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I have to ask this question because each seminar, webinar and research study that I have read is stating this to be the case. It increases VDP's, time on the site and in turn increases sales.  Here is a study from KBB:

Shoppers Want Actual New Vehicle Photos, Not Stock Photography on Dealer Web Sites

According to a new study conducted by Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research among in-market car buyers, 90 percent of vehicle shoppers would prefer to view actual photos of new vehicles currently on the dealer's lot than view stock photography of a vehicle they are interested in buying.

When it comes to purchasing a used vehicle, viewing photos of the exact vehicle, its options, condition and mileage help a potential buyer make a purchase decision. But, when it comes to buying a new vehicle, in-market shoppers say they want to have that same luxury; seeing photos of the exact vehicle on a dealer's lot before driving to the dealership. Today, most dealerships use stock photography of new vehicles provided by the manufacturer to showcase current model-year vehicles.

Recent market research shows nearly 70 percent of today's new vehicle shoppers are turning to the Internet for new vehicle research. Nearly half of these shoppers visit at least one dealership Web site during the research process, making the information found on the dealer's Web site crucial in garnering a new customer. In fact, 74 percent of vehicle shoppers say they are more likely to visit a dealership if they are able to view a picture of an actual vehicle currently available on the lot, rather than stock photography. What's more, 53 percent would be more likely to buy that particular vehicle from a dealership offering actual photos of in-stock vehicles.

CDMdata Inc., a Kelley Blue Book Company, offers products and services that aid dealers in easily marketing both their new and used vehicles online with photos. CDMdata's DigitalLot® Solution is a device that collects vehicle information by scanning the VIN, takes multiple photos of the actual vehicle and then uploads all of the information to the dealer's Web site (and up to 150 retail Web sites) with the simple push of a button. The DigitalLot Solution can take up to 32 photos of each vehicle, and the in-depth VIN explosion allows consumers to instantly and accurately view all of the detailed information about their prospective new or used vehicle. For dealers who prefer to have someone else doing the book-in work, CDM Dealer Services provides a company representative to come to the dealer's lot to upload the information and photography for them.

"The online automotive shopping and buying process must continue to evolve, and the DigitalLot Solution is a critical tool to help dealers improve their relationships and build more trust with online shoppers," said Mike Romano, chief operating officer for CDMdata, Inc. and vice president of dealer strategy for Kelley Blue Book. "Whether using the solution for new or used vehicles, the DigitalLot quickly and easily automates the process of uploading dealers' online inventory, allowing them to ultimately sell more cars faster."

About Kelley Blue Book (

Kelley Blue Book's is America's most used and trusted vehicle pricing, values and information resource. The top-rated Web site provides the most up-to-date pricing and values for thousands of new and used vehicles, including the New Car Blue Book® Value, which reveals what people actually are paying for new cars. Since 1926, car buyers and sellers have relied upon Kelley Blue Book for authoritative and unbiased information to make well-informed automotive decisions. The company also reports vehicle prices and values via products and services, including the famous Blue Book® Official Guide and software products. has been rated the No. 1 automotive information site by Nielsen//NetRatings and the most visited auto site by J.D. Power and Associates eight years in a row. No other medium reaches more in-market vehicle shoppers than; nearly one in every three American car buyers perform their research on

SOURCE: Kelley Blue Book

CONTACT: Robyn Eckard, +1-949-268-3049,, or Joanna
McNally, +1-949-268-3079,, both of Kelley Blue Book

Web site:


However, the largest dealer group in our state doesn't use custom photos. My GM is afraid that if customers see new car photos that the customer won't think that they can custom order a vehicle and we will lose sales!

I told my GM if he is worried about losing custom photos, we could put in the comments "Call if you don't see what you are looking for?"

Also, how do we know that new car photos wouldn't help increase the largest dealer group's sales?


I am still trying to figure out which is the best way to go?

Any thoughts and additional research is appreciated.

