The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the auto industry is a hot topic these days. Many dealers are wondering how they can use AI to improve both the online and in-store customer experience.
One area where AI is already making a difference is online vehicle merchandising. The power of AI is being used every day to help dealerships create an online vehicle showroom with the same visual appeal as their lot.
When a customer walks onto a dealership’s lot, what do they notice first? All the vehicles are immaculate, parked in a straight line and facing the same direction. Every salesperson knows that when they finish a test drive, they better park that vehicle straight and in line with the rest of the vehicles. This attention to detail helps to build customer trust by creating a positive and professional impression of the dealership.
Dealers have tried to create the same experience online, but there is a lot of variability in quality when humans take photos and videos of vehicles, whether you are using a lot services provider (LSP) or in-house personnel. This often results in search result pages (SRPs) featuring vehicles that appear to be different sizes, with different backgrounds and facing different directions.
The bad news is that humans will never be perfect. The good news is, AI can fix their imperfections while saving a lot of time. Here are a few ways that AI can ensure that a dealership’s online experience matches the meticulous appearance of their actual lot.
Image Recognition and Sequencing
Good photographers will take pictures of a vehicle in a particular order that reflects how the images will be presented online. But sometimes, they forget to take a photo of a feature and have to go back to it. Or a couple photos have sunspots or glares, and they have to go back and re-take those photos.
No matter what order the photos are taken in, AI can recognize images, sort through the photos and place them in the best logical sequence for online merchandising purposes.
In addition, AI ensures that the photo of the vehicle facing a certain direction is always the first one that appears on the SRP, giving the SRP a consistent look, just like on the lot.
AI can be trained to re-size and crop photos so that every single image appears to be a uniform size. If a photo is somewhat blurry, AI can make the image sharper. It can also brighten or dim photos to make them look more consistent.
AI can crop out a busy or distracting background and replace it with a background of the dealership’s choice. Ideal backgrounds might include the image of a dealership, or a neutral background branded with the dealership’s logo.
Another option is a blurred background, which minimizes distractions such as power lines or street traffic.
AI can quickly create interactive, 360-degree videos. Just provide AI with existing photos or a video, and the technology will select the best images and expertly splice them together in no time.
One of the key features of interactive videos is “hot spots.” Viewers like to click on hot spots in videos to learn more about a vehicle feature. How do hot spots get there?
Without AI, a room full of video editors sort through photos, select which features on the vehicle to highlight, and manually insert hot spots. This process takes time.
With AI, this process is completely automated. AI sorts through photos or extracts images from a video, identifies which vehicle features should have hot spots, and creates the interactive video with hot spots included. Using AI-generated videos saves time and expense.
These are just a few examples of how AI is helping dealerships to improve online vehicle merchandising. It will be exciting to see how AI impacts other parts of the online and in-person customer experience.