In this article, we will share our key insights when it comes to selling a car online with special emphasis on car photography. We have combined research from various sources as well as our own insights to give you the best advice on how to sell more cars online.
The following graph depicts the most common path to buying a used vehicle. (Source: CarStory.com)
Image reference: (carstory.com)
According to a study done by carstory.com in 2015, 86% of car customers start their research online. However this number is likely to be much higher now and also the trend is likely to be much more towards viewing ads on a mobile device instead of on a desktop. We will cover more on this in our next blogpost.
Here are some areas to think about before selling cars online:
Integrated Online Presence:
One of the key things to keep in mind when selling a car online is having a strong and integrated online presence. As of now, maybe you have a website. You may even have a Facebook page. But when we say online presence today, we mean a complete 360-degree, holistic approach. However this does depend on what country you are selling your car in. In Norway the most important place to publish your car is finn.no, your own dealer website and thirdly on social media. Norway is a special case as finn.no has a monopoly on the market.
As we discussed earlier, studies have shown that most used car shoppers start their research online. If you own a dealership, you may need an online presence that includes all major social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and a functioning website with a blog, but we do recommend to focus on the channels that work the best and do them better than the competition. So start with figuring out what channels you are going to use and what will work most effectively for your company and then give them 100% focus. We recommend a less is more approach here whilst focusing on quality not quantity.
Use the right keywords: Along with having an integrated, holistic online presence, you need to be sure your potential customers can find you. Use the right keywords, so your dealership and the offerings are easy to find.
Responsive customer care: You must also have a highly responsive customer care system that can guide potential customers and answer any questions. If someone shows interest in your inventory then get back to them as quickly as possible.
Research has shown that 80% of car customers visit two websites at the minimum before they make a decision, while 65% do their research on third-party websites. Therefore, you need to be present, active, and engaged.
Before we get into the car photography tips, we will discuss the importance of knowing your customer.
Know Your Customer: Knowing your target customer is one of the first things you should prioritize. Of course, you would assume everyone in the market for a car is your potential customer, but… are they?
Reasons To Buy a Used Car
Several studies have shown that buyers of used cars opted to purchase used cars mainly because of the opportunity to save money and get a good deal. Which means buyers will search for cars online where they can find more competitive offers. The importance of competitive market pricing cannot be overstated.
Most of the reasons buyers have stated in the survey done by carstory.com point to economics: to save money, to get a good deal, to get the best features for a competitive price, to avoid depreciation etc.
Image reference: (carstory.com)
Car Photography Tips to Help You Sell More Cars Online
1. Use High-Quality Images That Look Professional
There are three elements that a customer considers when buying a used car: price, trust and convenience. When posting an ad you need to consider how you can play on these different elements and match them with your target audience. By having great images you will increase the consumers trust in the quality of the product and you as a seller.
93% of car buyers look at the pictures before they look at anything else. (finn.no) Finn.no also found that the average time spent on an ad is 1 minute and 45 seconds where a large part is spent on looking at images. In a nutshell images are the most important part of an ad in terms of bringing the customer deeper into the product you are selling.
A study by Cornell University and Ebay in 2012 found a clear correlation between good images and an increase in sales. Finally we have proof that great images increase sales! If you want to take your sales even further include some really nice detailed shots of the product you are selling. The study found that this sometimes doubled sales.
Investing in great photography gives you the best possible chance of selling your vehicle fast and at a good price so it’s worth the investment.
2. Choose the Right Number of Photos to Eliminate Image Fatigue
It is tempting to put up 30-50 images showing as many angles as possible, however, online consumers struggle with image fatigue. You don’t want potential buyers to leave the website because you have used too many images.
Having images that showcase the most important aspects is the way to go. The first 4-5 images are the most important and they should highlight the best features. Highlight things like the dashboard, seating configuration and key features that make the vehicle stand out. Also make sure you have a killer hero shoot for the ad. The hero shoot is the first image in an ad that is used to draw the customer to click on your ad over others.
So what is the most appropriate number of images?
