Newsroom Articles

Whether you’re selling a new or pre-owned car, it’s vital that you put your dedication and focus towards optimizing each and every one of your inventory listings. A quality listing provides car shoppers all the information they need, from their initial interaction with your Vehicle Detail Page (VDP), and acts as a catalyst to building trust, ultimately enticing a consumer visit to your showroom to find the vehicle they’re interested in purchasing – exactly as advertised.

Your online listings are often the first touchpoint between car shoppers and your dealership, when consumers are most impressionable and inclined to shortlist vehicles as well as dealers of interest. As such, it’s important you invest ample time and resources into certifying that you’re making a great first impression. To aid you in singling out the crucial aspects of this often-slighted process, we’ve compiled easy-to-follow best practice guidelines, detailing what you should keep top of mind when it comes to online merchandising. Following the aspects outlined in this guide enhance your presence on the marketplace and attract the most serious car shoppers to your inventory listings over your rivals, ultimately helping you sell more cars more profitably.


When consumers are making an automotive purchase, 84% cite price as a key factor in their decision-making process.1  Thus, it’s critical to cross reference your advertised price against live market pricing data, leveraging reputable tools and software to help you price competitively. As an additional measure of fair market value for each piece of inventory listed, lean on our AutoTrader iQ algorithm, as performance data shows a sizeable lift in leads per VDP for inventory with “Good” or “Great” price badges, of 31% and 60% respectively, when compared to inventory listings devoid of badging.2

  • For new car listings, if and when possible, include both the vehicle’s MSRP and your advertised price. In the car shopper’s mind, the delta between these two numbers demonstrates that you’ve listed your new car inventory at a competitive rate relative to the manufacturer’s suggested price.
  • Sense check your prices leveraging AutoTrader iQ price badges, available on eligible inventory listings. These pricing guidance badges are powered by a statistically backed real-time pricing algorithm. “Good” and “Great” price badges applied to your listings are indicative of a competitively priced vehicle, resulting in an increase to consumer confidence and conversion from your VDP.
A great price badge lifts leads by 60%
Listings with more than 11 photos enjoy 185% more leads

Photos & Video

Before diving into the importance of compelling photos and videos, we deem it imperative to broadcast a public service announcement – always make a resolute effort to appropriately recondition your vehicles ahead of taking any photographs. This effort does not go unnoticed by serious car shoppers and demonstrates your dealership’s commitment to providing buyers with a first-class experience from start to finish.

A complete view of the vehicle’s aesthetic condition in addition to its full feature set should be “described” through your photos. The quality of your photos and videos, or lack thereof, can potentially throw a wrench in your dealership’s effort to convert online traffic into dealership visits.

An assessment of AutoTrader Marketplace performance data shows that dealers who equip their inventory listings with 11 or more photos see significant increases to both VDP views and leads per ad, compared to inventory listings with 10 or less photos. More specifically, this data analysis demonstrates that used inventory listings with 11 or more photos generate 205% more VDP views and 185% more leads, while new car listings show a 211% and 167% increase to VDPs and leads respectively, relative to listings with 10 or less photos contained in the carousel.3 Thus it’s fair to recommend capturing 11 photos for each piece of inventory listed, at minimum, although we recommend up to 30, if and when possible.

Exterior shots contained within your photo carousel should detail every angle of the vehicle, providing consumers with a full 360-degree view. As 75% of consumers state that multi-angle photos of the exterior and interior are useful when viewing a vehicle2, here are the fundamentals to capture when photographing your inventory:

  • All four corners, including driver and passenger side front and rear, driver and passenger side views, in addition to head-on shots from front and rear
  • Close-ups of the hood, headlights, wheels, tire tread depth, fender and trunk badges, (if applicable), along with any other standout or unique features, for instance, touch-activated door lock handles
  • The entire dash, including close-ups of the infotainment screen, climate controls, centre stack and any features that should be highlighted, for example, Apple Car Play or Android Auto connectivity, (if available)
White 2021 Toyota RAV4 hybride LE TI
Backup camera
  • All four door cards, in full view, with optional additional shots detailing unique features such as leather inserts or arm rests, contrast stitching, power windows and/or door locks, memory seats, and more
  • All rows of seats, including driver and passenger side front, rear bench and third row, (if available), with additional visuals focused on unique features, such as premium materials and dedicated seating climate controls, (if applicable)
  • Additional visuals of the trunk, pick-up bed, or cargo compartment, engine bay, and any other unique aspect(s) of the vehicle

When it comes to advertising new cars, lean on actual photos of in stock vehicles, that fully align to the model, trim and colour detailed in the descriptive text. This way car shoppers know your dealership has the exact vehicle they are in the market for.’s New Car offering includes access to a library of professionally produced photos for most new vehicles, to provide dealers with an effortless means to go live with in stock new vehicles without delay.

