My love for automotive merchandising is well established. I’ve given workshops on the subject and written several articles about the importance of doing it well. I’ve said for a long time that the best advertisement any dealership can create is for each vehicle in their inventory. Most know the basics of automotive merchandising, but are you principled in your thoroughness in the craft?
Here are the 4 Tenets of Automotive Merchandising and how to do it well:
- Market Insights
- Pricing (based on inventory levels and market-based metrics)
Yes, you want every unit to have a price. “Call for Price” is a price in a consumer’s mind… and it’s a high price.
- Distribution (spreading awareness of inventory through all available inventory listing channels)
Not all of the eyeballs of car shoppers are only on your website. You need your inventory across multiple channels with higher traffic rates than just your own webpage.
- Value-based Insights (identifying the differentiating factors of your inventory and aligning it with consumer interest).
Your own sales team rarely understands the most valuable aspects of each unit in stock, let alone a customer, but educating others about the benefits of each piece of your inventory is key to selling.
- Alternatives (presenting comparable vehicles on the webpage).
Underneath every item you buy from Amazon it also lists what other people have shopped for. Your own website should be able to offer the same experience as the VDP. Display other options for them to consider so they don’t have to hunt through your search results pages.
2. Vehicle Images
- Quality device taking the photos.
- Lighting is of the utmost importance.
- Less is not more. More pics are more.
- Take pics toward a south-facing wall
- Position yourself one car length away from the vehicle, and lower yourself to be parallel to the headlights.
- Move seatbacks to be in line with the b-pillar and put down headrests.
- When shooting your hero (ideally, passenger side) 3/4 shot, turn your wheels inward toward the camera.
- Interior is just as valuable as exterior photos.
- Highlight the tech, and make sure all dashboard/displays are on.
Other rules for automotive merchandising
Interior shots: Roll the window down and open the doors. Shoot either through the window or across if the door opens 90 degrees
Displays: If it has a backup camera, get a shot of that on. If it has a navigation system, get a shot of the map turned on. If it is a hybrid or an EV, get a shot of the power distribution display.
Cockpit shots: Put all windows down, put the driver’s seat reclined back, take one over the back, and make sure the steering wheel is straight. – One over the back of the driver’s chair, one of both AC units from the middle seat.
Steering wheel shots: Make sure to hang your legs out of the vehicle, so your legs aren’t in the shot
Cluster shot: Everything should be on, the vehicle should show more than a quarter tank of gas, make sure there are no warning lights
Key fobs: Simple pic of them sitting on the center console
Sunroofs: Shoot them looking up through them
Badge shots: Taken at a 45-degree angle but parallel to the ground
One more tip – NO REDUNDANT PICTURES
Here is a fun game:
This dealer took 46 pictures of their vehicle.
1) How many pictures are of open doors?
2) How many are of tires?
3. Vehicle Descriptions
Using the same language shoppers are familiar with (excellent, very good, good, fair)
- Previous Ownership Experience
One-owner, CarFax provided, no accidents
- Highlight what is most important to shoppers
Tech (Apple CarPlay, MP3, BlueTooth, heads-up display, back-up camera, keyless entry, remote start, blind spot monitor, parking sensors, heated and cooled seats, etc)
- Reconditioning Performed
Let them know all that has been done to this vehicle in your shop and all they won’t have to worry about in the future
- Remaining Warranty
For that extra peace of mind, along with any details about a certified warranty if applicable
And in everything you do in automotive merchandising, when writing about each vehicle as a potentially perfect fit for your shoppers, make sure to cut down on the CAPS and exclamation points, but increase the descriptive adjectives used to paint a picture and lend visualized, colorful language to build interest and confidence.
Available video types include:
- Pan/Scan/Zoom with voice-over narration
The less robotic and clunky the better
- Proof-of-life, over-the-shoulder vehicle introduction
- 360 interior shots edited together with graceful exterior shots
- Personalized walk-around videos of the vehicle
- Test drive videos showing off the vehicle in action
- Full product presentation videos of the model (similar to a walk-around, but far more in-depth)
The above videos are listed in the order of least valuable to most valuable but understand any time your staff takes the time to send a video to a shopper. You’re building credibility in more than just the vehicle. Where photos reach a ceiling of impressiveness, video has the ability to fully shape a customer’s decision to purchase. Do not overlook the power of video in your automotive merchandising efforts.
Everything you do regarding automotive merchandising must be with the viewer in mind. Your inventory must be highlighted, appreciated, celebrated, adorned, and emphasized. If not for the product, what else are they there to see? Don’t overlook the most powerful aspect of your advertising by allowing less-than-perfect merchandising efforts to sink your store. As they say, make the car the star, and you’ll go far.
How long have I been writing about this? Here is an automotive merchandising blog I wrote 14 years ago. Yes, I’m that old.