Opinions & Advice

Want more Leads? Do LESS with your Inventory!

MoreleadsOkay…nobody is perfect.  Nobody is ever going to list a vehicle 100% right every time.  We all strive to do our best with our online inventory presentations, but we can all do better.  Is our imperfectness creating leads?

If everything is listed as a customer wants, why should he or she ever submit a lead?  If all those consumer questions have been answered, the consumer should just walk right into the store….right?  What’s the purpose of submitting an Internet lead, if there are no questions, other than to expedite the car-buying process?

If your inventory is perfect, and your competitor’s isn’t, are they going to sell more cars because their people are getting more leads?  Is my logic flawed?

If a customer has to submit a lead, or pick-up the phone, because your inventory listing is missing something he/she wants then you win….right?  You and your people have the opportunity to establish rapport, switch the customer to the car that is really wanted, introduce some new purchasing ideas, etc.  The guy with the perfect listing lost out, didn’t he?

Is it really better to strive for building the imperfect inventory listing?

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • September 24, 2008
I'm always back and forth with the answer to this one. The customer wants the information so give it to them and get a more qualified lead OR leave some important stuff out, ask them to "contact the dealer for more information" to see if they fill out the more information form or call you. This could give you the opportunity to build the rapport and see if they are considering something else as well.

If I compare it to shopping online for other stuff (smaller ticket items) I usually purchase from the company/site that gives me the most information. Like Newegg; I've been wanting to purchase a new digital camera that took great photos and fit in my pocket, I found exactly what I wanted on Newegg. They offered the MOST information on the camera and way more photos than any other online retailer (plus I know from past purchases that I will have a great experience).

Would/Does this carry over to the car business? I don't know..in the car business we are looking for the lead, the opportunity.

When I was at the Benz dealer I was seriously considering a New GTi and the dealer I contacted was the ONLY dealer that had the actual packages and options listed. I contacted them about the car and the initial experience was great, but that's another subject. So for me..the dealer that had all the information listed got the opportunity to sell me FIRST. Would I have then contacted the other dealers had this dealer NOT contacted me back (and fast)? It's highly possible but they got the first opportunity.

This could also depend what make your selling and the clientele around that vehicle.

I say list the information and find another compelling reason for the customer to want to call or fill out the lead form. I want the FIRST opportunity.

  • J
    Jon Groenig
  • September 25, 2008
I'm going to go with Jeff on this one. When I close a sale I usually have a 15 minute to 30 minute wait on F&I so I take this time to interview the customer about what brought them to me and why they chose my listing over the other guys. Almost everytime it comes down to I had the information they were looking for in the listing and the three main things they always bring up are price, miles, and the quality and quantity of the pictures.

When it comes to miles and price most customers tell me that if the price isn't listed it means the dealer wants too much money and they also say the same thing about the miles, that they must be really high, why else would a dealer not list them. Based on the feedback I've gotten from customers I think I am better off with a complete listing.
Maybe we should all take a step back and define what a perfect inventory listing is. I always assumed a basic one (as of today) has price, miles, photos, and some relevant specifications. Jon - you made me realize we might not all be considering the same thing here.
  • R
  • September 25, 2008
The perfect listing is the one that invokes response! The question behind the question is what causes the customer to take action. I completely agree with Jon here that the old school idea that the less info we give the more likely the customer will call is not only flawed, it will cost you business. The customer assumes the absolute worst when info is not given.

Give price, lots of pictures, and specific details that differentiate your Camry from the other 200 in your DMA and let the customer contact you informed. Not sure about you but when it comes to incoming phone calls, I would trade 100 "how much is it" for 1 "when can I come and drive it."
  • C
  • September 25, 2008
If there is no sizzle in your listings to justify the price of the steak you are selling, your restaurant will be empty.
I would also think that the type of operation should be taken into consideration. Alex is looking at it from a BDC perspective, I like to look at it from a internet dealership perspective. I encourage everyone in our dealership to use our site as a selling tool. If we all use the same information our message will be the same throughout the dealership and in my mind that builds credibility. I have also seen some stats that prove better pictures, better descriptions and compelling prices will bring folks from a long way away. I agree that with this philosophy the internet department is missing the majority of the local shoppers or the ones that I call click to bricks. I am a click to brick myself, I will check lowes.com vs homedepot.com and visit the store with the best value and pick up the item. I never mention the website unless I have a pricing conflict at the physical store. This topic can be debated on many fronts that is why I wish I got paid like autotrader and all I had to do was justify exposure.
Disclaimer: I only mentioned ATC because I miss lightnup :)

  • J
    Jon Groenig
  • September 25, 2008

Tell us what you consider to be a perfect inventory listing in todays market, what information were you talking about leaving out?
how about this?

vs this one with less info

This is an interesting post!!

