We’ve all read the stats: Fifty percent of car shoppers spend an average of 11 hours or more doing research online before setting foot on a dealership lot. We also know they’re spending most of that time on third-party sites like Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book. This begs the question: Are you delivering robust vehicle descriptions that will whet the appetite of today’s tech-savvy, research-oriented, web-bound shoppers?
Writing a compelling vehicle description is like preparing the perfect dish.

In order to deliver an exquisite meal, you must combine the right ingredients with seasoning and garnish to make the main course as appealing as possible. But how can you be sure you’re preparing the right dish for the right audience at the right time?

The same questions arise when writing vehicle descriptions. How can you be sure your descriptions are delivering a 360-degree view of each vehicle? And can you be sure you’re delivering the right mix of compelling narrative, relevance and real-time information? It may not be easy to achieve, but this combination captures clicks and makes your advertisements stand out among the competition.

Generation-X and -Y consumers have high expectations when it comes to the digital user experience. According to researchers at research firm Static Brain, every photo, video and comment has less than eight seconds to capture their attention. If one element lacks compelling or relevant content, research shows that the online shopper will immediately abandon your listing.

So get ready to add a page to your recipe book. Here is a five-step process for creating vehicle descriptions that deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time.

1. Prepare Your Ingredients

In 2010, a Cars.com study proved that including ad copy with a vehicle listing would result in at least a 50 percent lift in contracts. The study also found that strong, descriptive call-to-action language, paired with top search keywords, resulted in more leads and more showroom visits.

It’s imperative to tell compelling stories about your new and used vehicles. In fact, “storytelling” has become one of the fastest growing buzzwords in the marketing world, particularly as brands and products struggle to set themselves apart and keep consumers engaged.

Storytelling is increasingly used in product merchandising to build customer loyalty and deepen connections with consumers. They want to be entertained as well as educated.

Implementing a storytelling approach is simple: Combine the right data with quality language and powerful narrative to deliver relevant and engaging vehicle descriptions.

Unfortunately, many dealers today are not actively leveraging this recommended storytelling approach. According to a Dominion Dealer Specialties study of approximately 6,000 dealers, nearly 70 percent of them fall back on two common, ineffective approaches: “information overload” or “minimalist.”

In the information overload mode, the dealer tries to cram as much vehicle data into the description area as possible. This results in a random list of options, features, and essentially indigestible “stuff” that leaves the online reader’s head spinning. In comparison, the minimalist approach typically results in a simple phrase or call to action. Those descriptions tend to lack the detailed information that could help elevate that particular vehicle in the eyes (and clicks) of the online shopper.

With the right recipe, each and every vehicle description could be automatically designed to engage, inform, connect and, most importantly, properly tell a digestible story.

Are you telling the right story to each customer? Family-friendly cars require descriptions that highlight high-value items such as a rear-seat  entertainment system.

Are you telling the right story to each customer? Family-friendly cars require descriptions that highlight high-value items such as a rear-seat  entertainment system.

2. Throw in a Cup of High-Value Options

Remember the eight-second statistic from Static Brain? Well, as marketers, we need to extend that attention span from eight seconds to eight minutes by leveraging the information that draws and connects with each shopper.

One way to engage online shoppers is to focus on key, high-value options that today’s shoppers are targeting for their search parameters. This will allow you to maximize precious description landscape while honing in on the must-haves — such as leather seats, Bose stereo, sunroof and navigation — that make an online shopper want to see more.

Some dealers are still fixated on highlighting every vehicle feature and option. On the surface, this approach appears to be a great way to inform information-hungry shoppers. In fact, it causes them to lose the natural ability to self-select, self-differentiate and self-connect with the vehicle they’re reading about.

Take steps to identify the high-value options that resonate and result in action-oriented narrative in your market. The proper cup of high-value options will add just the right amount of substance and punch to each vehicle narrative.

3. Flavor with Unique Differentiators

Every day, online and on-the-lot shoppers are examining vehicle listings in-depth and asking themselves what makes each vehicle unique. Does this vehicle have a unique set of high-value options? How does the condition of this vehicle compare with similar vehicles in the market? Is the current price the rule or the exception?

By deeply investigating and understanding the current marketplace, dealers can properly position each vehicle to get more looks, more test drives and more offers. In addition, you need to build flexibility, real-time monitoring and agile updates into the process. You also must be sure that the positioning attached to each vehicle is relevant, correctly focused, and reflective of the immediate market. The right combination and flavor of narrative, high-value options and unique vehicle differentiators is a combination that will set any vehicle apart instantly.

4. Add a Splash of Consumer Confidence

In today’s market, gaining consumer confidence is a critical step in the selling process. Savvy dealers are constantly looking for ways to drive consumer confidence for the dealership, for the personnel and for each piece of inventory. The best way to drive confidence among customers is to include third-party validation and consumer perspective. Examples include vehicle history and scoring reports, reviews and accolades, customer reviews and crash-test ratings.

Showcasing such elements within your descriptions creates a valid story that drives confidence for specific vehicles and, more importantly, for your dealership. In fact, a 2012 study by Local Consumer Reviews Survey found that 72 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Splashing a vehicle narrative with just the right level of consumer confidence and perspective will ensure the necessary combination needed to inform, educate and validate a specific vehicle.

5. Garnish With the Perfect Profile

One last way to implement the storytelling approach is to tailor the content to target and engage the most likely buyer. Your tools are narrative, expression and connection of data elements.

Consider a family car such as a minivan. Tailor the description to highlight high-value options such as the DVD system, stow-and-go storage or factory cargo rack. Infuse the narrative with powerful persona-based angles to focus on the most ideal buyer. Imagine the most likely buyer is a busy mom who hauls kids and equipment to and from soccer practice. She needs ample seating, cargo space and in-vehicle entertainment.

The narrative instantly becomes more relevant to this online shopper by leveraging storytelling and the art of instant imagination into the vehicle descriptive. The angle of the narrative instantly transforms to help you hit your target.

Get started today! Develop vehicle narratives with the quick five-step process outlined in this article to better engage and drive results with your dealership. I am eager to see how you put this plan into action, so feel free to send me your best vehicle narratives.