To assist consumers in quickly finding and purchasing the products they want, leading internet retailers offer robust search capabilities. Shoppers using these innovative tools no longer have to sift through pages of near misses; instead, they hone in on exact matches by specifying criteria such as color, manufacturer and price, even the option to buy new or used. Automotive shopping sites such as Cars.com are adopting similar technology. The company recently began rolling out Guided Search to help car buyers simplify the process of identifying, locating and purchasing their next vehicle. With this new functionality, the quality of your online marketing determines whether your vehicles remain in contention or fall by the wayside. While Guided Search is still in beta testing, it will be rolled out to all Cars.com shoppers later this summer, so now is the time to make your listings perform better. Let’s look at the tactics that will help you to stand out from your competitors and connect with ready-to-buy shoppers.

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Merchandising Matters

To ensure your inventory receives the exposure and generates the response you want, invest the time needed to fully merchandise each listing. As car buyers select the criteria most important to them, the navigation system relies on this data to select – or eliminate – vehicles for their consideration. Among the information to include is:

  • Pricing. While car buyers tell us that price is not the only factor they take into account, it does play an important role. Shoppers typically know what they can afford and will focus on vehicles that offer the features they want and keep them within their budget. With Guided Search, listings without a price fall to the bottom of the results page or fail to appear. As shoppers request available vehicles within their price range, they’re more likely to click, for example, on the “$20,001-$25,000” link than “Not Priced.”
  • Photos. Including several, high-quality pictures with your new- and used-car listings allows you to demonstrate the vehicle’s unique features and prove its condition matches the description. Multiple photos also engage shoppers, encouraging them to spend more time learning about the vehicle and giving you a competitive edge. Put yourself in their shoes. If you wanted to be certain the car you’re considering will meet your needs, which link would you be more likely to click? “1-3,” “4-10,” “11-20,” “More than 20” or “None”? With sites such as Cars.com supporting up to 32 photos per listing, you should include as many pictures as possible.
  • Sell copy. Look beyond the VIN decoder to tell a story about the car, focusing on the driving and ownership experience and outlining its condition. Let shoppers know if the car has been well maintained and include details about its performance, styling and passenger/cargo capacity. If the vehicle is a “factory-certified,” “one-owner,” “non-smoker” car, say so in the seller’s notes. This information offers customers peace of mind and creates additional exposure opportunities when car buyers use Guided Search’s advanced keyword search capabilities.

What about your new cars? Consider writing sell copy for them, too. Just because a shopper has landed on one of your listings, that doesn’t mean they’re familiar the vehicle or its brand message.

Give the Full Picture

Beyond the vehicle itself, you’ll want to position your store to win more sales by:

  • Branding your dealership. Sites such as Cars.com allow you to create what’s known as a “batch tagline” that appears below your sell copy and can be customized for your new- and used-car listings. Use this space to tell your store’s story and promote the value of buying from you. An effective batch tagline focuses on your history in the community, industry recognition and marketing strengths (e.g., convenient location and free Wi-Fi in the service waiting room).
  • Keeping your inventory up-to-date. You can’t sell what customers don’t know you have. Just as you put all of your new and used vehicles on display in your dealership, be sure your virtual showroom also is current. You’ll also want to add your newest arrivals and remove your latest departures. Customers contacting you about a vehicle that is no longer available may feel they’ve landed in a bait-and-switch scenario when you tell them it’s been sold.

With this new generation of search technology, you can expect to connect with more ready-to-buy consumers – especially if you’ve fully merchandised them. How? Directing car buyers to the vehicles that meet their precise needs assures them they’ve found the right car, giving them the confidence they need to move forward and contact you for more information or an appointment.

Additional Resources

Looking for additional tips you can implement in your store today to drive more traffic with your online advertising and desk more deals with your internet sales processes? Check out Cars.com’s DealerCenter. Here, you can read previous editions of our DealerADvantage newsletter or listen to archived recordings of our DealerADvantage LIVE webinar series.