What Your Merchandising Tells Car Shoppers

Car shoppers want to see more photos and read more detailed sellers notes.  Period.  That’s the key insight we learned from our latest Voice of the Consumer survey.  If you needed another kick to update your vehicle merchandising strategy, let this be it.

In December 2016, we found that 87 percent of car shoppers surveyed said they are looking for cars for sale¹.  We also found that of that 87 percent, 55 percent of those surveyed are researching car pricing and 54 percent are comparing vehicles¹.  Knowing this, what role do you think your merchandising plays in influencing car shoppers to spend time on your VDPs?  Does your vehicle merchandising even entice consumers to send a traditional lead or encourage them to show up to the lot?  Take a step back and evaluate the photos you take of your inventory and the way you write your sellers notes for an effective, cohesive merchandising strategy.

Auto shoppers want real-time information.  We know from our own research that 63 percent of auto shoppers were still researching dealerships after showing up onto a dealer’s lot, and more than half of those visited additional dealerships based on what they found via their mobile devices².  Your merchandising can be a key influencer in helping car shoppers decide where and with whom to do business – and it may not be you.

What Do Car Shoppers Want, and What Can you Do?

Let’s talk specifics about what you can do to better merchandise for the in-market car shopper.  Cars.com continually takes consumer feedback into consideration for updates to the user experience.  A good deal of what we receive deals with available vehicle content.  Car shoppers are asking for more details about vehicles saying, “improve filter options by making dealers correctly load all details about the car.”  Additionally, we’ve heard that we should prioritize search results based on VDPs having full photos, sellers notes, and contact information.  Of course, we will never prioritize one dealer over another in a search.  But, these are responses to our question of how we should improve Cars.com, and it’s in dealers’ own power to do it while helping themselves.

If consumers are clamoring for more information on vehicles via photos, sellers notes, and contact information, it’s those dealers who take the time to merchandise thoroughly and creatively who are gaining in market share, growing their sales, and influencing people to show up on the lot.  It’s also those dealers who completely fill out all vehicle details and features sections on a VDP that can garner more attention from consumers online.

What can you do?  Dedicate resources to take quality photos of available inventory.  While we offer stock photos of new inventory, up to date pictures of vehicles can go a long way in satisfying car shoppers needs.  A well detailed, creative paragraph of sellers notes can also satisfy car shoppers and encourage them to contact the dealership with a phone call or email or even to show up on the lot.  Indeed, it’s those dealers that completely fill out all vehicle details and features sections that will benefit from consumers visiting Cars.com.  Those fields feed into the filters that car shoppers use to narrow down their search.  If you don’t have specifics on your vehicle filled out – you miss out!

If the manpower doesn’t exist at your dealership to cover the volume of inventory, working with your DMS provider can lessen the burden.  Have the conversation with your DMS for more detailed photos taken more often and provide examples and guidelines for your sellers notes.

Consumers are asking for more detailed information on vehicles when they are researching.  If it comes down to a customer comparing one of your vehicles against a competitor who has more information on their VDPs, you may have lost them.

[1] Cars.com Insights, December, 2016.

[2] Behavioral Analytics on Mobile, Cars.com, Q3 2016.

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