Three Merchandising Best Practices to Maximize Inventory Turn

In my last blog, I discussed how dealerships can lose significant profit by failing to merchandise vehicles efficiently. Simply put, you can’t sell something nobody knows you have. And, with thousands of competing vehicles available to car buyers online, a stock photo or “photo coming soon” placeholder just doesn’t cut it – it won’t get your inventory into consideration fast enough.


Sure, a customer could by chance trip over the perfect vehicle on your lot. But that is the exception rather than the rule. For faster, more profitable sales, it’s more important than ever to develop and implement a strategy that ensures inventory is well displayed online, as well as on the lot, as quickly as possible.


Working with dealers in this area for years, I have learned three top vehicle merchandising tips leading dealers use to maximize inventory turn as follows:

1. Picture first- With just about every DMS, the moment a vehicle arrives in stock, it goes into inventory. Using that vehicle’s VIN, a chain of events follows that pushes the vehicle out to the dealership’s website and to a myriad of third-party listing services.


Lacking a picture, the vehicle simply has a placeholder or stock image. Studies show that car buyers shopping online for vehicles will likely just scroll past those – as there are just so many other listings with actual vehicle photos.


Your vehicle could be the cream of the crop, priced perfectly. But, if consumers can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. My advice: Take a picture immediately upon acquisition. It doesn’t have to be the best picture ever, just one that shows potential car shoppers what the vehicle actually looks like. You can always swap out the photo after the vehicle has been prepped. This practice attracts interest sooner leading to a faster sale.

2. Fast recon – One of the largest factors in turn time for inventory is how long it takes to get vehicles front-line-ready. Every day a vehicle sits in the recon department for example, or wrapped in cellophane rather than on a dealership’s front-line, costs money. Each day is lost exposure both on the internet and on the lot as vehicles remain unseen or unnoticed by customers. Again, if the customer doesn’t know it exists, it takes longer to sell - for obvious reasons.

3. On-the-lot merchandising – If you go into any retailer, the products most likely to catch your attention are probably those which are well displayed, well packaged, and well merchandised. Similarly, a vehicle that is hidden because it’s not front-line ready, poorly merchandised, or lacks easily accessible information as to what makes it different from every other vehicle, gets less attention and will often be overlooked.


According to a 2018 study of the Car Buying Journey by Cox Automotive, “walking in” remains the most common initial point of contact with dealers. This means that over half of car buyers do not contact the dealership prior to their first visit.  So, the image you project can either influence those buyers to do business with you – or drive them away.


When it comes to merchandising vehicles on the lot, provide prominent, easily accessible information that highlights what it is, how it is equipped, trim levels, etc. Don’t simply rely on the standard monroney labels and generic model year stickers that make the shopping process more difficult for your customers.


In summary, lack of these three simple vehicle merchandising steps can cost dealers front-end profit in their day-to-day sales operations.


There’s nothing worse than sitting on an aged unit. Optimize your inventory turn while bolstering your per vehicle profit by making your vehicles visible as quickly as possible, getting them through reconditioning and detail faster and effectively merchandising them on your lot. Consumers will engage with you faster and you can move inventory more quickly while preserving profit.


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