Is your car dealership's photo percentage 94% or 49%?

If your car dealership's website has 155 used cars in inventory and 145 have (real) photos, is your photo percentage 94% or 49%? Read on to find out the whole story.

The information I present is from a website audit I performed on September 19, 2022, between 10:45pm and 11:55pm. The dealership will remain anonymous.

This dealership, like many others, uses a vendor to provide inventory photography services. As I quickly scrolled through the used car inventory, it appeared the vendor was delivering good service since only 10 of 155 vehicles were missing photos which is 94% with photos. When I went back to the first page to begin a deeper dive, I easily noticed many of the vehicles only had 5 images uploaded. With that said, some dealerships will ask a vendor to upload at least a few pictures of vehicles not “front line ready” so there are some “real” photos in place of a stock photo. I then went further and clicked into every vehicle listing and of the 145 vehicles showing photos, 69 of the cars only had 5 images uploaded. Quick math shows us 79 of 155 vehicles had 5 images or less. Is the photo percentage still 94%?

I started to think about how dealerships live and die by their “photo percentage” numbers. Over the 15+ years I have serviced automobile dealerships I started to notice the trend to use the “photo percentage” as the golden rule for whether the vendor providing inventory photography services is doing a good job, or not. Being an inventory photographer, I understand the importance of having vehicles photographed. And I understand, to a degree, why a dealer wants at least a few real images of all vehicles including ones that are not front line ready. People want to see real photographs of the vehicle.

Vehicle listings with a stock photo are quickly scrolled past. The car shopper wants to view photographs of the vehicle they are interested in. These photographs must be high quality and show the entire vehicle including the passenger interior as well as the high value shots. Vehicle listings with quality images are what will entice the shopper to click on the car and stay engaged for more than a few seconds. Well-merchandised vehicles rank higher on search results pages because these are the listings the visitor is more likely to interact with. The importance of this should not be overlooked. The longer a shopper stays on a vehicle listing, the more likely they are to submit a lead. The thought behind having at least a few pictures of a vehicle has some merit, but not too much. The photos I see in this situation are usually bad and the vehicle is dirty causing the shopper to quickly click off the vehicle listing. Because of this I believe this practice causes more harm than good. When sales at the dealership slow down, one of the first questions management will ask is, “what is the photo percentage”? When your software tells you 94%, are you getting the complete picture?

The big question I asked myself at the end of this audit was, is this dealership’s true photo percentage 94%? The answer is no. If we break it down and look at the whole story, you have 155 total vehicles with 145 having 5 or more photographs. My argument is since 79 of the 155 only had 5 images or less, the true photo percentage is only 49%. I have reached this conclusion based on the data we find that states the online shopper will be presented listings (by the search engine) that are well-merchandised and tend to stay interacted with these well-merchandised listings for longer periods of time, thus increasing the chances of obtaining a lead. Conversely, poorly merchandised listings will have the opposite outcome.

The reality of the situation is this inventory photo provider is not serving their customer well at all. The actual true photo percentage is under 50% and the big question is why? Regardless of if the dealership is having issues with getting vehicles “front line ready”, the fact remains this dealership is under the false impression their photo provider is performing well. If this photo provider is not communicating with management during every service visit to make them aware of the situation, they are failing to provide great service. If this photo provider is content with only 49% of the inventory fully photographed, they are not invested in their customer’s business.

What answer did you come up with? Do you feel this dealership has a 94% photo percentage or is it true number only 49%? If your answer is still 94%, do you think the 79 vehicles with 5 or less photos are getting viewed and interacted with as much as the other 76 vehicles? I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

Is your inventory photo provider delivering outstanding service for your business? How is the quality of the images being uploaded and are you happy with them? Are you being limited by a set number of photos per vehicle? Overall, how would you rate your photo provider? If you own or manage an automobile dealership and are looking for a better solution for your inventory photography services, contact me today. I would be happy to sit down and discuss how delivering professional quality content of your inventory is more accessible and affordable than you may think. I use professional equipment, not point/shoot cameras or cell phones. Because every vehicle is different I do not put a limit on the number of photos per vehicle. If you are interested in video, 360° images and 360° walk arounds I can provide those services as well. As a small business owner I work hard to earn my clients business and serve them everyday. Providing great customer service begins with great communication. Let's start a conversation today!

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