Providing your online consumer with the most & valid information pertaining to the inventory you have placed on your website is very crucial. The online consumer is there looking for not just the vehicle, but the Price, Features, Options etc. And don’t forget lots and lots of pictures.

Photos: Emotional Customer

MPG: Fuel Efficient Customer

Price: Price Conscious Customer

Payment Calculator: Again Price Conscious Customer

And so on!

Lacking the information is going to cause that consumer to go on to the next Dealer Website and then on to the manufacturers site. Why? Well the manufacturer site does provide all the info on the New Inventory and it gets the consumer more of a reach to your “Competitor”. The Used Inventory, the consumer can also go as far as Edmonds / Auto Trader and many resources out there.

In past when using Auto Trader & TK Carsites as our Vendor, we had tested the removal of all the Price, Details on inventory and so much more!

What happened?

Well, we had a lot of explaining to do why we had so many incoming calls and emails asking “What is the price?” and no sales. That only lasted 2 weeks! We then went back and placed that crucial information on the sites and Auto Trader. Then our sales had dramatically picked up for providing that info.

You are not just wasting your time but your consumers also! Take the time to place that necessary information throughout your inventory down to the smallest details along with any given specials etc!

I agree with Chef:
If there is no sizzle in your listings to justify the price of the steak you are selling, your restaurant will be empty.

You could not have said it any better!

Everyone has their way of doing it differently but not paying attention to those particular details will cost you in the long run!
I hope this helps 

  • P
  • September 25, 2008
There is no gray line anymore. If you don't list the info you are literally making a bet. Retail automotive selling is not gambling where you keep getting to try your luck anymore.

Pricing? well that's pretty easy now with all the online information available. The dealer who prices their pre-owned vehicles based on what they own them for plus "X$'s markup" is a fool spitting in the wind. It's pretty much either find the dummy customer to buy it or in 90 days a customer can find it lower priced at another dealer who purchased it at auction and turned it retail really fast at the demand price. If you put too much into a trade or made a mistake, suck it up and sell it for what the market will bear RIGHT NOW.

Your stores pricing model in todays market has to be one or the other of these.

Premium(within reason) with high end service or low cost cutting with a no frills approach.

I watched a high end dealer spend 30M dollars for a new showroom/expansion that keeps getting into a price wars to make a sale. That's just makes no sense. You dilute your dealerships brand doing this.

I was talking mostly about pre-owned but if you honestly look at why pricing on new cars is cut throat you might be able to see that NO ONE is willing to pay you for just giving them a price.

Dealer websites have gotten much better but the system of delivering important vehicle information is worthless.

All this analytics is like playing tic tac toe because it is constantly using as a weapon for making an individual accountable not planning business strategies to grow and be more profitable.

My prediction is that there will be 20% decline in the number of new car dealers in the next 5 years. Goodbye...Look at the market and it's been way too long that these "closing" dealers have been relying on back end money from the factories to turn a profit on bottom line.

Years ago there had to be a dealer on every corner in the factories eyes to get that new vehicle into everbody's garage but it's a nationalized industry now that economics of efficiency ultimately win in the end.

Enough ramble and sorry if I went off a bit. I just completed the MBA Innovation Program at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management so trust me when I tell you that big change is coming to the entire automotive industry and it will be for the good.
People will always love cars enough to keep buying them...no matter what.

All the best,


Jon - I really couldn't tell you what the perfect online product display is. Like Jeff, I do a ton of shopping online: NewEgg, B&H, and Amazon are my biggies and I'm always looking for more photos of certain products even if the review and consumer reviews answer all of my questions. I sell myself on things visually. I usually have to revert to a forum to find more.

With that said, I started this thread to evoke the debate. I am definitely one who believes a top-notch product display is one of the top 3 things a retailer must do.

However, I keep my office in the middle of a centralized BDC and overhear calls all day. The vast majority of the calls relate to getting the "best price", but along with that comes a question about what equipment a car has on it. The customers, who call, don't seem to always believe our inventory listings are accurate. I don't know if there is something on our website that triggers this thought or if it is just something that comes with this business. After hearing a rash of calls like this and then talking to Jeff about Ford trims, yesterday, it got me wondering if retailers are actually creating more leads because nobody has the mecca of online product displays.

When writing the beginning article, I was more thinking of intentionally not doing something with your inventory display. Something like listing a package a vehicle is equipped with, then listing out all the features of that package except one thing. So the listing may look like this:

2007 BMW 335i Sedan
-Automatic Transmission

Cold Weather Package
-Ski Bag
-Headlight washers


Completely omitting the Heated Seats to get a customer to call and ask if the heated seats were there. So maybe my title was a little misleading - it would actually take more work to do less.
  • J
    Jon Groenig
  • September 25, 2008

I think the main reason you get the questions on equipment have nothing to do with your listing, I think most of the problem is with the other dealers out there that are listing their vehicle with the wrong information. I am sure you know the dealers I am talking about, the ones that leave a vehicle up online even though it sold six months ago. If these guys don't even take the time to update their inventory you can only imagine how much of the information in the listing is incorrect. Don't forget you also get the customers that call without reading the complete listing, I always get several calls a month asking about pricing or miles, both of which I have listed of every vehicle.

