By Jeffrey Pierce, Sr. Director, UX, Dealer.com; & Casey Corcoran, Lead Product Analyst, Dealer.com
Over the past year, people have depended upon online experiences more than ever throughout nearly all aspects of life. For dealers, in particular, the pandemic has upended much of how business traditionally has been accomplished, increasing the importance of having an optimized digital storefront. With consumers more hesitant to step into a dealership’s physical location, now a dealership’s website has become one of its greatest assets, functioning both as a relationship builder and sales tool. Quality visual design and content are crucial to dealers increasing their engagement with shoppers. One particularly important element – using real photos – has proven to translate into more real leads.
With the pandemic top-of-mind and social distancing restrictions still in place, consumers are more likely than ever to start their shopping journey online, pushing first impressions and contact to the digital storefront.
A recent Cox Automotive study found that 83% of car shoppers prefer to do at least one step online and 57% engage with online penciling and purchasing functionality.(1) During this shift to remote shopping, photo engagement has increased 11% since last year2. When a shopper is unable to see what a vehicle actually looks like, dents and all, they have a harder time making an emotional connection, limiting their desire to commit. The absence of real photos not only deflates customer expectations but also can damage their online experiences. Poor stock imagery is among the top five things car shoppers complain about according to a long-running satisfaction survey by Cox Automotive.(3)
Yet when shoppers can see the nitty-gritty details of each car in real life, they are more likely to engage. We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but data evidence about using real photos on vehicle listings backs it up. A staggering 90% of consumers say that photos are an important aspect of their shopping journey(4), and new-car listings using actual photos are 30% more likely to get a lead(2). That likelihood increases to 40% when used/certified vehicle listings feature actual photos(2). Moreover, that improvement in leads with real photos (30% increase for new, 40% increase for used) is not affected by price or days on the lot. Viewing real photos can build a sense of transparency and trust in a dealer’s brand, and when coupled with transparency in pricing, quality leads can increase even more.(4)
To delight potential customers and increase leads, put this information into practical action with these best practices for vehicle images on dealer websites:
- Use Actual Photos: Whenever possible, use actual photos of the vehicle in the listing. However, a stock photo is better than no photo.
- Use Diverse Images: Believe it or not, the top five types of photos requested by car shoppers are all interior shots. While exterior images are important, listings that include interior photos increase successful marketing.
- High-Quality Matters: High-resolution photos and full-screen galleries allow shoppers to see the vehicle in greater detail. Avoid pixelization, extreme/distorted angles, and low-light photos.
- Do Not Embed Branding: While embedded branding in vehicle photos can be useful for aggregator sites, several disadvantages exist for doing this on dealership sites, including obstructing vehicle details when viewed on mobile devices, increasing the perception of clutter, and redundant information that can be found elsewhere on the site.
- Use Photo Carousel on Search Results Page (SRP): Recent testing by Dealer.com showed an increase in photo views of 21% on mobile and 8% on desktop when a dealership’s website used a photo carousel on the SRP(5).
Taking the time to use high-quality real photos in vehicle listings can pay off by increasing engagement, leads, and ultimately a dealer’s bottom line.
(1) Cox Automotive Future of Digital Retail Study, Nov.2017
(2) Stock vs. Actual Photos Vehicle Comparison, June 2018
(3) General Website Experience Survey: 2020 Q4, Feb. 2021
(4) Power of Pictures Study, Oct. 2017
(5) Dealer.com’s New Search Results Page: Performance Analysis, Dec. 2020