This questions brings about the revolving door of agreements for many Dealers. Once upon a time there was just Cars.com and AutoTrader.com to consider. Often we heard of Dealerships signing up for one and canceling the other, only to reverse it months later. It became a lever to pull and perhaps for some just a method to explain reduction in sales.
As the years have passed we have seen other players join the market and dillute the effectiveness by pulling marketshare. Cargurus, Edmonds and others have gained the customer’s attention and shown opportunities for Dealers to use their sites to promote inventory.
Additionally, these became sites that Dealers would join and cancel. To the frustration of these Companies, the response from the Dealership was often “I don’t feel like it is working”
Not all Dealerships should use 3rd party sites.
The reason why a Dealership should or should not post their inventory on a site like Cars.com or AutoTrader is not about the size of the Dealership or even where they are located. A small store selling 30 cars at an independent store can gain significant increases in sales even in the most rural location. While at the same time can be completely ineffective for a 400 car store in a Large metro.
The differential is the differnetial.
As inventory is rebounding, or has rebounded for many, the consumer is returning to the position of choice. They are not forced to take the one you have in fear that they will not find a vehcile that will fit their needs. This means we have to return to a position of selling. Just posting a vehicle on the site will not sell it, or sell it quickly.
A vehicle should be properly merchandised – just like we use to. Simply posting a poorly merchanidised vehicle on more sites will not bring the results. Unlike the Dealership website, the audience that is seeing your vehicle may not know who you are. You have not developed trust yet, and your vehicle is being compared by sometimes thousands of others. They need to stand out – they need to clearly show the value. If a Dealership is unwilling or unable to properly market the vehicle then they should save their ad budget by staying off listing sites. wh
The three pillars of merchandising
Every vehicle is different. Their differences can add value, especially in today’s climate when many Dealers have relaxed thier merchandising efforts. The basics of this have not changed in nearly 25 years. There are more tools to help now, but it still takes effort on the Dealership’s side to ensure success. These can be broken down into three areas.
PHOTOS – There is a lot of tempation for some to use stock images. Stock photos have improved a lot over the years, however they do not replace the value of a real images. This signals to customers that the vehcile is actually there. Taking that first image consistently increases confidence of the professionalism of the Dealership.
The more photos – the better. Provided they are good photos of meaningful items. Remember the seat controls, climate control system and navigational screens. Ensure that the vehicle is started and warning lights are not displayed on pictures of the dash. Use a devoted spot to take the photos that is clear of debris and other vehicles that take away focus on the images. New cars do not need photos of all four tires but it is helpful for some buyers on preowned.
DESCRIPTIONS – This is the easiest impact that you can make. Lead with the top three differnetials: Sunroof, Navigation, Leather, 360 camera…etc. Features and beenfits. Not jsut a long list of buttons and gadgets. Help them make a connection with the vehicle. These comments will post to your site and the 3rd parties so include a link to key pages like the finance application (not hyperlinked) and the Dealership phone number. Include ammentities like home delivery, or home test drive if applicable. Remember this may be your only chance to sell this car to this customer.
PRICING – Certainly a pain point for some right now. The worry about leaving money on the table and watching front-end gross constrict. Now, as always, pricing has nothing to do with the profit that you want to make on the vehicle. Conditions of the market shift daily. While some of your neighboring Dealers may be holding strong to higher grosses, those in the local 30 mile search area may not be. A customer will make a 30 mile drive to save $1,000 on a car. Some may do that for a couple hundred dollars. At the same time if your price is too low – it may make the prospective customer wary that there is something they don’t know about the vehciel – or that there is something wrong with it.