational videos are excellent to have on your site... I have a heat map of dealership website located at that shows that visitors are actually clicking on the videos and playing them... and looking for more videos... or may be they are trying to mute it since it auto plays but the clicks on the video button below counters that perspective... (I blurred the dealership name in that jpeg)

Chrome just introduced the wheel TV videos for new vehicles... and they are bit addictive... reminds me of motor week on PBS... so this is going to stick around and I think for younger generation it is no longer images but videos.

I wonder if someone can run a quick Craigslist test... by posting one inventory with link to a video and one without... any clearly mentioning it in title. Since it has the traffic and just costs time and effort... :)
  • E
  • August 6, 2007
Hi Everyone,

So, thanks Sean for the Mile One shout out, even if you got the name a little wrong. Yep, we are dabbling in the google video world and completely agree that it will be first page soon.

As for Video, I am in the "pro" group and will leave it at that. We have enough reasons why.

As for Video Players, we have been looking at Vimation and are really impressed with their company thus far. The founders, Peter and David seem extremely bright and have been in this game for a while. They aren't video novices and they are doing some awesome interactive pieces with their video. I will see if I can get them to post some test links on here.
Been following your posts, Awesome work and awesome heat map! It confirms...

#1). The home page is the "fly over" page where "Folks arrive to find". No selling can be done there.

#2). Kill all home page auto-audio. Look at the traffic records, all those cube surfers at work get upset when the ad comes busting out! Let the surfer opt-in to the running video!

Keep it up!
  • J
    Jim Elliott
  • August 8, 2007
Videos do not sell cars -- it is a waste of time and bandwidth and cost -- it adds zero value to the buyer. A good picture with specs and pricing are all that are needed. Online users click quickly through process -- they won't wait for a video of the same image.

Hotswap got funding and they may succeed because the economic buyer is the dealer, not the customer. Ego will drive dealers to the latest technology, just like they like to see themselves on TV. Most won't be able to measure change in conversion, so they will keep buying.

Most sellers are product and brand and seller-centric in their thinking, not buyer-centric, so they won't think through the lack of value add to the buyer.
Jim writes:
Zero value?
Waste of bandwidth? (even though it's free).
Wait for Download?
Picture, specs, pricing are all that are needed?

Do you have any idea how incomplete your used car specs are now? (an industry wide problem). Jim, You're in the car biz, you can't tell me that a well prepared killer walk around on the lot won't work on the net.

Just one example...
If there are 145 used Chevrolet Impala's in a shopper's 10 mile radius and yours needs help to "stand tall", you tell me how you're going to communicate why your's has OnStar and that 95% of the other Impalas are prior rentals that have OnStar deleted (and we all know how risky a prior rental can be...wink, wink). Oh... did I mention that it's GM Certified? As part of the GM Cert. process, it has NEW rubber (stick fingers in tread) and on and on...

Don't we preach to the men in the trenches to sell something OTHER than price. Isn't that why we're all afraid of the 'net? Price, Price, Price?

What about lady shoppers?
We all know that they fear the experience. You can't tell me that a well planned video process can make the fearful shopper more at ease.

You mentioned Excess Bandwidth (read: higher hosting costs) and a slow Load time. Visit YouTube. You and 100 million other users are loving the free fast video site. Yea it's grainy, leave that to your still photos.

I have no financial position in video, no product or service to offer, IMO, consumers will appreciate a well executed video walk around.

I am in Sean's camp. Text is flat. Video "breaks the plane" and reaches out (when it's executed properly).

  • A
  • August 10, 2007
Hey guys the main reason we came up with our pan and zoom player was to give the video effect without the background noise, jitter, image quality and bandwidth. One thing I did like about hot swap was the narration, we currently offer text to speech which everyone seems to be doing these days so we are going to offer audio narration via telephone. I think it will add a personal touch to our current offering and look very professional!
  • G
  • August 18, 2007
I may be late coming to this party, but I can't help but feel video will be a big benefit if not already. Consider using video if you are selling a Z06? What if I can't afford a Z06? What if I am looking for a nice Cobalt or Accord? Would you give me the same walk-around in person on a Cobalt as a Z06 or would you short that customer because he is only spending $15, 20, 25,000?

If a customer is interested in a vehicle in your lot, budget providing, I would put a video on it if at all possible, and preferably not a stitched video. When we started using it at our store, my viewership was low, but they pretty much watched the whole thing. Additionally, I noticed trends on WHEN people were watching particular vehicles. For example, Cobalt/Cavalier "hoopties" were more viewed in the mid-morning (10) and night times (10-12). Vans, trucks were seen more before 10, 2, and after dinner around 7.
Don't sell video short. It also provides a pretty good reporting tool.
If you are a dealership - How can you ignore it?! Fastest growing medium in the history of media, 50,000,000 viewers in under 2 years. First mover advantage to those that do it right. I understand dealers by and large do not like change as it requires more investment but this is another opportunity to make decisions that if implemented properly will be rewarded with 20x gains. Web user knows what you sell. What they care about is WHO you are and video is the most effective way to inform and entertain. We help dealerships produce, edit, package and syndicate video. Optimized video site and optimized search in both text and video.

Vanessa Interactive
  • S
  • May 7, 2008
Doing a test right now means nothing. Wait until all of your competitors have videos on their site, in youtube, google, autotrader, ebay. Then do your test. This will be like avoiding the VCR move from tape to dvd. Or try avoiding the move from telegraph to telephone. Or how about the typewriter. Television is the best form of advertising because it involved moving motion graphics, sound and words. Now you have the opportunity to do this online for a fraction of the cost. Add to that the majority of people don't read anymore. So how will text be effective? This conversation is over. Until then enjoy my show.
I'm late to the dinner table here, but may I offer a few thoughts? I just so happen to operate several video classified ad sites ( now and even though it is just now a start up business I can tell you that the dealers I have spoken to are excited about the prospect of featuring their inventory on video.
As mentioned in one of responses above, allowing the car buyer to sit back in the comfort of his/her home or office and view videos of the make and model of car that they are interested in is the wave of the future in internet used car marketing. According to Wards, 60% of all used car buyers start the search for a used vehicle on the internet with 70% of the new car buyers using the same.
Will videos bring more business to dealers? It’s too soon to tell. But it will allow dealers to showcase their inventories to the shoppers, whom with the price of gas these days, are hesitant to drive from dealer to dealer in search of a car.

  • J
  • December 7, 2008
I've been doing videos for the past 6 months.
I've got everything setup for my Australian market, videos will be huge, but take much in preparation.
  • J
  • December 7, 2008
The website is in regards to my previous comment.
  • T
  • January 15, 2011
Not dreams or speculation anymore: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
  • T
  • January 15, 2011
What if you had the ability to produce a 640 x480 Flash Video with Audio at 30 fps in two minutes, have it available to you Inventory Management Consolidator/Content Delivery company like Homenet in seconds ready for distribution? The process has been streamlined and a solution does exist.
We have recently embarked on this area with our business. We currently take professional photographs for dealerships.