Get Your Merchandising Mojo on: Show Off Your Goods

David Sharma is the founder of Dealer InLine, a company that provides full service online development and management for automotive dealerships by creating and implementing innovative online approaches that align with dealerships brand, goals and targeted sales strategies. The company delivers the most current and effective methods to enhance all avenues in which a dealer engages consumers online and in-store.

Add some pizzazz to pull in customers

If you’ve been following this conversation, you know how reviews can beef up your website and have worked with your team to make any necessary improvements. Now it’s time to showcase your core business- your inventory of cars.

And in today’s digital age, merchandising the car is more important than ever. If you approach it right, not only will you increase website traffic, but also your used car department turns. That boosts profits and keeps all your departments well fed, to ensure a smoothly running dealership. Merchandising isn’t just about used vehicles, especially since fewer customers are visiting your physical dealership. With more customers making judgment calls online, you can also leverage your merchandising efforts in the new car department.

In your customers’ shoes
Where do you start? One way is to simply check the used vehicles on your lot and evaluate how they’re presented. What does your customer experience? Try doing a bi-weekly Lot Walk, to put you in your customers’ shoes. Take this handy checklist as your guide:
• Certified Outline (Sticker/POP),
• Licence plate frames, perhaps colour coded plates including the year of the vehicle,
• Separating vehicles based on their certification,
• Organizing vehicles based on model (trucks, vans, sedans, compacts, off-makes),
• Points/membership Program outline (Sticker/POP),
• Value proposition of the Used Car department (Sticker/POP).

Does your lot face the road or the dealership? That should depend on what works best for your location. Consider rearranging them regularly to see what has the maximum impact. Are higher priced units more visible than the others? Finally, is the re-con consistent? Consider the following:
• Body,
• Tires,
• Interior,
• Smell,
• Accessories,
• Keys,
• Owner’s Manual.

Impress virtual customers
Once you know what works best for your location and your used car resources, the above items will help keep everything consistent. As you make corrections to your physical inventory, you’ll want to promote it online. Virtual customers will be impressed by how much care you put into your inventory.

How can you make this transition? Simply analyze your competition and improve on their deficiencies.

Try creating a used car section with the following categories:
• CPO vs. non-CPO,
• Photos,
• Videos,
• Descriptions,
• Carproof.

Inventory portals with quantities:
• Auto Trader,
• Kijiji,
• Wheels/AutoCatch,
• Car Pages,
• Auto123,
• CarGurus,
• Dealer Rater,
• Manufactures website(CPO),
• Facebook.
Within each of the above categories, record the research from your store to your competitors, focusing on improvements that will increase inventory views.

First, does your lot inventory match your website inventory? And do they match all the inventory portals in which you’re participating?

Are you distinguishing your CPO vehicles? Variations in pricing between identical certified vs. non-certified cars can detract and dissuade online customers.

Be transparent
Your photos are one of the most important ways to generate eyeballs and leads to your staff. CarMax and Texas Direct use awesome photos to sell vehicles by phone or from their website. Take their approach to detailing and capturing photos, working with your website provider to embed generic videos of these vehicles. Record a one-minute video of the unit with the right keywords and post it on YouTube.

Descriptions are also key to your merchandising: are you listing the history of the vehicle? Have all product advisors ask questions about trade-ins and record the answers on the back of the appraisal form. Include these in your descriptions, together with the recon work, replacement parts and the car’s current state. Be transparent about accidents by listing all details within the description, including a downloadable CarProof report.

Add some pizzazz! Look up models on Edmunds and Cars.com, listing their features and benefits. Finally, add your dealership’s unique selling proposition and the advantages of shopping at your used car department. That will give readers and Google the right verbiage about your inventory, pulling more traffic to your website and partner portals.

Conquesting
One of the important elements in this research is reviewing the portals for which you’re paying to have your inventory listed. Review your dealer profile and ensure that it’s correct. Send in a test lead to see if any fields are missing. Are other dealers conquesting your listings with their banners and raining on your parade?

If you are unsure of any of these questions, contact the customer service reps (CSR) and ask them those questions. Don’t get upsold! Just fix the profile and make sure that those CSRs know that you are reviewing the portals, and ask them to make recommendations on how to improve your current efforts. Make sure you also take a look and document what your competitors are listing.

From this analysis and improvements to your merchandising practises, your inventory will be poised to sell. The budgets that you dedicate to inventory portals will garner more leads, ultimately allowing for more turns in your inventory and thus more profits and better usage of your facility, staff and resources.

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