A general manager has many responsibilities — from hiring management positions, developing short- and long-term goals, forecasting, advertising and merchandising strategies, to increasing profitability — basically nothing short of being the responsible party for all operations.
With so much to do, the simple commonsense necessities are often missed. Many quality organizations overlook the “Management 101” requirement to compete within today’s automotive industry.
I’ll start it with a question: When do you start selling a vehicle?
Sounds like a simple question with a simple answer, right? Go look at your dealership’s website, AutoTrader, Cars.com or any other online advertising channel with your inventories and tell me what you see. Look up your new vehicle inventories, scroll through the entire first page, then look up preowned vehicles and scroll through its first page. What do you see?
Were there any stock pictures or “coming soon” placards? If so, these vehicles are in-stock eating up valuable resources, but they are not for sale.
Less than a decade ago, the answer to my question above was “when the vehicle gets on the lot.” Today, over 95% of your visitors viewed your vehicle online before they came to visit you. Today’s answer is a vehicle is not for sale until you have the picture of the vehicle online.
Here are two 101 tasks to improve profitability:
Task 1: Get a Picture of the Vehicle Online
Consider implementing a method to get at least one picture of the vehicle online when the vehicle arrives and give it an overlay of “Just Arrived,” similar to the example below. Then, complete a full picture set after it gets detailed to replace the original photo.
This process may take a little more effort, but when you count how many days a vehicle is on your lot before it’s online with a real picture and multiply it against how many vehicles arrive each month with their carry cost, it’ll calculate pennies to the dollar.
Task 2: Take Great Pictures
It’s important to increase the quality of your pictures to gain more visitors. It’s a competition online, and your potential customer will visit whoever has the best offering.
Price is not always the primary factor; get the buyer to fall in love with your car first through high-quality pictures.
Do a quick review of your picture-taking process: the vehicle arrives, it’s goes through detail, pictures are taken, pictures are uploaded to aggregator and then uploaded to all third parties (your website, AutoTrader, Cars.com, etc.).
Many general managers have so many things they are dealing with they don’t focus on the very beginning of the sales cycle — pictures. Due to the importance to your operation, I strongly suggest taking the time to complete the full process on one vehicle yourself, from vehicle arrival to online. Only then can you understand which process is the best choice for your operation. It will be time well spent and it will quickly help determine the road blocks in your system.
Once you’ve invested the time to understand your current process, now you’re ready to consider the options that are available to complete the task more efficiently to increase your profits. The process you choose will likely be determined by your volume requirements.
Volume: 50–125 vehicles per month
1. Use a third-party service
a. Service takes pictures (minimal staging)
b. Service exports pictures to your aggregator
2. Take pictures yourself
a. Stage vehicles
b. Take pictures
c. Manually export pictures to your aggregator
3. Use a photo booth
a. Stage vehicle in booth
b. Take pictures
c. Manually export pictures or use service that automates picture export
Volume: 125–1,800+ vehicles per month
1. Use a third-party service (see above)
2. Take pictures yourself (see above)
3. Use an automated photo studio
a. Phone app takes pictures immediately upon vehicle arrival; photos automatically posted online
b. Vehicle is driven onto a carousel within the studio
c. Automated five-camera system takes interior panorama, 360° exterior views and HD pictures
d. Automated post production exports media to all third parties.
Remember, any picture is better than no picture, just get one online, then consider a photo studio to help produce higher quality pictures, automation to manage high volumes and produce more media to further increase traffic and returns.