The Two Biggest Tips for Successful Used Car Merchandising

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What’s the most important thing people want to know about a used car? The story. Where it’s been and how it got there. Car shoppers want to know if the commuter car on your lot had regular service, or if that family SUV was in an accident – or a flood. Telling that story right up front, in the merchandising of the vehicle, is a great way to build credibility. Automotive merchandising is one of the most critical components to your used car program. It’s also complicated and time consuming.

Here are two of the most important areas to keep in mind when building a merchandising profile:

#1 Use the vehicle history to tell the story  

A car tells a story just with its mileage and its service history — probably the two pieces of information that used car buyers care most about. So don’t keep that information to yourself. Call out the right details in your vehicle merchandising to attract shoppers who match with that vehicle’s strengths. The description of the vehicle and additional VIN-specific information helps deliver people to the page who are looking for the specific features of that vehicle.

In a used car listing, buyers want to know about service and accident history, specific vehicle information, and the overall vehicle story. You should always include:

  • Information from the vehicle history report, including service records, ownership, location, vehicle condition, and anything else that’s relevant
  • Mileage and type of use, if possible
  • Standard and optional features
  • Any warranty information
  • An honest assessment of the car’s condition
  • The VIN
  • Details about maintenance and service records

Information such as the number of previous owners, accident information, mileage verification, lemon law, and recalls provide important context for the vehicle and its asking price. But also be sure to write about the other details that the shopper wants to know: how it drives, what the interior looks like, what the experience of driving the car feels like. If you’re merchandising a three-row SUV, write about legroom in the back row, and include a sentence or two about cargo capacity.

And make sure when you’re writing that you avoid abbreviations and acronyms — and always proofread!

#2 Develop a consistent and high-quality approach to visual vehicle content 

Online shoppers want to see the vehicle. Period. They don’t want big blocks of text or stock images (they make you look like you’re hiding the true condition of the car). Be mindful of these important tips on images as you’re creating your vehicle profiles:

  • Pick the right time and place to shoot: One hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset is the best time to take photos of a car because the sun is low. You get the right amount of light on the car and clear and sharp interior images. Remember to keep the background simple.
    • Always try to take photos with the sun behind you so that it lights up the car.
    • Try to keep your angle eye-level.
    • Make sure your car is washed, clean and spotless inside and out. Clean mats, tires, side wells and doors.
    • Show that odometer! A visual of the odometer proves the mileage stated in the description.
    • Shoot the wheels and tires – and don’t forget the tread.
  • What and how to shoot: Make sure your photos are clear and always have a focal point. Remember that shoppers care about different things based on what they’re shopping for: shoot a truck differently than a minivan, and a three-row SUV differently than a coupe.
  • Don’t forget the video: Images alone are not enough in today’s visual world. Your used car merchandising should include video, from simple walk-arounds to test drives. Think with Google found that over 75% of auto shoppers were influenced by video and more than 40% of shoppers who used video for research said that it helped them discover a vehicle they weren’t previously aware of. If you’ve never done a video before, start with a simple walk-around. Do a few takes; wear comfortable, flattering clothing, and smile like you mean it.

Maximize the effect of your vehicle profile by choosing the right car listing site. More than 20 million visitors a month choose CARFAX.com and 65% of them plan to buy within 7 days. Find out how you can use CARFAX Used Car Listings to sell more.

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