I got my start in the auto industry just after the dawn of AutoTrader.com. A time when even just putting a picture of a used car on the internet was thought of as unnecessary. Over the past 14 years, I have worked with area dealerships in both advertising and marketing with AutoTrader Publishing as well as performing Lot Services as an independent contractor. I have been a part of the transition from print to online. In the beginning, with print, I saw the benefits of having a single photo in a print magazine, to having 6 or so photos online, to now today where having more photos brings a greater benefit to both the consumer and the dealer. So, the simple answer is yes, today you need new car photos. The why can get a little more complicated. Today's online consumer is doing more research, looking at more reviews and spending more time online before making a decision. Because the landscape in the automotive world is constantly changing and evolving, the online consumer is expecting more from your dealership's website. And photos are still on top of that list. Once the big players in the online marketplace world, such as AutoTrader and Cars, started merchandising new car inventories the consumer has come to expect to see and receive the information they went online to get. And, if you do not give them what they want they are more likely to go somewhere else.
There are two main options out there when it comes to actually getting your new car photos online.
1) You can do them "in-house". Having someone at your dealership photograph your cars may seem like the most cost effective choice. After all, how hard can it be...buy a camera and have the lot attendent go out and take some pics, then upload them. Boom, you are done...or are you? I often find myself asking the dealer to consider these questions: How much money do you spend on the hosting of your website(s)? How much do you spend every month on creative for you site to keep it up to date, compelling and interesting? How much money do you spend in advertising every month to drive traffic to your website(s)? After you answer these questions, go to your website and see if your consumer is getting what you paid for. Shop your website like you are a consumer...you may be surprised by what you find. Now, let's dial it down to just the new car photographs. While you are spending some time on your site(s), take a good look at the photo presentation of several cars. Are the pictures centered or cut off, crisp or blurry, clear or with dust spots/sun bursts? Do you have enough photos of every vehicle? There are many situations where hiring an outside company to handle this task for your dealership is more cost effective in the end. The big key is cost per vehicle coupled with the number of photos you receive in that cost. You will need to do some shopping around as all things are not created equal. Some companies have a low per car cost, but don't give you many photos. Other companies give you more photos, but you will likely pay a higher cost per car. Keep looking until you find the company that is in business to serve your business. They are more likely to give you a lower cost per car and a higher photo count.
2) Hiring an outside Lot Service provider is a popular choice. Having the ability to put this time consuming task on auto pilot can take a great deal of stress off any manager. Professional Lot Service providers are generally experienced with being able to photograph a large number of vehicles in a short period of time. And, depending on the time of year, they work in some pretty adverse weather situations. I often chuckle when during the summer everyone seems to want my job, but in the winter I don't seem to get the same enthusiasm. If you are using a Lot Service provider to perform this valuable task, I would still ask the same questions...afterall, you are still spending a great deal of money every month for your website(s), the creative and the advertising to drive the traffic. You still need to step back and take a good hard look at what exactly it is your online consumer is actually getting with all that money you spent. You may have a very nice looking website that functions very well and is responsive to the device the consumer is viewing your site on (look for a new blog on the power of a responsive website soon). But, when they get there are you giving them a reasosn to stay? Having only a few pictures of a vehicle will not give the online shopper what they came to your site for. They want to see this car, in all of its glory from every angle. They want to experience the "walk around" right on their device where ever they may be. If you are only getting a few pictures per car it is time to start doing a little shopping of your own. There are affordable solutions out there for every size dealership. The key is finding the one that cares more about your business than how much they can get you to pay per car with the fewest number of photos.
Whether we like it or not, the advertising world has dictated to every dealer that in order to remain competitive you must give the online consumer new car photos. If high cost drove this process in house and you are struggling to put out a quality product I suggest taking another look at who is out there that is willing to work with you to get the job done affordably. If you are currently using a Lot Service provider and face high costs, low photos counts and poor customer service, maybe it's time to take a fresh look. How you choose to complete this task is up to you and what makes the most sense for your business. If I can be of any service to your business in anyway, just give me a call or send over an email. I wish you the best and good selling!