Tags: Actual Photos, Images, KBB, New Vehicle Inventory, Photos, Stock

Views: 2539

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Replies to This ADM Discussion

Kim, this is a similar question to "should we put our inventory online", which was quite the debate up until about ten years ago... There is no question about the effectiveness of actual vehicle photos versus stock images. all the research shows anywhere from double to 4 times the lead volume on inventory with photos versus stock images when half the inventory has one and the other half is the other.

Honestly, this is one of those irritating issues that is a qualified for me on whether or not I want to work with a dealer or group... If they have not yet progressed to the point where the acknowledge that actual vehicle photos work better than stock catalog images, then they probably haven't switched to broadband from dial-up yet.

Now, with that said there are alwys the economic considerations... let me explain. If you sell a brand of new vehicles where demand dramatically outstrips supply and your biggest problem is how much to mark up new vehicles above MSRP, then do not bother incurring the expense of taking inventory photos. heck, for that matter, save electricity and don't turn on the lot lights at night!

I have done the "actual vehicle photos" comparison at several stores. This is where we run a 3 month test by taking actual photos of all new vehicels that have a stock number ending in an even digit and do not take photos for new vehicles with stock numbers that end in odd digits.  Having done this "test" at at least 6 dealerships over time, rarely do we get to the end because the cars with actual photos get all the leads and phone calls.  Then, when people start showing up on the showroom with the VDP printed out and in their hands, the whole thing turns into a big joke... Sort of "No s*** Sherlock" actuial photos work better than catalog images... Again, the only debate os about the expense and the work flow.

Actual photos of new vehicles make almost as big a difference in lead volume as they do for used cars... Ever try advertising used cars with stock photos? It rates a Twitter "EpicFail hash tag.

Real photos generate more leads than catalog images. Can you tell which one of the following images is real... and which one is Memorex?

The new 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LT Black Diamond and 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LT Black Diamond inventory images above are from the same dealership and for two different vehicles of exact same model and trim... Also, consider that "Real videos" generate more leads than "Real Photos" alone... Real Photos generate more leads than "Stock Images"... get the drift?

However, before incurring the expense of implementing real photos of new vehcile inventory, there is a genuinely valid question that should be sincerely and realistically answered first: "Does your sales department effectively convert leads into showroom visits and sales?" Because, if the dealership is deficient in handling customer inquiries, and does a poor job of converting leads into sales, and/or does a poor job of converting traffic to the showroom into sales... Then don't waste time and money on inventory photos. You have more serious problems to deal with.

Wow, that was a great answer Ralph. It seems to me that these questions have always coincided with how much a dealer buys (or bought) into the Internet. At one time it was, "Should we put up photos?", then it was, "Is one photo enough?" Now the question is robotic videos vs real people personalized videos.

If a dealer didn't think much of the Internet as an advertising medium, they did not really want to invest the time or money to do what works.  You get out of it what you put into it.

Five years ago I didn't have statistics in front of me but I knew what I wanted if I was going to look for a new car and it was 'Actual Photos' not stock photos.  Our manufacturer website had stock photos and for over a year I argued with them to have the ability to put actual photos on the site. They were blockheads and I finally had enough and dropped them.  

We went to another website provider and almost overnight I had comments from leads about the nice pictures on the site and descriptions.  I believe that most 'Managers' do not put themselves in the shoes of the customer that is shopping there product.

Kim, ask your GM what he looks for when he shops for a product on line.  If he continues to think a stock photo is getting the job done he is just lazy because I will be the first to admit there is more work involved.  But hey, we do the used already don't we. Same process, just a few more cars and leads.

Wow, good question.

I would have to say it depends. For new cars, I probably would say not as much (one can presume everything will be in pristine order and shape). For used cars, I believe your average consumer wants to visually see the condition of the used car, exterior and interior. With used cars outselling new cars in most instances, the answer has to lie in getting your used inventory listings up to speed to show current vehicle conditions. Additionally, I believe your average can see through automotive stock images / OEM produced images.  