Maybe it's just me, but when a customer calls in to double check the equipment and you assure them that the listing is correct and the vehicle is in stock and ready for delivery, haven't you just taken a small step to developing trust with that customer. What happens when they call the next listing below yours and find out the vehicle in the listing was sold months ago or it doesn't have the equupment in the listing, which dealer do you think this customer will choose to do business with. I think by giving as much information as you can in your listing. you will end up with a better quality lead.

Brian, is there an online poetry class I can sign up for so I can learn to write a listing like you?
  • A
  • September 25, 2008
I have found both points of view to be useful, but there is no silver bullet for customers. Each customer is motivated to engage differently. Sometimes consumers have done their research before the submit requests, others have no idea what they are looking for. At my dealership we treat internet leads just like customers who walk in the front door of the store. I'm sure no one leave all of the brochures out in the showroom for the customers to grab and go. So why would you provide them with all the information they need not to talk to you. The only thing you are accomplishing is allowing the customer find out exactly what you have available, so they can move on the the next dealership. Mostly likely where someone will contact about the question that needs to be answered on a particular vehicle . Or maybe even visit another store because they already got everything the needed from you without actually exchanging any information. I guess what I am trying to say is if your website is only to provide information to customers. Then maybe you should post live pictures of each car and the customers won't even have to come to the dealership. Remember this is car SALES, if you want to be order takers I guess you could go get a job at Burger King. After all, isn't that where "We do it your way". Facts and figures don't sale cars, excitement and emotion sale cars do. How about a little showmanship. You need to build relationships just like you do inside the dealership. People buy from who they like.
You can't really compare buying a $10 HDMI cable at Newegg to spending $20,000 plus on a car. We need to build value in our dealerships and create a relationship that lasts after the sale with the customers. That's what keeps people coming back and in most cases people will pay more when value exceeds price. That's just my two cents.
  • J
    Jeff Larsen
  • September 25, 2008
Internet car shoppers are information oriented. They want information now and if my listing can provide the photos, benefits and features over my competitors (eyeballs stay on my ad) with a good call to action, this creates a quality phone/email lead.

Based on my experience, one of the biggest frustrations of internet shoppers is the lack of information vehicle listings provide or finally calling and the vehicle is sold or to auction. At that point it seems to irritate the shopper even more when trying to flip them to a similar vehicle when they had their hearts set on the one they called on. This is a majority, not all.

Their time is valuable, as is mine.
Alex -

Interesting thought.

One could test the responses against two similar vehicles - each with various Easter Eggs planted within.

I bet responses for the vehicle with the RickRoll get a ton of responses...

On a serious note though - a rash of listings lacking info, or even worse, incorrect data, could lower credibility.
Anthony -

"Facts and figures don't sale cars, excitement and emotion sale cars do. How about a little showmanship"

Are you drinking that "Kool Aid"?

Facts and figures absolutely sell cars along with combining it with the Excitement and Emotion.

No Facts No Figures, hmmmmm no Sales! You lose the trust of the consumer when you don't have those in front of them through out your entire site. ( No sales Pitch here )

EX: I Pod Touch, your are intersted, where do you go? www.apple.com of course! What if the site is telling you the I Pod Touch sprays glitter at you and also provides back rubs at the same time? Would that help with a sale?

Sorry to throw in a bit of humor but reality is Facts, Figures, informative information, Price, Photos on and on and on etc! along with the excitement and emotion is the key to help sell more online and to get the QUALITY LEAD!!

Anthony - I am not bashing :)
  • C
    Chris K
  • September 27, 2008
We elected to disable our new inventory because we didn't want people to think we couldn't get it if we didn't have it - that was then.

Now (well soon, it's being built) we have a new website through TK Carsites and we have a "Build your Nissan" button, and it basically gives customers the impression we have every model, every option, every configuration imaginable. And technically this is true.

And why not? This way they will see that vehicle they want and have a greater interest... and either call, come in, or send me an email.. or nothing.

If I get the call or email... the answer is YES - that car is available.
  • M
  • September 28, 2008
It's been my and those of many people I've informally polled over the years that 'virtual inventory', while it creates leads (and work), does not necessarily result in the best consumer experience. In fact, I've encountered some people who have been so annoyed at the experience they have told me that they no longer want to deal with the dealership in question.

Also, if you have to say, "...technically this is true.", you probably shouldn't employ the method.

