Let’s face it — for the most part dealership websites are basically all the same. While the industry is focused on improving the user-experience including personalization, suggestive selling, dynamic digital showrooms, shopping carts, and on-line dealing – core merchandising practices remain one of the key ways dealerships can affect their online conversion rate.

Dealers spend a lot of money driving shoppers to their websites, so why not pay attention to the actual online merchandising of your products. It can separate you from the cross-town competitors.

Here’s a quick guide to dealership merchandising basics:

Real, Not Stock Photos of New Cars – Customers want to see the actual vehicle they may purchase. Studies reveal this and it just makes common sense. Consider the quality of the photos and the background for the best representation of the vehicles you want to sell.

Convincing Vehicle Descriptions – Put yourself in the customer’s seat – what do you want to know about the vehicle you’re looking to buy? What are the important features of the vehicle and why should someone buy it. Position each vehicle in your inventory with a compelling description.

Video – The car buying process is part research, part transactional and part emotion. Full-motion videos of actual inventory are one of the best ways to engage shoppers and a powerful way to motivate a buyer.

Specials: Updating monthly specials for new, used, service and parts is essential. Customers who look at the specials section are in the market to buy or have service performed. Displaying specials and highlighting select inventory is merchandising 101 in any retail vertical – don’t fail the course.

Calls To Action: Provide clear, direct calls to action on each page of your website and certainly on the vehicle description pages (VDPs). Use the same formula for vehicle price details. Shoppers are comparing, make it easy for them to consider your dealership.

Website Content: Be certain that all of the content on your website is updated and relevant. Fresh content not only has SEO benefits, it also provides a better user-experience. Pay attention to the details. Missing vehicle photos, expired offers, incomplete staff pages are simply a lack of professionalism.

Slideshow: Use this space to highlight new vehicle launches, sales events, or OEM incentives however minimize the number of slides on your homepage – frankly any more than two or three is a waste. Lastly, change this content often.

Competitor’s Websites: Maintain a competitive edge by knowing what your competition is doing on their website. How are they merchandising? What are they promoting? Be the best online merchandiser in your market – it will make a difference.

Lastly, take a look at your web management team. Whether it’s your web provider, your digital marketing agency or your in-house Internet team, make sure they have a focus on merchandising your products and are reviewing the website’s performance right down to the Vehicle Description Page (VDP) level.

Improving your dealership’s website merchandising will motivate potential buyers to spend more time on the site, improve search engine rankings and most importantly, increase online conversion rates.

-Jim Hughes, VP ELEAD1ONE Digital