Nick Hummer
Nick Hummer

Cars.com
Product Manager

Whether through a data collection service, your DMS or customized online tools such as Cars.com’s InventoryEditor, you have many different ways to submit your inventory to third-party automotive shopping sites. Cars.com product manager Nick Hummer explains what information to include in your inventory file – and what to leave out.

What is an Inventory File?

For starters, don’t be thrown by the word “file.” Inventory can be logged in a variety of ways. There doesn’t need to be an actual text document or spreadsheet. Generally, “inventory file” refers to whatever medium is used to transmit your inventory data. Less important than the type of “file” is the information inside it.

What Information Should be in an Inventory File?

In a word, everything. Remember, the more you tell about your cars the easier it is to sell them. Here are a few rules to remember when developing your inventory files:

  • Always include the basics. This can’t be stressed enough. Consumers want to see prices. They want to know the mileage. They want to know if the car is blue, sky blue or teal. Cars without the basic vehicle information never do as well as cars that are fully merchandised.
  • Include optional features. Most automotive shopping sites have a research section that shoppers can use to find the standard features on most popular cars. Instead of telling car buyers about the AM/FM cassette deck, tell them about the optional moonroof or the special heated seats and special edition seat covers. Focus on the special features, not the standard ones.
  • Tell a story. Each car is unique. Make sure you show the consumer why. Most inventory management solutions include a section for a tagline or seller’s notes. Use it. This is your chance to be creative, to be funny, to catch the shopper’s attention – and to really demonstrate the value of your cars.
  • Don’t be afraid of dents. Believe it or not, arming consumers with knowledge of a car’s history, even its bumps in the road, actually helps. By giving buyers a complete overview of the vehicle’s wear and tear, shoppers end up with a better understanding of the car’s price and it reduces the chances of a customer showing up at the dealership and walking out disappointed at the big tear in the upholstery.

What Information Should Not be in an Inventory File?

While the most successful inventory files include a wealth of information, there are some details you should not include:

  • Don’t drive buyers away with external links. Don’t pull prospects away from your listing with a link to another destination. Focus on getting that phone call or email by keeping them in your listing, not driving them away with distractions.
  • Avoid using phone numbers or email addresses. Automotive shopping sites that showcase your listings will provide the buyer with many ways to contact your store. By including contact information in your listings that deviates from the trackable numbers and emails provided by these services, you make it harder to track your ROI on these sites and also risk confusing shoppers with too many points of contact.
  • Avoid HTML. At Cars.com, we spend significant time and money to design our site so that it encourages consumers to contact you. HTML may look pretty in your listing, but it’s also distracting and may take people off the lead path. Even worse, it can break a page and prevent your listing from displaying correctly.
  • Do not use repetition. You don’t need to list the price of the car in your tagline field, and you don’t need to list the color in the options field. All you’re doing is eating up valuable real estate that could be better used to tell the shopper more about the car. Such information is already included in your ads. 

Sites such as Cars.com take great efforts to place your information exactly where consumers need it. Take advantage of that and use your inventory file to fully merchandise your cars. Include the details you’d want to see if you were in the market to buy.

More Information

To learn more about Cars.com’s InventoryEditor on MyDealerCenter to manage your inventory file, please contact your sales representative or call 800.298.1460.