According to a 2013 GE Capital Retail study, a whopping 81% of shoppers research major purchases online before they ever come in-store. Faced with the fact that 8 out of 10 shoppers start online, it becomes pretty clear why fully representing your inventory on your website is crucial.

Not quite sure what fully representing your inventory online means? Read this online inventory optimization quick start guide to get rolling in the right direction.

Looks matter
What information do you think is most important to shoppers? If you’re anything like 63% of automotive dealers recently surveyed by Cobalt, the word “price” immediately popped into your head. But as customers begin to browse your inventory, the final price tag isn’t the first thing shoppers are necessarily looking for. That same Cobalt study revealed that 100% of auto shoppers chose to sort vehicles by color before filtering by any other attribute.

So what do statistics about car shoppers have to do with you? While car shoppers and your customers don’t always fit the same mold, parallels can be drawn when customers are shopping for any major unit purchase.

That’s where the final stat we’ll pull from that Cobalt research should drive you to immediately grab your smartphone and start snapping photos of every piece of major unit inventory you have in stock. 70% of shoppers didn’t click through on vehicle listings that featured a stock photo instead of the model on the dealer floor.

While your OEMs do a way better job photographing the 2015 model year lineup than you ever will, if you want customers to imagine themselves owning it, you need to show that exact unit to them, so they can see every detail for themselves and make that critical decision to fill out a form requesting a quote, an appointment and the ultimate opportunity to buy from your dealership.

Details count
Now that you’ve made the right first impression with unique imagery, it’s time to win shoppers over with complete product details. If it was included in the specs from the OEM, include it! If you work with an industry website provider like ARI, we make it easy by providing you with new and used unit specifications directly from the OEMs. And ARI is the only provider that gives you the power to quickly and easily manage your inventory from the palm of your hand with the ARI Mobile app.

Not only will accurately listing each and every unit on your showroom floor help you convert shoppers who are familiar with your dealership, but all of this regularly updated, highly keyword rich content will help deliver new prospects to your virtual showroom directly from search engines.

Add video to boost SEO value
If you want to supercharge your SEO power, embed YouTube videos on your product landing pages. While the idea of shooting product videos for each and every unit may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. A product video can be as simple as a slideshow of the pictures that you’ve already taken of the unit. What you do to optimize your YouTube video for search is actually just as important as the video content itself.

Title your videos with the model name and year. Take full advantage of the 5, 000 character-description by copying and pasting the product details from your website as well as your dealership’s contact information. Don’t forget the tags! Tags are the keywords and phrases people will use to search for your videos, so fill up the tag box with relevant keywords including the model name, your location and more general terms customers might use to search for the unit.

Take advantage of third-party sales channels and social media
Now that you’ve got your inventory listings optimized on your website, it’s time to round out your inventory exposure by posting listings on popular third-party sales channels and sharing your inventory listings via social media.

The manual process of posting each individual piece of inventory to Craigslist, eBay and any other third-party sales channels can be incredibly daunting, but if you’re working with ARI, you’ll want to talk to your account rep about the content syndication options available to you via ARI Inventory powered by LotVantage. By taking advantage of this service, posting your website inventory to third-party sales channels could be as simple as clicking a check box.

Finally, don’t forget to share your new inventory on social media. Don’t be afraid to include some self-promotion on your social media channels, just be sure that you balance your inventory promotions with other content of value including links to blog posts, dealership event photos and entertaining content you’ve shared from around the web.