The study by CarStory found that nine images offered optimal lead submission potential, but only in combination with more images on a secondary website such as the dealer’s own website. At Autopix we have found that 15-20 images is the correct amount for most cars, but sometimes up to 25 makes sense. This all depends on the type of vehicle you are selling.
According to the study, postings with nine images saw a:
• 50% higher lead submission rate than those without any images.
• 56% higher lead submission rate than those with 20 images.
• 71% higher lead submission rate than those with 30 images.
Image reference: (carstory.com)
What you should keep in mind is whether the photos showcase the best features of the vehicle and you should post the images that do.
To know what photos to publish we must understand which features are valued the most by buyers. The following graph based on the study by CarStory illustrates what are the “must-haves” selected by potential buyers.
Image reference: (carstory.com)
3. Use Original Photos
As a seller, you can choose original photos or stock photos. If you use stock photos, ensure you’re adding a note declaring the same. However, we recommend using original photos.
Buyers who go for used cars do so because they believe they’ll get exactly what they see. If you don’t show them the reality in photos, the sale may not actually convert. Research data shows that the conversion rate of items shown using stock photos is half of those using original photos. Actual images of the vehicle will increase the probability of the sale. Make sure your images look as realistic as possible. Also make sure never to edit out any dents scratches or similar. This is not only illegal, but you are highly unlikely to sell the car if you are representing it as something it isnt.
There is currently a lot of talk about automated image edits and many companies offer these solutions, however users should be aware. If you make the photos look fake, it may have the opposite effect of what you are hoping for. Focus on realistic and high quality images instead. It’s worth the extra money because as we know, quality images increase sales.
4. Hero Image to Grab Attention
Potential buyers do their research on several websites, so how can you ensure you grab their attention? Fact is, with attention spans being so low now, websites and social media profiles get judged purely on visual appeal.
Catching someone’s attention and making them spend more than a few seconds is a crucial step towards converting a sale. A good way to go about this is using a hero image that is eye-catching.
The hero image is the first image in the ad and should grab the consumers attention. It should capture the essence of your brand, and convey your brand identity immediately.
Add a CTA (call to action): The hero image can be made attention-grabbing by using bold colors, and/or adding an effective call-to-action (CTA) on it.
The CTA should encourage the customer to take a deep dive into what your brand has to offer. Make them excited to explore further, and be curious about the cars you have to sell.
The following are some examples of effective hero images:
Notice how these hero images, along with aesthetic visuals, carry a CTA that encourages the customer to go further into the website, sparking their curiosity.
Have a look at the following graph that illustrates various CTA that were tested by CarStory to check for engagement levels.
Image reference: (carstory.com)
Brand Logo: You might have also noticed that the hero image in all of these examples is carrying the logo of the brand. This reinforces the brand identity, strengthening your brand’s role as the ultimate destination for potential customers.
Device Compatibility: Make sure the image is device compatible. If the user is on a browser on a desktop computer with a large screen accessing your website, the hero section can stay at the top of your screen even when they scroll down. However, on a mobile device with a smaller screen, you might want to ensure the hero section shrinks as they scroll.
5. Accurate Representation
One of the reasons used car buyers go for used cars is that they like buying things where they get exactly what they see.
The takeaway from this is that the best practice you absolutely need to take care of when it comes to images is – accurate representation. Present the car the way it is without editing out any defects or imperfections.
Some people may buy a car with defects, and some may not, but if you misrepresent rather than show the reality, it will lead to mistrust and disappointment in the eyes of the buyer when they see the vehicle. You may not be able to convert the sale then.
6. Show Off Your Sales Team
As we know, attention spans of online consumers are low, and we need to consider adding things to our website and social profiles that grab attention, and create trust. Creating trust goes a long way in making sure the customer spends more time on your pages than your competitor.
Developing a connection with your potential customer was a bit easier when the entire interaction took place face-to-face, but how do you translate this connection online? Well, the way to do this is to make your internet presence more “humanized”. After all, even behind the website and the social media profiles, there is your team of human beings making things happen.
