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Online Merchandising: The Key to Capturing Buyers | vAuto

In the past several years, digital vehicle merchandising has become vital to dealership profitability. While you might have expected a lessening in its importance after the pandemic, since car shoppers could safely return to showrooms in person, new data shows that’s not the case. Read on to see the research and learn how you can apply proven online merchandising tactics to your listings.

The Data on Today’s Car Shoppers

In the past, car shoppers went online to see the cars that were available and to narrow down their options. But today’s car shoppers don’t just look online to deselect cars — they look to select the ones they actually want to buy. That’s why online merchandising is so critical. Your listings have the power to drive sales way before a customer sets foot in your showroom.

Cox Automotive recently published data showing that:

  • 80% of car shoppers would consider buying vehicles online
  • 74% of car shoppers only compare cars online, not in person
  • 41% of car buyers go to only one dealership before purchasing
  • Online car shoppers look at dealerships up to 100 miles away

Winning Merchandising Strategies

Because so many car shoppers are making their purchasing decisions online before visiting a showroom, it’s more important than ever to follow our digital vehicle merchandising best practices. Here are some overarching merchandising strategies to help you along the way:

  • Provide the right information.

Make sure you populate your vehicle detail pages (VDPs) with the information that car shoppers are looking for. Shoppers interact far more with photos than with written content, and 80% of consumers would rather see photos with information overlays.

  • Build transparency.

Only 25% of consumers think the car buying process is transparent, but that’s based on their last purchasing experience. It’s clear that today’s consumers want transparency; for example, 91% want to see damage details on 360-degree spins. Upfront information about pricing policies and financing is also valuable to car shoppers.

  • Boost consumer confidence.

Testimonials, dealership and vehicle awards, warranty details, and service information all help car shoppers feel more confident in your dealership. And for 91% of car buyers, trust is the number-one factor in deciding where to make their purchase.

Dealership Inventory Photography Tips

You already include photos on your VDPs, but what can you do to be sure car shoppers see them? Jeremy Nowling, director of sales, digital retailing and implementation for Rohrman Auto Group, offered some great merchandising photo tips in a recent vAuto podcast. Here’s what works for his dealerships:

  • Upload photos immediately.
    The sooner you can get eyeballs on your car, the better. Consider hiring a merchandising manager who handles vehicle acquisition as well as merchandising so they can list vehicles before they even leave the auction site.

  • Craft banners and overlays carefully.
    As mentioned above, consumers want to see photos with information overlays — but which information you include makes all the difference. Advertise special APRs or specific features of the vehicles on your dealership inventory photography. If you’re listing a used vehicle, include the details that tell the car’s unique story or how you serviced or inspected it.
  • Select 36 photos that create the best customer experience.

The quantity of your dealership inventory photography helps your VDPs display higher in search results. And the sequence is key; Nowling suggests starting with the “limo pullup” photo — what a car shopper would see when walking up to a vehicle — and alternating between interior and exterior shots as you see fit. The idea is to recreate the experience a shopper would have if checking out the car on your lot. Nowling has found success in placing the 360-degree view last in the sequence.

Save Time With Software Tools

With the right process and tools, merchandising a vehicle should only take you up to 20 minutes. Use these tools to carry out your merchandising strategies with efficiency:

  • Intelligent Promotion
    This tool makes it easy for you to add your dealership’s branding and create bold, vehicle‑specific stories. With content that makes shoppers take notice, you can drive engagement and turn your VDPs into powerful selling tools.

  • SnapLot 360
    This app delivers the transparency shoppers demand by giving them full 360-degree spin views of any vehicle they’re considering. Using SnapLot 360, you can easily create and manage an immersive digital experience that makes your listings stand out, boosts shopper engagement and increases your dealership’s visibility.

To learn more about how vAuto’s merchandising tools will help your dealership, request a demo today.