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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Aleksandra Banas

Aleksandra Banas Digital Marketing Manager

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How Merchandising Strategy Drives Online Sales

The automotive industry is engulfed with numerous advertising outlets that can be utilized to drive customers into the dealership. Everything from billboard signs, TV commercials, newspaper ads, radio spots, third party websites and most recently social media platforms scream for their attention. A deeper look will uncover that car deals are lost when a merchandising strategy is overlooked.

Art Angielski, Dealer principal of Sherwood Park Toyota says “Advertising and merchandising are not the same, but when both are done right they work together to sell more cars.”

Properly merchandising cars is the first step in modern online automobile sales and drives the overall digital strategy of any dealership. The overlooked core competency in the automotive industry today is the commitment to a solid online merchandising strategy. Merchandising is what solidifies a dealerships ability to motivate a consumer to want to make a purchase prior to dealing with a salesperson.  The new online customer expects all the details and disclosures to be present online. If done properly by providing the granular details about a vehicle, dealerships create a feeling of trust and transparency.

A merchandising strategy for the online marketplace should include the following:

  • A dedicated in-house employee that is responsible for merchandising all the vehicles. They should be physically fit, knowledgeable and detail oriented. An underperforming sales person is not the right choice.  A dedicated employee that takes responsibility for the online inventory health of a dealership can dramatically affect the bottom line of a store.  cDemo’s Merchandising scorecard outlines the measurements that managers can use to drive “ONLINE INVENTORY HEALTH"
  • A Merchandising strategy should include the incorporation and capture of 35+ actual photos, producing real video (not stitched photos with a funky voice over), disclosures as relates to condition, verified all equipment and options.  Today’s online consumer is looking for the best value so I would recommend to always include your best price. The same can be said for wear and tear disclosures, the scratches and dings do not magically disappear when the customer arrives so why not be upfront with them on the Internet.
  • GO MOBILE!  Mobile Smartphones are no longer handicapped by poor quality cameras. The new standard of a quality device is 8 Megapixels for photos and HD (1080p) for video recording. Having the ability to connect to backend systems via a smartphone is a major time saving advantage; vehicles can be merchandised and uploaded within minutes of arrival or even right after they have been purchased at the auction.

Creating transparency and trust will move customers closer to your business when it comes to selling and advertising online.  The benefits that all dealerships that commit to a well organized merchandising strategy include more leads, more appointments set, higher close rates and faster turns on their inventory.

In Dennis Galbraith’s most recent book “ONLINE VEHICLE MERCHANDISING” he states, “Online automotive merchandising is the process of producing sales content. It must sell effectively and be produced in a timely and efficient manner”.  His book was written to provide managers with the understanding and strategic thinking necessary to oversee a successful merchandising operation. I highly recommend you take the time to read this book.
Jim Bell
Great post Jay. Your online merchandising won't only help internet sales, but it will also increase your total overall sales at the dealership. There is no reason why dealers these days shouldn't be posting photos of all of their vehicles online as soon as possible. The faster you have the photos up, the sooner someone will click on it and may just show up in your showroom.
Jeremy Alicandri
Very true. We use a company called MAX AD SYSTEMS that helps automate some of these tasks.

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