When David Metter decided a few years back to take his online advertising to the next level, he borrowed a page from the real estate playbook. The chief marketing officer for MileOne Automotive, a large East Coast dealer group, realized the video realtors were adding to their listings could similarly boost his dealers’ engagement with in-market shoppers and their competitive edge.
“Consumers can look at photos, but if there’s a differentiator with video and a walk-around that tells them more about the vehicle, I think there’s a higher likelihood of them coming in to look at that car -- especially over one that does not have it,” Metter said. “Video gives you a better perspective on the car than just a flat photo; it’s more like a three-dimensional experience. Car buyers feel like they’re getting a true demonstration of the car instead of just a couple of photos of the vehicle sitting on the lot.”
MileOne began using video in late 2006 with the launch of its YouTube channel. The videos were primarily designed to support SEO initiatives but today range from why-buy-here testimonials to new make/model introductions and event marketing, as well as new-/used-car inventory and service specials. Managers immediately embraced the new initiative, Metter said, even though it meant additional work.
“They know video’s going to reflect on them in a positive way,” Metter said. “They’ve got the latest and greatest information about their vehicles, and it’s just going to make their new- and used-car offerings that much better. It was such a no-brainer decision.”
Video Performance Accelerates for MileOne
Today, MileOne records approximately 100,000 unique video views each month across its online channels -- including its websites, third-party listings and social media networks. For MileOne, Metter said, video:
Drives conversion. Since adding video to the MileOne toolkit, Metter said, inquiries from Internet shoppers have grown by a full percentage point. “For a dealer group the size of MileOne, moving from 8 percent to 9 percent conversion means an additional 10,000 to 12,000 leads per month. There are dealers and dealer groups that would do just about anything for an incremental jump like that.”
Boosts visibility. With Cars.com, Metter said, views of MileOne used-car videos climbed dramatically from a year ago. Visitors to the site watch more than 7,000 videos each month, up from approximately 900 in September 2009.
Fuels time on site. The average visitor to a MileOne website now spends an additional 75 seconds researching a vehicle purchase.
Video Demand Increases
With an estimated 90 percent of Americans now researching their next purchase online, MileOne’s performance is not unique. The 2009 Google/Compete Auto Video Study found that online viewership of automotive video multiplied six times since 2007 -- with ready-to-buy shoppers 14 times more likely to watch these clips than general Internet surfers. Top-rated content ranged from information about the car being considered (75 percent) to specifications (68 percent) and how it drives (52 percent). The most popular destinations included third-party shopping sites (60 percent), manufacturer sites (59 percent), dealer sites (52 percent) and YouTube (52 percent).
Perhaps most compelling, after watching these videos, shoppers take action:
61 percent visit a dealership
55 percent visit a manufacturer website
55 percent search dealer inventory
52 percent visit a dealer website
52 percent build and price a car with an online configurator
50 percent visit an automotive research site
“It’s not because people don’t have anything better to do,” Metter said. “Video keeps them on the site longer, it keeps them more interested. And it puts us in a position where we’re going to win over a competitor.”
Video Process Drives Results
MileOne uses both full-motion video and inventory-level video that simulates full motion by combining several still pictures and animating them with pan-and-zoom techniques. These automated videos can be inexpensively and quickly produced but deliver customized, professional results with integrated human voiceover narrations, informational graphics and text overlays. MileOne currently uses stitched video with its used-car listings and plans to add the capability for its new cars later this year.
Metter offered these tips for success:
Great stitched video begins with high-quality pictures. MileOne works with an in-house team to take 28 to 50 pictures of each used vehicle -- the first several of which are used to create the stitched videos. These initial pictures focus on the car’s key exterior and interior angles and highlight the most marketable features. The idea is to allow shoppers to take a virtual test drive and give them a sense of being in the driver’s seat.
Keep the shopper’s attention. Metter recommends that video demonstrations be limited to roughly 30 seconds in length. “Anything longer, and you’re not going to get people to watch all the way through. When you’re describing a vehicle, it’s got to be short and sweet.”
Build your brand. While the car is the star of the clip, Metter emphasizes the importance of including a marketing message for the dealership. All MileOne videos open with an introductory segment on why to buy from the dealer group and close with a map and directions to the store where the car is located.
While some Internet managers develop full-motion video for all of their listings, Metter does not believe the tactic is viable long term. “As much as I would like to think that’s going to happen, you’d have to be very diligent to go out and continuously shoot your new inventory.” Instead, he said, Internet managers are better advised to let automated tools do the heavy lifting and focus their time on merchandising, sales follow-up and preparing for the next phase of video marketing.
“I think it’s going to be mobile video,” Metter said. “We’re working now, very diligently, on how to be able to have our video show up on all of our mobile sites and how that’s going to be fully integrated.”
MileOne Automotive was formed in 1997, Maryland-based MileOne Automotive (mileonecorporate.com) operates more than 60 stores, representing 27 brands, and nine collision centers in Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The dealer group offers a new- and used-car inventory of upward of 15,000 vehicles.
Michael Page is vice president of advertising products for Cars.com, where he provides strategic direction for the company's dealer and manufacturer initiatives. Page began his career with Cars.com in 2000 as an affiliate sales manager, gaining firsthand experience with the internet marketing challenges dealers face. He became vice president of affiliate sales in 2005. Under Page's leadership, Cars.com strengthened its affiliate network and assisted dealers nationwide in implementing effective online advertising and sales processes. Prior to joining Cars.com, he worked in media sales and marketing.