Use VI at your own risk :)
  • C
    Chris K
  • September 29, 2008
I appreciate the comment. People are already perturbed we don't post inventory - the bosses choosing - but we've become the #1 volume Nissan dealer without it in our zone. Now prospects will at least see the vehicle they want, configured how they want, and if they are serious and want something special, they will have no choice but to have a dealership locate it for them. We locate about 60 vehicles a month, so we're used to converting these people if we have the car or not. I guess we'll see... but 3rd party leads right now really, really suck. As far as I am concerned, a lead from all 3rd parties are worth about $5.00 at best.
  • J
    Jon Groenig
  • September 29, 2008
I was just contacted by a vendor that wanted to add to this thread, but wanted to stay anonymous. They sent me an email with their thoughts on the subject and they had some good points. I am pasting their email below.

“Someone” needs to let everyone on this thread understand that, the comments/thought processes explained have one common flaw. They all assume that everyone coming to their website is a “Now Buyer”. If you have the car that a Now Buyer “wants” then they Now Buyer will contact you to inquire...with the amount of information shown on the car having less influence on the results. However, only 2%-3% of your website visitors are “Now Buyers” with the majority being “Potential Prospects” that are not as far into the Buying Cycle. Your goal for your website should be to accomplish two things: 1) Satisfy the visitor’s quest for information so they will continue to come back to your website as they get deeper into the Buying Cycle. 2) Have “emotional” ads for your cars with “urgency” and “call to action” to inspire Potential Prospects to “want” the car they are looking at and turn them into Now Buyers. That is what “marketing” is all about and it is no different when you put the word “Internet” in front of “Marketing”.

1) Drive more traffic to your website with SEO, SEM, web 2.0 marketing, Video SEO, URL branding = more a few Now Buyers but significantly more Potential Prospects who are just looking to “see what you’ve got”.
2) Have the “information” that the Potential Prospects are looking for so they will keep coming back to your website as they move through the Buying Cycle.
3) Create “emotional presentations” of your inventory to create urgency, inspire mental ownership and turn Potential Prospects into Now Buyers.
4) Follow up.

Mike - Great comment.

Chris K has mentioned about the Build A Car feature. Which enables to consumer to Build their own vehicle to their likings. Along with providing more in depth information of Features, Specs, Options, MPG's, Price etc etc.

Mike, You are speaking in regards to the Virtual Inventory which is a total seperate product. The Virtual Inventory will list every single possible make & model you have to offer with the ability to hide them too regardless if you have them there or not! Why show them what you don't have but what you do have and can have?

What gets many Internet Managers frustrated is having the consumer go down the road and drive off with the vehicle you did have on the lot for 8 out of 10 times they don't even choose the vehicle they initially attended to get in the first place.

( Gotta love those online consumers ) ;)

No matter if it is Build A Car or even to the Virtual Inventory, these tools provide so much information for the consumer that possible can be given to them.

Be Savvy! Be strong on the Call & Sell that Consumer!

I interviewed at a dealer who wasn't selling much over the internet. When I was checking out their website and their autotrader and cars.com listings they had about 300 used cars listed. I knew for a fact they had less than 100 cars on their lot. Also, no pricing.

When I asked the GM about this, he said, "yea, we do that on purpose. We never delete anything and we get a ton of phone calls asking what's the price".

I thought the phone calls weren't a bad thing but then I decided that I probably wouldn't call and would assume the price was too much. Also, they get put at the bottom of cars.com and autotrader.com so nobody sees their cars.

I didn't take the job but I ran into the guy who had the job and was replaced by someone else later. He said all he did all day was take phone calls asking, "duh, what's the price" and didn't have time to do anything else.

I've always felt if I gave more info, sold the sizzle with comments and was at least NEARLY the best with price, plus responded more quickly and with a better response than everybody else, I won.

'nuff said?

Rob Ernst

Superior Chevrolet
Internet Sales Manager

Mobile: 513-200-5025
Rob -

Yup - Nuff Said!

  • V
  • December 1, 2008
I gotta say that I agree with Mike. Virtual Inventory is beyond annoying. Especially since most dealer sites present it as "inventory". Look "inventory" up in the dictionary! It doesn't say "stuff you could theoretically obtain".

Many internet shoppers will be put off by what they percieve as misleading or "hard sell" features on websites. They are shopping the internet, in many cases, to AVOID those things. The little marching live chat popups THAT WON'T CLOSE are aggravating. The "we have 10 of those in stock--here are their VINS, and if you want to know the COLOR or any other attribute CALL US"-Yuck. I don't WANT TO CALL YOU. If I wanted to interact with you, I know how the phone works, and I could have driven to your store.

And edit the info--no one cares if the rotors are 9" steel (unless it's a Porsche with something interesting!)