The Three Truths About Vehicle Merchandising

Published April 24, 2019
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I’ve been attending Digital Dealer conferences for 5 years and have been lucky enough to speak on 6 occasions. Each conference is familiar, yet new at the same time. I love speaking with dealers and partner clients about the state of the industry and the impact of vehicle merchandising. I learn just as much as I teach.

This year was particularly exciting thanks to Marie Lafkiotes, Chief Marketing and Digital Officer of JD Byrider, who joined me at the end of my breakout session, “Driving Visibility Through Immersive Online Merchandising.” During this presentation, I revealed the three truths that remain constant in the realm of merchandising, while Marie shared JD Byrider’s success by acknowledging and adapting to each of these three key areas.

Technology is changing

Technology is evolving into a smarter, faster and more convenient resource. Progressive dealerships like JD Byrider are taking advantage of tools that can automate and streamline their merchandising process.

Creating a meaningful connection with car shoppers begins by producing an immersive listing for them to engage with. Techniques like photo backgrounding and 360-degree displays make the vehicle as to the focal point of the listing. In fact, 73% of shoppers who browsed or bought/leased thought 360 displays were very important and 80% thought it reflected well on the dealership.

“By integrating with 360 technology, our store operators are able to provide an elevated online experience that will separate them from competitors and enable customers to easily shop our inventory from anywhere on any device,” Lafkiotes shared during our Digital Dealer 26 session. “This is a key component of our digital transformation.”

They also focus on text and their vehicle descriptions. Traditionally they have been a time-consuming part of any merchandising process, but the software to automate this detail of a listing is becoming more palatable across the industry. Vehicles with descriptions receive 27% more Vehicle Details Page (VDP) views than those without and are prioritized higher on the Search Results Page (SRP) of listings websites like Autotrader due to relevancy.

Consumer behavior is evolving

Car buyers are changing the way they shop as a direct result of changing technology. Thanks to applications like Uber and Netflix, consumers expect highly personalized experiences that give them exactly what they are looking for with less effort.

Car shoppers continue to spend less time in the market, down to 96 days according to the newest Cox Automotive research. They’re shopping in new places, like social media platforms. Successful dealers are seeing tremendous growth in engagement on places like Facebook Marketplace, largely because they are promoting their inventory where shoppers are already spending their time.

Not only that, but shoppers are visiting only one dealership on average. Meaning, if you can provide the content shoppers are seeking and get them to your physical lot, your chances of turning a vehicle increase.

To win, you need to measure

I talk a lot about the importance of proper tracking and measurements to determine success. Track how long it takes to get a vehicle from reconditioning to fully merchandised an online. Can you find ways to reduce this time?

Keep an eye on which images are getting the most views on a listing page and consider focusing on those. If you can’t get a full set of images on a listing right away, try again at a different time in the merchandising process because vehicles with just a single custom photo receive 193% more VDP views than one with a stock image.


Remember, competition is getting fiercer and dealers are getting incrementally better. Adopting simple changes in each of these areas, much like JD Byrider has done, will improve your brand differentiation while supplying the personalized experience shoppers are demanding, setting you up for long-term success.