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Automotive Merchandising Trends: What Dealers Need to Know | vAuto


The last few years have been a wild ride for the auto market, with unprecedented profits and unpredictable swings. While it’s been a story of extremes, 2024 will start to bring normalcy back to our industry.

New car inventory is on the rise, which is expected to begin driving down prices and financing rates. While consumer demand is expected to remain high, it will be more important for dealers to stay disciplined as profit margins narrow.

Almost gone are the days of unusually high car profits. Used cars are overtaking the top profit margin position at most dealerships, averaging $378 more in profit per car, according to the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA).1

Now more than ever, it’s crucial you employ a stand-out merchandising strategy that can set your dealership apart from others. This blog post will explore the importance of merchandising — including customer expectations, current trends and tools — to help you merchandise more effectively.

Where to Shift Your Attention

As the used car market heats up, it deserves careful consideration as part of your dealership’s overall inventory strategy. You’ll need to ensure you’re acquiring the right used car inventory, understanding the best pricing strategy and merchandising effectively.


You can’t sell a used car you don’t have. While merchandising your used car inventory correctly is of the utmost importance (we’ll get to that a little later in this blog), acquiring the right used cars is critical. Tools like Global Search from vAuto can help you filter your used car searches so you only see vehicles that have the potential to meet your dealership’s profit objectives.


It’s clear that used car pricing is key to getting the most profitability out of your inventory and ensuring that your team can assess all critical variables. These include the age and condition of the car, how much work needs to be done to get it market-ready, and consumer demand for that make and model. When you use Variable Management pricing strategies, you will be able to more accurately predict which used cars will be turners and which will be earners.


Over the past few years, cars have been leaving the lot almost as soon as they arrive, so merchandising has taken a back seat. With sales patterns returning to normal, merchandising — and digital merchandising in particular — will need to play a much bigger role in your dealership.

Most consumers do the majority of their research online, with 79% starting their search on third-party sites and 71% only ever comparing cars online.2 If you’re not getting your dealership and cars in front of them digitally, you’re simply not going to keep up. In fact, digital merchandising is so important we’ll be giving you tips and strategies to help you maximize its effectiveness. 

Effective Merchandising Is Key

By now you understand that merchandising is mission critical when it comes to effectively moving your new car and used car inventory. There are three key areas to focus on when it comes to merchandising — the car, the dealership and the customer experience. Let’s dive into more detail about each:

The car

Merchandising is especially important for used cars that each have a unique history. You’ll need to create compelling listings that offer value to consumers by highlighting the unique features and functions of the vehicle, being transparent about the condition of the car, and showcasing the work your dealership did to ensure the customer is purchasing a sound car they can trust.

The dealership

Building a good relationship with customers is critical in convincing them that yours is the dealership to buy from — beginning online before they get to the dealership. This proves to be particularly important when selling new cars, which are virtually the same across all dealerships. When putting together your merchandising strategy, consider the following four elements that can help you shape how customers perceive your dealership:

  1. Brand identity — What do you want your dealership to look like? This includes your dealership’s mission, unique value proposition and visual identity.
  2. Brand image — How people think and feel about your dealership can be improved with good public relations, social presence and a website with high-quality content.
  3. Brand culture  — Your dealership’s values are important. Make sure they’re well defined and your team is living them through their work.
  4. Brand personality — This makes your dealership feel relatable to customers. Make sure you understand your customer base well, then use brand personality to connect with them.3

You can easily incorporate these elements into your online presence by adding branded elements to your listings, billboards, vehicle photos and social media efforts. This will help you tell your dealership’s story and build brand equity.

The experience

Creating a seamless shopping experience for customers, beginning with their online research and ending with their drive off the lot, is imperative. The vast majority of today’s customers do extensive research online before they ever set foot in your dealership and are likely already sold on which car they’d like to purchase. That means waiting until they reach your showroom floor to start selling won’t cut it. Your dealership needs to reach customers online, while they’re doing their research, with persuasive messaging that draws them into your dealership.

Remember, people are sifting through a lot of information online and don’t have a long attention span. Keep your online listings visual and engaging, hitting the highlights of each car quickly so customers don’t have to dig for them.

Accelerate Merchandising With Vehicle Intelligence 360

Online tools like Vehicle Intelligence 360 can help you amplify your dealership’s online shopping experience. This tool in particular is designed to help you merchandise used cars online in a way that customers want to learn about them, allowing you to offer a superior online experience without expending more of your team’s time and effort.

With Vehicle Intelligence 360, your shoppers can see a full 360-degree spin of the car, learn about key features and functions from a trusted Kelley Blue Book source, and easily see the value and condition of the car through callouts for new tires, brakes, etc. Since most customers are shopping on their mobile devices, this merchandising experience is designed for digital platforms, which makes the shopping experience better.

Increase Profitability With the Right Merchandising

This blog has highlighted the importance of properly merchandising your vehicles online to drive leads and close sales. With the right knowledge and tools, you can effectively and efficiently merchandise your new and used cars, creating a seamless experience for those buyers most likely to purchase.

To learn more about how vAuto’s new innovations can support your inventory management strategy and profitability, request a demo today.


  1. National Automotive Dealers Association, “2023 NADA Data: Midyear Report,” January 2024.
  2. Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey 2021
  3. Stephens & Tate Attraction Marketing