By Brad Smith
Think back to the last time you browsed the Web for a new home or car. You most likely didn’t waste your time on listings with limited, low-quality photos or without images altogether. You simply moved on to more detailed offerings. And why wouldn’t you, when there are plenty of other listings packed with complete information, as well as attention-grabbing photos and informative videos? The same goes for outdoor power equipment buying.
In a world where consumers can e-mail pictures and videos from their smartphones in a matter of seconds, they simply have no patience for dealers who don’t take the time to showcase their products with multiple, high-quality pictures and ideally, videos. Today’s consumers want immediate, complete information up front to facilitate their purchase decision.
The Web is a visual medium, so high-quality photos and videos play a critical role in merchandising your inventory, differentiating your dealership from the competition to drive incremental sales. Without them, potential buyers will bypass your listing. If a picture says 1,000 words, then multiple pictures and videos tell a powerful story. Show off your equipment through a collection of eye-catching pictures and videos to draw qualified prospects in.
Offer a visual experience similar to an in-store product presentation
* Photos have become a pre-qualifier. By combining variety, quantity and quality, you build a crucial emotional connection between buyers and their intended purchase. Create a checklist with specific guidelines to maintain consistency. Include the number of pictures per unit and the order in which they should be taken and uploaded so that online visitors get a feel for that product and hopefully come in to find out more. Start with pictures of all sides in clockwise order, including left, front, right and back. Then, take a shot of the controls and a close-up of the engine. Be sure to include pictures of special modifications and upgrades, such as tires, mulching bags or attachments. For used units, include images of flaws, if applicable.
* Strive to answer as many questions as possible up front. The less work prospects have to do while browsing your inventory, the better chances they’ll stick around and take action rather than move on to your competitors’ offerings. Today’s buyers expect to examine every inch of a model from the comfort of their homes, and most prospects will only contact a dealership if its online products look acceptable based on their very high standards.
Research shows that there is a significant difference in traffic counts and online inquiries between product listings with multiple pictures as opposed to those with a single shot. Take the time to showcase your products. The more pictures you display, the more time visitors spend looking at your products.
Giving potential buyers a “complete picture” of your products and your dealership is the next best thing to an in-store product presentation. It drives higher-quality traffic and accelerates the buying cycle. If prospects can’t — or choose not to — come to your dealership at first, multiple-picture listings and story-telling videos are the best ways to help them visualize a particular product, hopefully enticing them to pick up the phone or drop by. Remember to get more mileage out of this effort while pitching a prospect on the phone by using your content-rich listings and videos as a sales tool to present your full inventory online.
Shooting pictures of new versus used equipment
* New products: Help yourself by starting with the most affordable and accessible source of pictures: the manufacturers you represent. Year after year, they invest a significant amount of money in professional photo shoots, resulting in an extensive collection of shots from a variety of angles. Manufacturers often have a dedicated section of their website or a separate, password-protected website for dealers where you can easily download both low- and high-resolution pictures.
You should also take your own photos and shoot videos, so you can present an accurate picture of the actual unit. Full disclosure is expected and has the advantage of building credibility for your dealership from the get-go.
* Used products: In this case, you’re not selling a product as much as you are offering a buying and ownership experience. Be professional and upload your own pictures and videos of the actual unit for sale — not OEM stock photos or images of a similar product, since that’s a sure way to make prospects walk or click away. Consumers are simply not interested in what the product looked like when it was new!
Most used-equipment buyers want to examine every detail of the actual product. They need reassurance that they’re making the right decision, so take the time to accurately and thoroughly display your products. It creates a good first impression and begins to build trust. It also gives you a competitive edge because customers that make their way to your listings are more likely to pick up the phone or come by your dealership.
The good news is that today’s leading OPE website solutions providers offer proven tools that can do the heavy lifting for you, so you can keep your online inventory as consistently fresh and appealing as your showroom. This includes providing you with the latest OEM images and product specifications out of the box and not limiting the number of pictures you can include with any given unit of inventory.
It’s time to include videos
Videos are becoming another arrow in the salesman’s quiver. Contrary to popular opinion, shooting video is not that complicated or time-consuming. Today’s digital cameras and camcorders allow you to quickly and easily make a video. The main advantage of a video is that it adds depth compared to pictures. With video, you can show how easy it is to operate the 2012 Ariens ST22LE Compact 22-inch two-stage snow blower in tight environments for example. That just can’t be done with a still shot. A proven website solution should make it easy and quick for you to embed videos in a few clicks.
* Developing a process: Start by assigning someone to manage this effort and determine how often that person will shoot videos. Two types of products should be given priority: new units, so you can introduce them as soon as possible, and aged units that you’re looking to move pronto. Create a list organized from oldest to newest units in inventory, and set the planning accordingly. As new units arrive, change the schedule to fit them in right away.
* What to shoot? When it comes to content, use the same checklist we suggested for photos. Combine a general overview of the product with an emphasis on special features and benefits. As long as your salespeople are experts in the units you’re shooting and they address the camera as if they’re speaking with a customer one-on-one, the video will be compelling. Just like with pictures, your goal is to entice the online visitor to come to your dealership for a closer look.
* How long should the video be? Videos should be no longer than five minutes, including a wrap-up section where salespeople get to state their name and contact information, which also appear as a scrolling caption. This technique has proven effective for many dealers, as prospects often walk in the dealership asking for that specific salesperson after watching a video online. In addition to presenting the product, videos sometimes have the added benefit of creating a bond between the prospect and the salesperson before they meet in person.
Today’s successful dealers take the time to develop content-rich listings that hook potential buyers with a full, compelling story. They increase their visibility and attract higher-quality buyers because featuring multiple pictures and great videos gives prospects more of the information they’re looking for up front, so by the time they call or e-mail, they are closer to actually buying that product. It’s also about facilitating the buyer’s often overwhelming research process and creating a positive first impression, which often marks the beginning of the sale. Your inventory is your online showroom. Making it informative and eye-catching will drive more traffic and convert more Web visitors into buyers.
Brad Smith is product manager at ARI, a Milwaukee, Wis.-based provider of technology-enabled business solutions for dealers, distributors and manufacturers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine and RV industries. Products and services include eCommerce-enabled websites, lead generation, lead management, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, and eCatalogs (parts, garments, and accessories). Smith can be reached at (414) 973-4459 or email@example.com. For more information, visit www.arinet.com.
Put your best shot forward
* Set the stage. Wipe down the unit and use a spray polish to give it a clean, shiny appearance. For units with tires, such as riding lawn mowers and snow blowers, apply tire protectant to give the unit some extra shine. When staging the unit for pictures, add any relevant accessories, such as a mulching kit for a riding mower, to further entice prospects and dress up the unit.
* Location, location, location. Make the effort to take the unit to a green, visually appealing location or create a park-like setting at your dealership. The goal is to help potential customers picture themselves using the unit in this ideal setting.
* Tell a story: When you’re done following your checklist, organize pictures from wide-angle to close shots. For new units, upload multiple-angle pictures followed by detail shots. For both new and used models, detail shots should be organized as if a salesperson was presenting the product to a prospect in-store, highlighting distinctive features. Powerful, to-the-point captions serve as story tellers and information providers.
* Get another opinion: Enlist the help of a couple of co-workers to go through the listings and put yourselves in the shoes of a prospective buyer: “Am I getting all my questions answered? Does this ‘complete picture’ make me want to go to the dealership?” Take the time to research your competitors’ listings for the same model. Which ones are the best and why? Are you satisfied with your listing compared to that of your competitors? Have you succeeded in standing out?