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I have a question for the ADM community regarding their 3rd party inventory merchandizing services like Dealer Specialties.  


After a car hits your lot, on average, how many days does it take to have a fully inspected and merchandized vehicle description with photos loaded on to your website?


Please account for how often your 3rd party visits your lot.





Tags: car, inventory, photos

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If you are using a third party company to merchandise your inventory, you're in trouble.  Merchandising should be done in house.  Vehicle should be serviced, detailed and online within 72 hours from hitting the lot.  Companies like Dealer Specialties come out once or twice a week and if the vehicle is not easily accessible and ready to be photographed, they simply move on to the next car.  I'm sure there are some DS reps who take great photos but I've never seen them.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen a third party photo person pull a car three feet out of a row and shoot it in between two other cars.  Please, do this in-house and control the quality of your merchandising. 
I agree with Mike, but am also enough a realist to know that for dealers who are inept or too incompetent to properly merchandise their own vehicles, services such as Dealer Specialties represent a viable alternative... Not an ideal alternative, but somewhat better than not taking pictures at all.  However, if you REALLY want to properly merchandise your new and used vehicles, then actual photos need to be taken at the exact moment when the vehicle comes out of the detail and get ready shop.  Not the next day, not the day before and certainly not three days latter... AT THE MOMENT THE VEHICLE EXITS DETAIL AND GET READY!

I've been doing photos/data for 10 years now and 300+ dealers in WA.

First of all, account for the weather. Second, there is more than just taking a photo, everyone thinks this is a minimum wage job and it requires some teck skills as well as an organized and reliable person. Third you are always in trouble, if you take the photos nobody gives a sh... and if one car is ont he website (DMS posted) with no photo--oh well--it is your fault. Fourth, if you do it in house you need to have more than one guy to accoutn for large influx of cars (dealers buy cars in batches) the person getting sick, vacation, when their dog dies, girlfriend leaves him, etc.


At the end of the day, what we manage is the availability of trained persoonel to do the job in a consisten manner, we manage the volumes: If you dont have a lot of cars we show twice a week and if you have a lot we show up 6 days a week--yet dealers ONLY pay if and when we do any work!


If you want my company, or DS, or anyone else to do a better job, pay them an extra $100 and have them show up one more day. Dealers always negotiate 20 cents on the photos then when the service is only 2 a week they go in house. Lets make sense of this:


If you sell 75 used cars (average in WA) you will spend around $1000 in photos. That includes:


  • 2-3 times a week service.
  • Trained employee.
  • Manager available to cover of rep is sick, etc.
  • Support for more than normal incoming units.
  • Equipment (yes, in WA DSLR cameras last 1 month or son in winter).
  • Labels.
  • etc.

My head went in circles when I saw my neighbor changing the oil in his car in his garaje a few weeks ago. It makes no sense.


I equate taking your photos, labels, and uploads to that.

Yago - Thank you for providing the reason and compelling logic to outsource this task.  I still think the photos and real videos should be taken by 5 strategically positioned digital cameras mounted so that the dealer gets great images as the car comes off the detail rack.  The surrounding walls should be painted with the right scenery and signage as well.  However, I do agree that outsourcing in this case may in fact be the lower cost alternative.

Ralph, 5 cameras can only take 5 photo angles. Nowadays we go 12-15 at most dealers and 25-30 at higuer end stores. The human factor is also important as photo guys with a good eye find interesting parts and angles in the cars.


Cost is a factor but the 2 mayor ones are:


Turn over: My phot guys make around 3K with health insurance, car allowance and a few pther parks and I lose them after 1 or 2 winters at the most. A solid training process is what gives my company the edge.


Second is the changes in the influx of cars. Some weeks a dealer buys 25 cars other they buy 125. I have 30+ people on the field in Seattle for example with 3 area managers. If a dealer buys 25 he ONLY pays for those 25 but the week he has 125 we are able to bring the manpower to handle them.

Dealer Specialties has always worked fine for me at the dealers I've worked at.  Photography is tough.  Lighting is tough.  Weather is tough.  Computers are tough.  Dealers who want "results" are tough.  Finding cars on a lot is tough.  Finding the keys to those cars is tough.  Getting them out of Service is tough.  It's pure grunt work.  Leave it to someone who does it all day long.  They really don't want to screw up, but they have some major factors to overcome at times.


Photography is Tough.  If you think it's easy, take the job for a week, but make sure you travel to 20 different dealers and shoot their vehicles too.  It's like finding needles in a haystack for these photographers.  I make demands of them just like any dealer, but I also understand their challenges at each dealer. 


