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How Consumer Behavior is Changing Merchandising To Go Beyond Your DMA

by Nathan Fox, Senior Director of Business Development

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have all been forced to change our behaviors in order to adapt to the current environment. This has been especially true in how we shop for and buy products.  I suspect each of us can point to a recent purchase in which we skipped a trip to the local store – in many cases changing behaviors and routines that had been ‘normal’ for us.  

The automotive industry is no exception.  While most car buyers still make the final purchase in person (today), shoppers are changing the routines that had been the norm.  I find it fascinating to look at how the shopping radius for vehicles has expanded over the last few years – it has almost doubled to just under 100 miles since 2018.1   

Think about the implications of this doubled shopping radius, shoppers are now willing to drive to another city - spending several hours to get to the dealership lot.  These shoppers aren’t driving to just look at a car that they might be interested in, they are driving to the lot with the expectation that they are purchasing a specific car because they already know it is the right car. This movement from a local to a regional shopping model is one of the many clear indications that shoppers have changed their behaviors – it is now ‘normal’ for car shoppers to decide which car to buy before they ever see it in person.

In fact, this behavior is more common than not as our research shows that 53% of shoppers visit only one dealership.1 With this behavior becoming the new routine for shoppers, it requires that automotive dealers reset their expectations on how to digitally merchandise their vehicles.  As an example, 8 out of 10 shoppers tell us they are more likely to consider a vehicle if it has a 360-degree spin included in its merchandising compared to a similar vehicle without one2, meaning that photos are no longer enough for online merchandising.

As a dealer, it becomes important that 360-degree spin content becomes part of the way you merchandise your vehicles – it is a key to creating transparency and building confidence with shoppers. We know that 73% of shoppers are more likely to consider a vehicle not at a local dealership if it has a 360-degree spin.2 With shoppers consistently expanding their shopping radius (approaching 100 miles on average), it dictates that this content be part of the way that every car is merchandised to win in today’s marketplace.

One solution that can help dealers meet shopper expectations is vAuto SnapLot 360.  This solution’s capability to capture 360-degree spins and extract both photos and a video make it more than a tool to capture your media, it becomes a transparency tool that builds trust in your dealership. 

Furthermore, as the exclusive 360-spin image tool available on Autotrader, SnapLot 360 can be utilized in conjunction with features such as Market Extension and Market Extension Essentials to effectively reach shoppers outside your local listing market.

In short, consumers seek the transparency that 360-degree spins offer and as dealers expand their geographic reach to coincide with customer shopping behavior, this form of immersive media plays an even more critical role. In fact, 83% of shoppers agree that with a 360-degree spin, they are more confident in the condition of the vehicle.2 Give consumers all the information they need and have come to expect so your lot is the one lot they visit. This has never been more important than now. With inventory tight, the right customer for your vehicle may be outside your local market so make sure you are arming your customers with the information they need, not to browse, but to buy from you.

Go beyond your local market with vAuto’s SnapLot 360


1 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey, 2020

2 HomeNet 360 Spin Consumer Research, May 2021

About the Author

Nathan Fox is Senior Director of Business Development for Cox Automotive’s Inventory Management Solutions brands which include vAuto and Kelley Blue Book Instant Cash Offer. In this role, Nathan leads the development of all inventory merchandising solutions. His primary focus is helping dealerships grow their business by having all the data and tools they need to ensure their inventory investments pay off. Prior to joining Cox Automotive, Nathan spent more than ten years in the consumer packaged goods industry working for organizations such as Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark. His CPG experience firmly shapes his approach to merchandising in the auto retail space. Nathan attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

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