Invariably, dealers use several online classifieds websites to optimise exposure of used vehicles to as many potential car buyers as possible.
Dermot Kelleher, director of marketing and business intelligence at Motors.co.uk, which counts Parkers.co.uk and RAC Cars as partner automotive websites, said: “Listing stock on more than one website means they dramatically improve their chances of reaching more in-market car buyers.”
Nick King, insight director at Auto Trader, added: “Success today is all about your stock – making sure you find the right stock at the right price, advertise it and, if it doesn’t sell, trade it on or get out of it quickly.”
According to Auto Trader data, vehicles that are priced 100-101% of the market take an average 30-35 days to sell while those which don’t can take twice as long. The price difference is negligible, with 104% of the market being too high and dealers also have to be wary of pricing too low.
King said: “The price has to be in line with the market from day one, it has to be priced right to appear in the searches.”
Neil Smith, operations director at car supermarket Imperial Cars, said: “If you don’t price cars right, they won’t sell. We do change the price and sometimes twice in a week to ensure we are in the top five and appear above the fold.”
CarGurus incorporates a pricing tool to enable dealers to price based on data and market forces, said Lisa Iannucci, director of B2B marketing: “It’s not a race to the bottom. Dealers don’t have to be the cheapest to do a deal with the customer but pricing to the mean is important.”
At Imperial 40+ images are uploaded of each vehicle. High resolution photos are taken using a DSLR camera with vehicles on a turntable for a panoramic view as well as providing consistency. Vehicles are fully valeted while bodywork is painted if required rather than opting for smart repair.
Smith said: “We make sure there is nothing about the car’s presentation which could put people off. Our cars are generally two- to three-years-old but we ensure they look the way they did when new.”
Multiple high resolution images help create ‘desire’ in the car-buyer, according to King, who also advises using video. In fact, Auto Trader has the capacity to upload 100 images for each vehicle.
Iannucci said: “Dealers need to make the time to write compelling descriptions and upload extensive imagery.”
Kelleher said: “It is important to highlight a car’s key selling points, both through images and descriptions, to spark consumer interest. By stepping away from standardised car guide descriptions, dealers can create compelling reasons for a consumer to want to buy a vehicle.”
Likewise King recommends ditching the Cap or Glass’s description: “If someone walked into the pub and you were telling them about the car, that’s the language you should use when you describe it in the ads.”
Imperial Cars tends to retail high specification premium vehicles and utilises HPI’s specification check to ensure accuracy.
Smith said: “It only takes one slip up when the original specification was documented to overlook a feature or mistakenly record it for us to advertise a car wrongly.
“We need to be certain the specification is accurate so the consumer isn’t mis-sold and we are pricing the vehicle correctly. It is not uncommon for our vehicles to have £10-12k of factory-fit extras and we want to include that in the description.”
Increasingly, successful dealers are relying on sophisticated technology to identify the best stock for a particular location.
Imperial Cars’ Smith said: “We can see if the market shifts and we make sure the car is in the right place to sell. We would rather spend £50 to transport the car to the right place than reduce the price by £50. We have sold some cars which the data has told us are popular but we would not have otherwise stocked.
“We are starting to see improvement in stock turn as a result of using the data, but we also weigh everything up. Data provides us with options. If Auto Trader is telling us something is hot at the moment we may have a go.”
CarGurus’ Iannucci believes tools are worth the investment: “We recommend that dealers use tools to determine what shoppers are looking for in their market and how that compares to their local inventory which means they can make informed decisions to improve stock turn.”
Iannucci said: “Dealers need to know how well each of their channels is performing and continually refine according to what they are seeing.”
CarGurus provides feedback to dealers such as showing how listings perform, what percentage of cars are rated as fair, good and great and audits based on how many photos each vehicle is displaying so dealers can optimise investment.
Kelleher of Motors.co.uk said: “Tracking performance measurements, such as detailed page views and sales enquiries, helps dealers identify how consumers are responding to their adverts and how they can be improved. We believe dealers who focus on performance levers within their control, such as sales processes and marketing strategies, will be the ones who succeed.”
Smith said: “If a channel isn’t delivering, don’t advertise on it. When a car is not being viewed, if we lower the price by £100 and then the ad views jump, we know it’s right.”
The showroom experience
Dealers can have the very best classified advertising strategy in place but if that experience isn’t reflected when contact is made with the business, consumers will move on.
Iannucci said: “Consumers expect quick responses. For our reviews we use an open text box where customers can write freely and the dealer response level is something which comes up regularly.”
King added: “There are multiple elements which come together to ensure a car is more likely to be sold. You can have the right car at the right price with all the imagery, but trust can quickly disappear if a customer turns up on site and has to wait around for two hours.”
Three years after being the first retailer to upload a vehicle’s provenance and RAC inspection report on its website, Imperial is still one of the few providing this level of transparency online.
Smith believes it to be a major contributory factor to the group’s success. July was a record month with 1,001 units sold compared to its previous best of 888 vehicles.
Smith said: “Consumers can check everything on our website. They also want to know the part-exchange valuation and use a finance calculator to check monthly payments. We put everything out there so the consumer is as informed as possible. By being so open and transparent we are giving the consumer more confidence in the car and our business.”
While reviews boost trust, King agrees tools such as part-exchange evaluation and finance calculators increase consumer confidence in the sale.
He said: “Our data shows 39% of people aged over 45 dread buying a used car so anything you do to make that experience more enjoyable would be welcomed.”
Prior to founding CarGurus, Langley Steinert was one of the brains behind Trip Advisor and has applied much of the same philosophy to the automotive website, including rating vehicles as a ‘great’, ‘good’, or ‘fair’ price and flagging those which are ‘overpriced’.
Dealer reviews are also incorporated in its rating system with searches based on price and reputation.
Iannucci said: “It’s not just about car price, but the whole experience a particular business provides.”