Would you let the cars on your lot be disorganized, not parked evenly, or have anything less than a perfect presentation? Probably not. So why would you not have that same attention to detail on your website?
The demand for custom backgrounds in vehicle inventory photos and videos is growing. As more and more dealers are beginning to realize that online merchandising is just as important, if not more important, as their on-the-lot merchandising when it comes to building trust and driving emotion with shoppers, many are seeking to bring consistency and a professional appearance to their website Vehicle Detail Pages (VDPs) and Search Results Pages (SRPs).
Vehicle inventory photos often have busy or distracting backgrounds; for example, traffic, people, business signs or, even worse, competitor buildings can all provide a messy and unprofessional backdrop to the vehicle being featured.
Quite often, inventory videos and photos are either shot by different people, or at different times of the day. Therefore, even if you have rock solid guidelines for how photos should be taken, website SRPs can end up looking very inconsistent. It’s not uncommon to see an SRP featuring vehicles of different sizes or scale, facing different directions, or with different backgrounds and lighting effects. Most likely, if this was the appearance of inventory on the physical lot, somebody would likely be fired. But having a strategy in place and using current technologies, dealerships can recreate the same professional online appearance as they do for their on-the-lot merchandising.
Use Caution with Backgrounds
While custom backgrounds can help bring a polished look to your VDPs and SRPs, there is a potential drawback that dealers should be aware of. When you completely get rid of the background, or insert too generic of a background, you run the risk of making shoppers believe the vehicle is a stock image.
Car shoppers want to know that the vehicle they are looking at on the VDP is the exact vehicle that is on your lot. If the image background is too generic, you might create uncertainty in the car shopper’s mind.
Background Best Practices
To prevent car shoppers from questioning whether the inventory on your website is the same as what is on your lot, follow these background guidelines.
1) Background the first image. Do not apply custom backgrounds to all photos on a VDP. Apply a background only to the first image in the carousel that will show up on the SRP. When customers see additional vehicle images without the background, they will feel confident that the vehicle is on your lot. Plus, you won’t incur the expense of backgrounding all of the photos on your VDP.
2) Leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI). Dealers want vehicle photos on their SRPs to be cropped so that all of the vehicles are of similar size, facing the same way and with the same background. Asking a human to accomplish this feat with a camera is a tall order, plus the time required to crop and edit photos is cost prohibitive.
AI tools are the best way to ensure your photos are consistent. AI can crop and re-size images, replace backgrounds and even ensure photos are arranged according to dealer and OEM guidelines. AI is also adept at identifying and enhancing images or even erasing flaws such as sunspots and glares. You can also use AI to flag and remove undesired objects in a background, such as a competitor’s banner or power lines.
3) Showcase your dealership. Many consumers don’t care for white backgrounds, as they tend to create a “floating effect” or make the consumer believe the vehicle is a stock image. Instead, choose a background with a neutral color and prominently feature your dealership’s logo or, better yet, utilize an image of your dealership’s storefront.
4) Use text to reassure customers. Tag your inventory photos that have backgrounds with a phrase to let customers know that the vehicle is on your lot. Something like “In stock @ABCFord” would work nicely, but any catchy call to action would work nicely. Just ensure that you know your OEM guidelines for any prohibited verbiage or phrases!
5) Use custom backgrounds in interactive videos. While you can’t replace the background in a live walkaround video, you can use custom backgrounds in 360-degree Spin interactive videos. A neutral background in these videos is necessary to provide a seamless experience, and ensures that a viewer’s focus stays entirely on the vehicle and its featured hot spots.
Custom backgrounds are growing in popularity because they serve a useful purpose. When implemented correctly, custom backgrounds on photos and interactive videos will bring a polished, professional appearance to the vehicles on your website VDPs and SRPs.