Auto dealers have two common strategies for obtaining inventory photos: in-house staff or outsourcing to professional photographers and lot service providers.
Regardless of who takes the photos, ensuring consistent, high-quality images can be challenging. Different photographers, varied lighting conditions, and changing backdrops often lead to disparities in photo quality.
The emergence of AI is revolutionizing this process. Auto groups, manufacturers, and third-party vehicle marketplaces are increasingly turning to AI-driven image enhancement capabilities to enforce image compliance—not at the point of capture, but on the backend.
Importance of Vehicle Merchandising Online
Dealers are well known for having meticulous vehicle merchandising standards on their lots. But the rise of digital retail has put a sharp focus on the quality of vehicle merchandising online.
Manufacturers, third-party vehicle marketplaces, and most auto groups have guidelines to ensure that images on their websites meet strict standards. Ideally, all vehicles displayed will appear to be the same size, face the same direction, have the same clutter-free background, and are free from image defects such as blurriness, sunspots, and glares.
Traditionally, these businesses have focused on controlling image quality at the point of capture. However, the power of AI allows quality control to be shifted to the backend. Regardless of the hardware, software, or personnel used for capturing images, AI can normalize and enhance these photos to meet compliance and quality control requirements.
Image Enhancement and Normalization
Turning thousands of photos from a variety of sources into images appropriate for merchandising is no small feat. Typically, these processes are performed manually, but it takes a lot of people and a significant amount of time to sort through, select, edit, and post hundreds of photos every day.
For AI, these tasks are a breeze and can be accomplished nearly instantly. AI delivers an array of image enhancement and normalization features.
Backgrounds. AI can replace distracting backgrounds with neutral tones or dealership branding, creating a consistent look across inventory photos.
Cropping. Photos can be automatically re-sized and cropped by AI so that vehicles appear to be the same size, centered in the photo, and facing the same direction.
Colors and Clarity. AI can brighten or dim lighting as necessary to deliver a consistent viewing experience, while enhancing colors to make vehicles appear more appealing and accurate .
Ongoing Learning. AI becomes smarter with each task it completes, adapting and improving over time.
The ability to normalize images with AI greatly reduces costs associated with manual editing, while improving the user experience.
Identifying and Flagging Compliance Problems
The ability to normalize and enhance images is only part of the equation. There are many aspects to image compliance and each entity has its own set of quality standards and requirements to be upheld.
AI ensures that all aspects of compliance are met. Not only can AI enhance and normalize images, it identifies and flags potential compliance violations so a QC team can review them.
Unfortunately, AI can’t fix everything. Some photos are poor quality, or they are so blurry they are beyond fixing. Other common issues that AI can flag as non-compliant include, but are not limited to, warning lights, vehicle fumes, weather/snow, paper floormats, potential vehicle damage, extreme sun glares, dirty vehicle interiors, or even dirty engine components.
Once flagged, it’s a quick task for either the AI or the QC team to remove these photos from the website.
Another advantage of AI is its robust reporting capability. Key personnel at auto groups, manufacturers and third-party vehicle marketplaces receive data, in near real time, thereby notifying them that the AI has not only identified a potential violation, but perhaps even taken corrective measures to fix the violation as well.
Manufacturers that seek image grading can rely on AI to unbiasedly evaluate and grade a dealer’s and vendor’s image quality based on pre-defined photo quality standards as well. This data can help to identify and improve the performance of photographers, dealers, and vendors alike. The processes involved with managing inventory photos and vehicle merchandising have never been easier with the power of AI.
Auto groups, OEMs, and third-party marketplaces can all benefit from the increased efficiency and improved user experience that AI delivers.