Controlling What You Can: Merchandise

May 20, 2020

What I want to share now is why I think marketing and specifically merchandising is more important than stocking. Years ago, I was responsible for all areas of used car operations. I was doing everything from marketing and stocking to appraisals and other responsibilities. While each area is important I think marketing should be prioritized over the others, especially now.

When I talk about marketing I'm talking about all the merchandising including the used car packages. This includes adjusting photos, descriptions, pricing and everything else a consumer would want to know. Updating your packages daily can drive more sales now. I'm big on the concept of control which you can control and making these adjustments and taking action are within your control. I’d even recommend updating your packages today. See what happens. This isn’t to say you can't go stocking right now and buy a car but you’ll have to get it transported, you have to get it through service, and put together photos and pricing. So even though you can buy a car today, it's not going to result in any sales until all those things are done.

It's also very hard to control what you stock now. You can have all the discipline you want as far as not buying certain cars for certain prices but, what is available may not match your needs. Now especially as rates are readjusting counting on what you will be able to secure and control through an auction is risky.  During the best of times only twenty percent of dealers managers have a completely locked down process. Most of you are scrolling, scrambling through what you're buying. You don't have the time to look at the national database of inventory running through these lanes to go buy the perfect car at the perfect price including transport and any pricing adjustment to come. Only top stores have the luxury and resources to be more purposeful about it. Most guys try to take 2000 cars running through lane and on the fly come up with what they wanted to buy. And even if you are able to identify what you think are good buys, as you go through all this you still have to worry about overpaying as oversupply eventually drops rates.

And then when it comes to appraisals you have even less control than auctions. No control, really. You can't say hey I'm going to get five appraisals in today and I'm going to trade in three or four of them. I'm going to own them right and have a great day supply. It just doesn’t work that way.

So again, the way I see it is there is very little control over the stocking. Something I think salespeople get stuck on is the idea, “If you have the right car they'll find you”. This is something I disagree with. Think about how many “right” cars are out there that aren't photographed very well, are priced too high for too long, or don't have all the added features listed. All of that makes your car difficult to find online.

Let’s say, we have a very high line store. We sell Lamborghinis and Ferraris, these are $100,000 to $200,000 cars. There are features a Porsche may have like an analog clock and red stitching, details that could make the car’s price $5,000 more than normal. Are details like this mentioned in your descriptions of your cars? Do the customers even know about them? You can have the right car but if you market it the wrong way with bad pricing for too long, bad descriptions, and bad photos that car can sit.

On the other hand, you can take the very wrong car and price it effectively and get it off your lot. Say you have a yellow Aztec. If you do the right marketing and put a lot of thought behind it, you can get it off your lot. For example, anybody in the car business has probably seen those videos where some Joe Schmoe guy who's selling his 1998 Honda Accord does this elaborate commercial or video making fun of the car. That could spread like wildfire fire on social media and he could sell that car right away. The right marketing strategies behind the wrong cars, and the right cars, get those vehicles off your lot faster.

To have a quicker, faster impact when it comes to making a sale go look at your photos and your descriptions. Try to notice things that need to be updated. Does the listing include a picture of the car with the exhaust fuming because it was cold out when it was taken? Take another look at your pricing. You have control over these adjustments so make them today. You might say you’re too tied up, a lot of people get tied up in stocking and whatnot but when it comes down to getting your car off the lot the way you merchandise it makes all the difference.

So figure out what you can do today to get more sales. Evaluate your marketing. There are small and large things you might be missing from your listing. Update and enhance your comments, photos, and descriptions to increase exposure and get your cars in front of more people.