This is the time for your sales team to shine on your pages. Show the actual people behind your company so that you can create trust in the minds of the consumer. Human connection is still important, even in the age of the internet, and can be the push that was needed to convert more sales for your brand.
7. Professional Editing
Even if you didn’t hire a professional to take the pictures, professional editing could take the images to the next level.
As we discussed earlier, the product needs to be represented accurately, so there should be no editing on the display of the actual features of the car. However, you can certainly edit the pictures to look crisper, remove backgrounds etc. Apps such as Autopix use hybrid tools to produce premium quality photos of your used car. We use both image editing automation and humans to produce premium and realistic photos of your cars. As mentioned above, be aware of fully automated solutions as they may make your ad look fake and unprofessional. Focus on a realistic representation as well as quality output.
8. Labeling of Retouched Photos
In July 2022, legislators in Norway passed new regulations requiring all advertisers and influencers to label all images that have been retouched.
Look at this article to understand why complying with this law is essential.
9. Use Video to Increase Sales Conversion Rates
Video is a useful tool when it comes to helping potential buyers learn about a product. It helps increase engagement on your social profiles and keeps the customer on your website for longer.
A Renderforest Survey found that videos helped businesses increase:
• Brand awareness by 70%
• Traffic by 51%
• Sales by 34%
These numbers cannot be ignored.
Videos can also improve the chances of trust between you and the customer, compelling them to take further action.
Using video on your landing page can help boost conversion rate by 80%, according to EyeWideDigital. However the most important aspect of an ad are the pictures. It’s more important to spend time on great photos than it is to also add a video. Focus on quality over quantity.
10. Interactive 3D/360 Visualization
One of the challenges that used car sellers face today is that with the advance of technology, every competitor is vying for the attention of the customers and has a compelling online presence. So how do you set yourself apart and hold the attention of the customer longer?
An effective way to do that is using 3D/360 visualization of the car on your website, social media or landing page.
Since most of your potential customers are conducting their car buying process online, 3D/360 visualization of the car will enhance their car buying process, differentiating you from the rest of the market.
For example, Auto.ru, one of Russia’s most popular car marketplaces, uses this technology on its website and the experience has shown that car offers with 3D images of vehicles are viewed 40% more than regular images. However please bear in mind that capturing these types of visualization is very time consuming and complicated. 360 can also show off too much of the vehicle, having the opposite effect of what you want. Another limitation of 360 and 3D is that most car marketplaces don’t allow you to embed the link or code in their website.
We recommend that you focus first on getting the absolute best pictures of the car first before investing time in things like video and 360 views. Images work best in terms of showing and selling the vehicle based on our research and customer insights.
Get The Product Photography Workflow Right
Now that you understand why high-quality images are important let us go deeper into some best practices you should follow while taking the photos.
One of the things you should do to improve the product photography workflow is to eliminate waste. When we say “waste”, we refer to anything that doesn’t add value to a client.
You should examine the following areas to see if your workflow is right and there is no waste.
Studio Setup and Photographer
Deciding whether you want to hire a photographer or do it yourself and whether you want to set up a studio or hire a space, can be daunting.
Hiring a professional photographer will ensure you have high-quality, beautiful images that show off the car. After all, the first impression is the inventory of photos you’ve displayed.
However, you should also consider the costs associated with this. In addition to the photographer’s fee, there is a cost involved in having the car in the dealership waiting for a photographer to arrive and everything else that needs to happen before the car is marketed and sold. Savings for dealerships can be more than 68.5% so using an app to shoot your photos is well worth looking into.
Timely Image Approval
We understand that in a corporate environment, things need approvals, and those take time because of hierarchy and levels of clearance.
To reduce this time, ensure things are done right while they are happening. Plan the shoot and enlist which angles will be taken, what features will be highlighted, what can be skipped etc. Getting the shots right in the moment is far more efficient and faster than trying to do it post-production.
You should avoid reshoots as much as possible to keep the entire process fast and lean. Choose an app that has some form of photo guide technology to help users to take the correct photos every time. The first step is to decide what images your photo guide should consist of and what background you want for your images. Do a test shoot with your photoguide before rolling it out to more dealerships.