Finally, video content provides a seamless “virtual walkaround” of an inventory listing for consumers, effectively bridging the experience gap between online shopping and an in-person showroom visit. Our research has found that 42% of consumers consider video walkarounds of the exterior and interior of a vehicle purposeful2, so it’s a worthwhile consideration for your merchandising strategy. Automotive focused video solutions like Custom Video and Stitch Video on, allow you to create and upload videos to your Marketplace listings in a cinch.

Toyota RAV4 White Video Snippet


Each vehicle’s description should complement the photos, joining the informative text and visuals into a cohesive package. Consider leveraging the character count associated with your descriptions as an opportunity to layer in any recognition you’ve received in the industry, or to cover the aspects that make your dealership unique, effectively framing a compelling story about your dealership operation, while building consumer confidence and trust.  Follow these fundamental steps in crafting effective descriptions of your advertised inventory:

  • As heading text is limited by a pre-defined character count, this VDP feature should be limited to contain year, make, model and trim
  • Understand the target buyer of each vehicle and ensure that your descriptive text is in complete alignment to what typically entices buyers of specific vehicle segments – note that sports coupe/sedan drivers will often skip past details surrounding safety ratings, while SUV and minivan prospects have little regard for 0-60 time
  • Describe all key vehicle features, such as premium upholstered seating, keyless entry, push button start, sunroof, enhanced infotainment, advanced connectivity, heads up display, as well as safety features, for instance lane keep assist, front collision mitigation, blind spot assist, to name a few
  • Considering use of an automated description writing tool to ensure you don’t miss an element of the vehicle and contain consistent information about your dealership across all inventory listings
  • Granted the vehicle has not been involved in a collision, capture this detail in the copy block, and consider providing access to a CARFAX Vehicle History report directly within the VDP
  • Populate the latest odometer reading, ensuring this vital detail is provided upfront
  • Outline financing options, lease rates, or other incentives, if these are available at the time of placing the listing – and be sure to keep these up to date if a vehicle remains on your forecourt once the promotional period has expired
  • Describe your unique selling proposition in a “Why Buy Here” statement to kick start the trust building journey with the most serious car shoppers
  • Include customer reviews and awards to showcase the recognition your dealership has received
  • Maintain a solid Google Review rating – dealers with reviews over 3.5 stars have their rating appear on both on the Search Results Page (SRP) and VDP
Vehicle Feature List sample

Features & Specifications

Enlighten car shoppers into the complete array of features and specifications available in each piece you have in inventory. Follow these steps to ensure this crucial aspect of the VDP is effectively leveraged across your online merchandising practices:

  • Include key callouts, such as One Owner, Accident Free, Excellent Condition, or Multi-Point Inspection in your descriptive text

Final Thoughts

Fine-tuning your online merchandising action plan to recognize and embrace each of these components of your inventory listings is a sure-fire approach to driving optimal engagement with your online audience, to build confidence, trust, and desire with consumers for each vehicle you have on your forecourt. Omitting crucial information, visuals and an asking price could well act as the Achilles heel for your dealership’s ability to attract consumers to your inventory, well before you have a chance to convert a VDP visit into an inbound lead, and ultimately, a sale. The sooner you embrace and implement an effective merchandising strategy, the faster you get your well merchandised inventory to market, the higher your chances of attracting the right buyer and dramatically increasing the return of your investment not just on Auto Trader but across your online advertising efforts.

There is no better time to step up your merchandising game!

Source: (1) Vehicle Purchase Behaviour Research, December 2021 (n=496). (2) Data Warehouse, AutoTrader iQ Price Badge Analysis, 2021. (3) Data Warehouse, January – July 2022.



Download your complimentary and complete guide to effective vehicle merchandising!