When I was a Buyer for Carmax, they handed me a camera, one day, to take 8 pictures of each vehicle that became "sellable" each day.  I handed the camera back and told them I wasn't hired as a photographer and my talent was needed elsewhere ("Good luck and who's bright idea was this anyway?  I'd like to hand them the camera and have them work it into their job description.  Just point me to the right decision maker on this.  I'm ready to address this nonsense.").  They decided to hire a full time photographer (in house, no less) to handle those photos, eventually.  I was dealing with a store that sold 450 used cars a month at that time.  Had they not given the job to someone else, the camera would've "broke" in less than a week (and it was built for war).  That's how I feel about photography.  I enjoy it on vacation, but not at work.  It's grunt work.  Of course, volume is a factor.


Jason Manning





Thank you! What the guys do in the field under rain, sun, hail, you-name-it, to gett hose cars is incredible. Plus they deal with used car managers that have no time for them all day!

After dealing with several 3rd party companies over the years, I will have to say that doing it internally is still the best way to handle it in a fast pace enviroment, if you have the resources. If you do not have the proper person in place then you must go with 3rd party. I am sorry to say our dealerships can and does take better pictures then most 3rd party people I have seen with our little kodak digital camera's.  For example I have had a 3rd party take a pictures of  used vehicles many times and there was clearly a warning code above the mileage, but they still put the photo on line. These people ( all good people btw) are trained to take 12-16 pictures as quick as they can  and then move on to the next car and then dealership. You get what you pay for, if you want it done with proper car placement, weather, 30 pictures, different angles, picture managemnet,  you have to do it yourself.


Another thing to consider with 3rd party uploading your cars onto your various media selling outlets anything changed in most 3rd party dashboards are not uploaded until the formulating time they have choose to upload in..say Midnight-3am and then I have had issues with them not going through. Mike hit it on the head, with coming out to take pictures...once a week for 3rd party to also come out to take pics is the norm.

    I know it might not be what you are considering, but if you can find someone responsible, pay them well because it really is a full time job for larger dealerships, get a format down, and be able to make corrections live and upload live to your sites, print your labels, this is the best way in my opinion.


So things to consider for 3rd party inventory management..


1.) Once a week to take pictures

2.) Upload times are once a day

3.) Picture quality sometimes poor

4.) Cost of the monthly service and per car price

5.) They do print labels but only as good as the information you give them or take from the vehicle.




Huge difference in service from one area to another in the country. I've seen some cities where dealers drove the price down to the point that no extra service was possible.

I had a funny call from a dealer in a remote area complaining about Dealer Specialties (hard weather area). I checked the cross-sell reports and saw that even putting all dealers together in that town there was not much biz but I returned the call anyway. We talked for a little bit and the complaint was that DS didn’t come often enough so I mentioned that they were a bit far away and with gas at $4/gallon that was a problem but I kept moving forward. So we got down to biz and I said: “I need $18/car in order to account for driving time, gas, twice a week, etc” so the dealer answered “but we only pay $12 a car now”. We could not move from that. Now what is more irritating is that the dealer was selling 30 used cars a month so it would have cost him an extra $180/month to get an extra 4 days of service (or $45/day). I finally told him that DS was probably doing a fine job for $12.

That small example repeats itself time after time in this biz. We make and lose deals for .50 a car (so if you sell 100 cars/month that is $50) then dealers complain that we didn’t show up an extra day.

Yago has done a nice job summarizing this argument but I'd like to add a couple things:


1) First, to answer Brian's question, I'll be the AVERAGE time from arrival to fully merchandized is close to 5-6 days.  The reality is that the reconditioning process takes longer than anyone wants to admit.  

2) A dealer who dedicates staff, training and dedication to merchandising their vehicles can cut some time off of the process but I would argue that the cost of this is what other functions that person SHOULD be doing at your dealership.  Too often, I find the Internet Sales Manager taking photos, meanwhile other processes at the dealership fall apart.  

3) Dealers frequently choose to do this in-house because they were frustrated with their service provider either not showing up frequently enough or not maintaining a high level of quality.  Dealers who try to save money by going "in-house" generally fail because they aren't willing to put the training and process in place to be successful.  

4) I can't speak for other vendors but many Dealer Specialties customers are serviced EVERY day... while dealerships located further from metro areas might only see a rep once or twice per week, the average customer is getting close to 3x per week.  The less frequent notion is a pretty dated concept.


The bottom line is that the photos/description of the car shouldn't add significantly to your merchandising process.  And the best part with Dealer Specialties, is you can use our tools to outsource or Do-It-Yourself... or some hybrid approach in between!  


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