BTW, this comes from a microstock owner himself. I manage StockFuel. Thanks for the inbound link from a site with a PR of 4. :-)

We have several dealerships where we photograph, edit and upload photos for their new car inventory. We have one dealership in particular, that is directly beside another where we do their used inventory, both in the same auto group. I personally didn't see the importance of shooting the New Inventory. Now, they've seen the difference and we're finding more and more of the dealers we work with wanting to go this route.

We do not shoot nearly as many photos for the new inventory. The impact is great and because we keep a running library of new vehicles, we can keep the cost low for our clients. We also keep a new vehicle inventory library on a cloud, then the dealer can use these images for all marketing needs as well, i.e. Print, Email blasts, Social media, etc.

It does make a difference that's for sure!

A clear, sharp, vivid web image of a car, new or used, will not only keep the viewer on the page longer, but will increase the impulse to imagine him or her self in the auto. Many, but not all, new and used car salesrooms are content with mediocre sales images. The internet shows this. The psychology of color, brightness, and clarity in product purchasing has been documented in major journals. 

Visit to see why the difference matters and how you can benefit from this knowledge.

Alternatively, and as David seems to highlight, if your resources have the Photoshop skills a stock image can quickly look like an image at your facility.

I completely agree with you David. We prefer to photograph vehicles for our clients on clean backgrounds right at the dealership. Then we'll edit and tone them with our Digital Wax® process, and handle all uploading, file naming, etc for them. This way we're always on top of bringing their vehicles to market as soon as possible. The General Managers we work with appreciate having a worry free process. Heavy cutting or pasting in Photoshop can create an unknown for the customer. What we've found is with a quality image of a vehicle, it eliminates customer apprehension and makes the sales process easier - saving time and money for the dealer. The customer knows exactly what they want when they walk through the door, and the sales person knows exactly what to deliver. This is the first image of your dealership that the customer sees. The impact is substantial. Dealers need to stand out against their competitors.

Peter....GREAT SHOT!

While we don't go out to the showroom to shoot, we do take digital images that others have done and turn them into compelling images. We work with Photoshop, Corel Paint, and 8 other plug-ins that create buyable images from backyard shots.


Great post Kim! Thanks for sharing the KBB findings. conducted another awesome study that looked into the lift in click through activity when a custom photo of a vehicle appears in a listing on compared to a stock photo. The lift differed according to the position of the vehicle on the page, but the numbers were pretty convincing...

The vehicle in the top position saw a 71% lift in click rate when the photo was a custom image.

2nd position = 75%.

3rd position = 67%.

And this one is crazy... 4th postion = a 300% lift!!!  

This last number really jumped out at us. Could it imply that consumers are more compelled to drill down deeper into inventory when they're offered custom imagery of the actual cars on the lot? 

Like Ralph said, there are always other considerations. But it's hard to argue with those numbers.

Jon Quade & Melissa McCann talked about this, along with the impact that video on VDPs can have on a visitor's time on site and the probability that visitor will buy from the dealership. They also discussed some survey results on the debate on providing pricing, which is the topic of another recent post.

Feel free to check out their presentation on demand.

Thank you everyone for your feedback. This is such a wonderful group! I refer folks to ADM all the time!

I agree that actual photos have a positive impact on the customer's purchasing decision because it creates an emotional connection to that vehicle. As a side note, an AutoTrader seminar that I attended said to try adding a picture of the car keys & see what happens. I thought that was a clever idea!

How would you answer my GM's fear that the customer will not call in on a new car with actual photos to see if we can custom order one causing us to possibly lose sales.

Ralph, did you notice showroom ups that didn't submit forms or calls increase as well?

Thank you David. That last Red C-Class is actually not in a showroom, but in a staging area on the property. This Audi though, is in a studio on the premise.

Kim, I would say that a larger percentage of savvy buyers than not, KNOW they can customize a vehicle when they're purchasing a new one. I'd confidently relay that to your GM.

Here's a screen shot to illustrate an example of a library we keep of new vehicles for Mercedes-Benz of Calabasas. Again, these images can be used for marketing in print, web and or social media. They're kept on a cloud for easy access by the dealer's marketing department.


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