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The basics of selling vehicles Online

Andre Ferreira

I met a prospective new Dealership and discussed ways to improve their Online vehicle sales. Here’s a summary of that discussion:

There are 4 things you can concentrate on when it comes to merchandising your vehicles Online that will affect the results you achieve.

1. Price. 

Price isn’t the be all and end all of selling vehicles, but making sure you are competitively priced gets you in the game. 

Without a competitive price to begin with you're simply not going to be in the game to start with. You don’t have to be the cheapest, but you have to be able to justify your price clearly if you're more. The Carsales website (and other classified websites) have made it very easy for customers to do price research Online very quickly. 

Customers will get a gauge on pricing by including vehicles nationally in their search, then refine their search down to target a series of vehicles - or their shortlist. Often they have every intention of buying from their local dealer, but they use the Internet as a basis for negotiating their deal. Often people will pay more because of the convenience and trust associated with buying locally. 

But still you have to be competitively priced to make to get the vehicle an entry in the game.

2. Photos. 

Once you're in the game, there are some key things you can do to help differentiate your vehicle from the rest. 

One of the best ways we've seen Dealers differentiate their vehicles is by improving the quality of the photos they take of their vehicles. 

Before I go into that in more detail, the number of photos you take is also important. 

1. Carsales may rank your vehicles higher in their list pages if you have 12 or more photos for a vehicle vs less than 12 photos. 

2. Customers love to look at detailed photos of a vehicle that they;re interested in buying. You almost can’t have too many photos because of the insatiable appetite customers have for “looking” vehicles Online. Our suggestion at the moment is to aim for 20 photos per vehicle. In the US many Dealers will have twice that number of photos per vehicle. By looking for ways to improve the consistency, quality and number of photos you take per vehicle will immediately have an impact on the number of views and leads you receive. 

To give you 2 examples of the quality I mean, take a look at this site http://www.qsm.com.au/show_vehicle.php?id=208. Granted QSM is a relatively low volume dealership so they can probably afford to spend more time on getting their photos to this quality. In our view QSM probably take the best vehicle photography we've seen in Australia. The sizzle of their vehicles just jump off the page. And they do the same for every vehicle. Imagine if you could get this quality for a 2005 Ford Fiesta. Do you think the vehicle would stand out in the sea of maybe 3,000 other Fiestas for sale on Carsales? You bet it would! It might be exactly the same Fiesta model, kms etc as the next one, but the one taken at the quality that QSM takes theirs will win the customer's enquiry every time. 

FTG Holden and Suzuki in Melbourne is an example of a high volume Dealership, but who take extraordinary quality photos every time - http://www.ferntreegullyholden.com.au/VehicleSearchResults?search=preowned&pageNumber=1&visitedVD=true. If you don't believe me that the quality of their photos has made a difference to their sales and bottom line, call FTG Holden and Suzuki's DP Brett Field: 03 9753 1266. Brett is one of our great clients and would be happy to receive a call from you. Brett shares our passion for Online marketing. 

There are more tips I am happy to share with you to help you produce consistent and exceptionally high quality photos of your vehicles. If you want to discuss, feel free to call me. 

Another quick point on photos: Actual photos of a vehicle will outsell vehicles with stock imagery every time - that goes for new, demo and used. Often Dealers are very good at taking photos of their used vehicles, but Demo vehicles are often overlooked. Therein lies an opportunity. Remember your vehicle won’t even get a look-in by customers until it has photos. There are simply too many vehicles available Online with photos that customers will just gravitate towards vehicles with photos.

3. Vehicle Comments.

Take some examples of current vehicles you have in stock and selling Online and do a search on these in Carsales. Now filter the search to display just “Private Seller” vehicles only and study their vehicle comments. 

Granted some do it better than others, but if you look around a bit you'll find some examples of vehicle comments that just gives you a brilliant insight into that particular vehicle. 

Keep in mind that although you may have 50 vehicles in stock, customers mostly buy them 1 at a time. You therefore, need to make sure that each any everyone you have in stock has its message. What makes it special? I always tell Dealers to look at Private Sellers’ Vehicle Comments if they want inspiration for writing good comments. Even though every Dealer in Australia now understands the importance the Internet directly plays in the sales they achieve, many Dealers don’t spend enough time on writing good quality comments of their vehicles. Therein lies your opportunity to differentiate your vehicles from the sea of other vehicles in the market. There is a lot more I can say about Comments, and if you’re interested in delving deeper into this topic, please give me a call.

4. Speed to market and completeness of content.

And the 4th thing you can do to merchandise your vehicles more effectively Online has to do with speed and having complete content. 

First speed. Do you know how long it takes you to get a vehicle 100% properly merchandised Online on average from the day you take it into stock. That is detailing it, entering the data into your DMS, taking photos, pricing it, writing comments etc? If you start by tracking this for a while you might find that it takes you a week or 2 weeks for example from the day you take a vehicle into stock before it's 100% properly merchandised Online. 

The key here is to remember that you are not giving your vehicle the best chance of a look-in until it is 100% properly setup Online. If you then spend some time to work on your processes with the goal to reduce this time, you will immediately come on the boil more. 

And secondly: the completeness of your vehicle content is the final link in the basics of setting your vehicle up properly Online to maximise it’s opportunities for look-ins, enquiries and sales. 

Complete content is easy to overlook when you have a lot of vehicles in stock. For example a vehicle may have most of its content, but no transmission type, body type or fuel type listed. 

These seemingly "little" bits of content can make all the difference to the customer - who remember - buys vehicles one at a time. 

Thankfully, you can now easily track down these gaps in your vehicles merchandising with the Digital Dealer Control Dashboard. 

None of the above costs any more to do, but by focusing on these things and lifting your quality and focus in each of these areas will lift your throughput.

Back to the prospective Dealership - who has since become one our great clients - I met with their GSM recently who told me that from that meeting, they decided not to second guess what I told them. They simply agreed to take on board the advice, and do it and see what happens. 

The response was that they increased their average number of used vehicles sold per month from 30 vehicle to more than 75 vehicles in less than 8 months by doing the things above – they’re turning their stock over 11x a year. Their gross per vehicle also improved and they have since been able to keep up their sales consistently to 75+ used vehicles sold per month. Their GSM said that one of the things they became obsessed with was speed to market. They tracked and found that it was taking them about 27 days on average to get a vehicle in-stock properly merchandised. Then through a lot of effort they were able to bring that down to around 8 days. And the results just flowed. 

This discussion happened before we completed the Digital Dealer Dashboard, which you'll notice has been specifically developed to assist with these basics … and now much more than that.

The above points are all basics. But they say "advanced players" are just those doing the basics better and being consistent!

Share my story with your team and let me know how you go.