I recently learned a new term: “inventory maintenance.” No, it has nothing to do with reconditioning or making sure a lot vehicle fires up before an inquiring customer stops by for a look. If you’re stumped on what the term means and you’re like the average National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) member who spent $624 per unit on advertising last year, I recommend you keep reading. Now, go to your site and try pulling up all vehicles of a specific color, body style, powertrain or fuel type. Did they all come up? If a vehicle didn’t appear that you know fits the search criteria you entered, then you have an inventory maintenance problem. The term simply means ensuring the inventory data feeding your website and third-party listing sites is as clean as possible so customers can find the vehicle they need with the features they want. What might prevent that?
Well, consider all those creative names vehicle OEMs are coming up with for colors. Unfortunately, most internet shoppers don’t know to search for “midnight” or “anthracite” when all they want is a black car. The other problem is your inventory feed and how the lack of standardization when it comes to certain search criteria impacts search filters. Is it “All Wheel Drive,” “AWD,” or “All-Wheel-Drive”? Consider that the average NADA member spent $562,575 in advertising last year — digital advertising accounting for $316,730 of that total. Now consider how much of that was wasted simply because a customer’s search terms didn’t line up with what’s coming out of an inventory feed.
So what’s the answer?
Some website vendors are capable of optimizing and standardizing the VIN data your lot service provider uploads from a tablet device so that an internet shopper can easily pull up all four-wheel-drive vehicles. Reputable website vendors take it a step further by identifying key features beyond the VIN explosion.
I was excited to learn that my new employer, DealerSocket, developed a proprietary algorithm for its website platform that does all that data normalization for you.
Ultimately, your website vendor’s goal is to make sure that what’s displayed attracts eyeballs and offers enough information for a customer to feel comfortable with the vehicle and the dealership to submit a lead. But what about the inventory feed going to those lead-gen sites, right?
Well, Cars.com dropped a few stats on just how big a problem this inventory maintenance stuff is when it announced its own solution this past January. The company noted in its press release that dealerships nationwide spend more than 30 hours per 100 vehicles manually filling out options and features details for the inventory on their lot.
“Dealers are losing sales every day due to cars being mislabeled as poor deals on other third-party sites when, in reality, it’s often just bad data,” said Cars.com CEO Alex Vetter in reference to lead-gen sites that rate dealer inventory offers.
This reminds me of my days as the editor of an industry publication. My web team would always bug us editors about cleaning up our article tags, as if there wasn’t enough for us to do. I never quite understood why it was so important until I tried to pull up all stories under a topic like “digital retailing.” Without fail, a story I wrote under that heading would get left out, simply because I didn’t properly maintain my story inventory.
Keep in mind that search is the most commonly used information source in a shopper’s process of buying a car, outperforming all traditional marketing avenues. So a little inventory maintenance will go a long way. Talk to your website vendor to learn how it’s ensuring that your customers are finding what they need.
This content may express opinions and ideas that are not intended to be official statements from DealerSocket, Inc.
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