The benefits of professional car images for car dealerships

The car market. Some years ago, a potential buyer would have probably gone to a local car dealer. Test drives would have been done and one would have probably asked the cousin, the neighbor or someone who knows a lot about cars about advice. First impressions about the car would have been made live. Ever since the World Wide Web expanded, buying behavior as well as the market itself has changed. Nowadays, it is common to first compare prices and proposals on the internet before visiting a car dealer or a private seller. In fact, 80% of today’s consumers say that they want to do at least part of their vehicle purchase online (Cox Automotive, 2021). As there are numerous websites selling cars it is  sometimes difficult to find one’s way through the vast number of offers. Salesmen range from local to established car dealers to individuals trying to sell their old cars without middlemen. The competition is high. Therefore, the presentation and the staging of cars on the Internet play an important role. Additionally, professional visuals have a positive effect on buying behavior.

This was also confirmed by the subsequent surveys presented and conducted by CarCutter, a company specialized in visual AI editing and optimization solutions for the automotive industry, in cooperation with an independent third-party source. The results are based on quantitative and qualitative surveys in which 1,000+ people with the intention of buying or leasing a car were questioned. While the qualitative survey focused on the subject of banners and information balks on car images, the quantitative one explored the influence of vehicle presentation on buying behavior of potential customers.

The quantitative survey was conducted by means of several questionnaires on vehicle presentation. According to this survey, 95 % of the participants believe that high-quality car images are of importance when looking for cars online.

A direct comparison was made by showing a professional and a simple photo of a car for sale to the participants of the survey. The simple photo was the original one, where they could see a photograph of a car in a parking lot with other cars in the background. The other photo was edited with a fully automated image processing technology placing it in a neutral but still realistic environment without any other inputs in the background.

Out of all the participants 79,3% preferred the backgrounded and optimized car image over the original image. While 70 % of the participants thought that the optimized image was advertised by a brand dealer, the original image was associated with private sales, backyard, and independent dealers. Therefore, the optimized image was mainly associated with qualities such as professionalism, confidence, and sales promotion, while the original image was more associated with restlessness and clutter.

"Participants would have been willing to pay 2540€ more for the car presented in the processed image."

As a result, participants would have been willing to pay an average of 2540€ more for the car presented in the processed image, which provides important insight into consumer behavior in automotive sales. Hence, professional images do not only lead to a more serious appearance but also allow car dealers to earn more.

Even more than the individual image itself, professional pictures can improve the appearance of an entire website. Therefore, a qualitative survey was conducted in form of 30-minutes-interviews to shed light on the relevance of image consistency on websites as well as on the usefulness of info balks on car images. First and foremost, the interviews revealed that people who intend to buy a car prefer a clear search result page (SRP) with uniform images.

Participants were shown the SRP of two different websites (platforms A and B in the illustration below). They clearly preferred platform A and explained their choice by using the following adjectives as to describe their impression of it: professional, high-quality, trustworthy, serious, stylish, uniform, clear, neutral, focused, tidy, simple, calm, rich in detail.

The feedback for the second website was rather negative. For platform B the following statements were made: restless, irritating, distracting, cluttered, flashy, trashy, not qualitative, arouses suspicion, distracting, looks like aggressive advertising (red & yellow ad), intrusive due to different colors.

"Information balks on car images reminded the participants of intrusive advertising."

3 Key Takeaways:

Uniform images make the SRP of car dealerships appear more professional and trustworthy.
Pictures of cars for sale with a calm background make a better and more professional impression on car buyers.
Collages are unpopular with car buyers as they make the ad look cluttered and the individual photos become difficult to recognize.

Another consequence of increasing digitization is that the first step in a purchase process – seeking information about a product or product group – is primarily taken on a cell phone nowadays. Almost 80% of smartphone users make purchases online using their mobile devices (OuterBox, 2022). As a matter of fact, car buyers mostly use their cell phones in order to obtain information about vehicles. However, text on car images is difficult to read on mobile. This fact raises the question of the importance of info balks on car images for customers.

Concerning platform B, a lot of car images had banners and info balks directly attached to the pictures. This is a relatively popular form of presentation when it comes to car advertisings. However, thanks to the survey, new insights could be gained, which tend to speak against its use. The outcome was the following:

  • Potential car buyers find information balks on car ads distracting and they think that they divert from the car itself. Colorful and wide information balks are not perceived as visually appealing. This is relevant for dealers since 93% of consumers consider visual appearance to be the key deciding factor in a purchasing decision. (Justuno, 2016)

  • Colorful and wide information balks on car images reminded the participants of intrusive advertising. Obtrusiveness usually arouses negative emotions in consumers and – consequently – might encourage potential buyers to check with a different seller.

  • Potential car buyers do not believe that information texts on car images are important, and they are usually not actively perceiving it, which is why info balks prove to be superfluous. Furthermore, they think that these texts are usually difficult to read, and information is therefore preferred to be taken from a text/information below the image.

For the last part of the qualitative survey the participants were shown 3 pictures of the same car edited in a different way (variant A, B and C in the illustration below). The focus was on the importance of the occurrence of the car dealer’s name in the photo. Most of the participants believed that the car ad is more serious and trustworthy if the dealer’s name appears somewhere in the picture (B or C), with variant B being the preferred one. Overlays featuring the dealer’s name can be considered redundant since there are different ways to integrate the name into the scenery of the image, as can be observed in B. However, except the name, potential car buyers found further information such as address and contact options on the car sales picture to be irrelevant.

In conclusion, new insights were gained conducting and processing the two studies. The most important message that can be taken from the surveys is certainly the importance of professional pictures as they can significantly improve the overall image of a company. An entire website can be improved by the use of uniform car images. Also, one should avoid using banners and large-scale information in the picture; however, it shows professionalism if the car dealer’s name appears in an image. In addition, an upgraded and more professional looking website enhances the user experience and generates more clicks, which leads to more prospective customers. This offers the opportunity to sell cars for more money and as a result increase one’s income.

Best practice for car images on your website

✓  Use high-resolution images only.

✓  Ensure consistency among the images on your website.

✓  Take numerous pictures to show every car from different perspectives.

✓  Do not use collages to present a vehicle.

✓  Choose a calm and clean image background for your cars.

✓  Avoid banners and info balks on your images.