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While the prospect of online auto dealerships may still seem far off to some, there’s no denying that they’re coming. The online behaviours of automotive buyers indicates that customers  around the world are increasingly turning to online methods of viewing and comparing vehicles, browsing for better prices, and to do their research about vehicles, dealership, payment plans, and every other step of the auto-buying process. According to Autotrader, the top five online activities conducted by online car buyers included researching prices (71%), finding listings (68%), comparing models (64%), looking up what their current vehicle is worth (63%), and finding a dealership and their contact information (46%).

Autotrader also reports that automotive buyers spend around 59% of their time online researching the vehicle(s) that they are interested in, and that the majority of vehicle buyers start off undecided – six out of ten buyers are shown to be open to multiple vehicle options. With this said, it’s also reported that walk-in dealership visits are still conducted by about 54% of used vehicle buyers, still serving as the most popular form of initial contact with dealers. Buyers browse a variety of websites looking for vehicle details and an ideal dealership, with some buyers having as many as 900 digital points of contact before ever stepping foot onto a dealership lot.

The influence of visuals in the buying process

Giving buyers the ability to see clearly what their buying options are is an extremely important step in attracting customers to your dealership – online platforms like Carvana, the American online used vehicle purchasing and selling website, have excelled in this area. When using Carvana, browsers get a fully detailed look at every aspect of a vehicle in the form of professionally taken photos of a car’s exterior and interior, letting users view every angle, detail, and even change colour options. 

Platforms like Carvana and used auto dealerships with a heavy focus on high quality visual content on their websites and social media platforms have a distinct advantage over others. People are naturally visual thinkers, with the majority of information sent to the brain being visual, and about 65% of people being visual learners. As a result, 63% of consumers have reported that high quality product images and videos are more important than descriptions, and 53% consider images more important than ratings and reviews.

Establishing a “digital showroom”

While a dealership’s digital showroom doesn’t necessarily have to go into the high level of detail seen on platforms like Carvana, having high quality photographs and vehicle details is a must. This means having every car on a lot should be listed online, with photos of their interior and exterior, information about mileage, basic specs, standard equipment, and anything else that might be of importance to a buyer. 

Consistency is the key with digital showroom listings – every vehicle should be shot against the same background and in the same environment with the same equipment. Sloppy photographs of varying qualities taken in different locations will turn buyers off, and send them to another dealership with higher quality content.

Also, posting descriptions and galleries featuring a few photos of a new arrival to the lot on platforms like Instagram and Facebook will get the attention of customers. Platforms like YouTube are another great tool for showing off the vehicles – seven out of ten vehicle buyers reported that their buying decisions were influenced by viewing test drive, model review, feature outlines, and walkthrough videos on YouTube. 

The power of visual content is proven every day in the buying and content consumption habits of people all around the world. Dealerships that adapt to these trends will be able to easily compete with the online dealerships of the near future.