Using a photo guide is highly beneficial in terms of creating brand consistency across multiple dealerships or simply when the main photo person is sick or away from work.
Take Advantage of Digital Asset Management
Digital Asset Management (DAM) can safely store, organize and share digital media files like photos or videos. If you aren’t using it already, make sure you get on the bandwagon.
DAM helps reduce human error, improve communication between teams, speed up processes, and increase overall efficiency. Whether it is a simple spreadsheet or more sets of documents on the cloud, having a system that enables various team members to access information ensures everything is not just with one person in their memory.
Ideally choose a provider that can do this for you. At Autopix we store your images for 90 days and make it easy for you to approve, share and download files.
When it comes to choosing a vendor to do post-production, don’t just go with one who quotes the lowest price. Instead, do your due diligence and preferably go with someone who can do the process end-to-end.
The most important part of post-production is quality control. If you choose a vendor that does not offer quality control, you are the quality control and that can be very time consuming.
As we discussed earlier, image quality is paramount, so choose the right vendor that saves you time and delivers quality images.
Write Sales Copy That Gets Results
Sales copy is as important as images and videos. While the images and video can show the customer what the product looks like, and make them intrigued to know more about it, it is your sales copy that will compel them to take further action.
Your copy needs to lead the customer to believe you can solve their problem and find them the best car for their needs.
It has been observed that when sales copy is insufficient, users will look at the next ad or next page instead. The average time spent by an online consumer on a page (across industries) is around 52 seconds.
Your aim should be to retain the attention span for as long as possible, and so, let both your copy and images tell a story and make them flow well together. If the copy is poor or lacking, the user will start to lose interest, and move on to another ad. Your copy should be clear and convincing enough to make the customer feel compelled to buy the car online itself without even seeing it.
High-quality copy leaves customers with a feeling that they are dealing with professionals. The thought-out copy along with photos help convince potential clients to contact you.
Most potential buyers prefer to have concrete information before making any decision. Don’t just assume that the buyer will get in touch for more information, and therefore you can get away with less copy. Give them the complete picture of the car instead, with the copy and images together.
Therefore, the quality of your sales copy has to be top notch. Make it focused, engaging, concise and compelling.
At the beginning of this article, we discussed the importance of knowing your customer. That will be the most important factor that’ll decide how good your sales copy turns out to be. When you know who you’re selling to, you’ll know how to talk to them. Your messaging will be targeted.
There are a few main things that buyers want to know about the car, so it is important to make sure you’re covering these. Have a look at the following graph.
Image reference: (carstory.com)
The chart above shows the 15 most important details according to the respondents of the study by CarStory. Condition of the vehicle, accident history, service history, listing price and value of the vehicle turned out to be the top points.
Focus the sales copy on these 5 areas that matter the most to the customer. Conveying the most crucial information to potential buyers will move along the buying process much faster and the chances of a sale converting will be much better.
Stay In Touch With Market Trends and Analytics
The car market, whether for new or used cars, is constantly changing, with new trends in technology and marketing mushrooming every day.
It would be best if you also stay up to date with analytics that provide insights like buyer behavior, purchase trends, forecasts, what kinds of vehicles are in demand, etc. In other words, consistently work on honing your skills and growing your insights to stay relevant.
There are three elements that a customer considers when buying a used car: price, trust and convenience. When posting an ad you need to consider how you can play on these different elements and match them with your target audience.
By having great images you will increase the consumers trust in the quality of the product and you as a seller. 93% of users look at the images first and therefore play a key role in the early phase of the sale and are worth investing both time and money in. Research from Cornell University and Ebay (2012) showed a clear correlation between an increase in sales and image quality. If you further want to boost your sales add a few sexy detail shots of the product, but remember not to use a crazy amount of images. We recommend using between 9-20 photos. Although users look at images first, the text is also very important to further build trust and convert the customer into a sale. A combination of great images and text will help you sell the car faster and at a great price, so don’t ignore putting time and effort into both.
Best of luck with your future vehicle sales!