The montage above looks like photos of real vehicles at a car dealership, right?
They aren’t photographs. They are computer-generated images showing accurate details of vehicles that were just built and assigned to a dealership, but not yet delivered.
Using vehicle identification numbers’ product details and automakers’ computer graphic information, Michigan company eVN creates the images of newly built vehicles in exacting detail, then puts them on client dealership websites.
Vehicle-specific details include trim level, color, wheel type and interior features right down to the particular seat stitching and steering wheel switches.
“It requires complicated software to put it all together,” eVN’s founder Peter Stevenson tells WardsAuto. It’s a far cry from stock photography.
“Many dealers have told me they don’t want stock website photos, which usually are the right model and maybe the right color,” he says. “But they are very generic. It’s important for customers to know that what they see is what they get.”
eVN sends client dealers exterior and interior vehicle images for early online marketing even though the vehicle may still be at the factory or in transit. A soon-to-arrive notice accompanies such galleries.
“Everything you are looking at is essentially fake, but it is absolutely product-correct,” says Stevenson, who speaks of the importance of digitally marketing a car as soon as possible.
“VDPs (vehicle detail pages that provide individual inventory specifications) represent 70% of all visits to a dealership website,” Stevenson (pictured, below left) says.
People beelining to VDPs are seriously in-market. Accordingly, “those images better be good and accurate representations of the precise model they are interested in,” Stevenson says. “Dealers are sensitive to people going to the dealership and saying, ‘That’s not the vehicle you had online.’”
A dealership serves as the background for the eVN AutoGraph-created exterior images. That facility shot usually is stock imagery, although the company, using a network of photographers, can feature a specific store as a backdrop if dealers opt for that. Some do.
More than 3,000 Ford and General Motors dealers use eVN Autograph. The 6-year-old company is seeking to recruit other automakers to participate on behalf of their dealers, Stevenson says. “It requires manufacturer data, and understandably, they are careful about who gets it. Our agreements are ironclad. We get audited (by Ford and GM) to make sure we are managing the data properly. It’s not that we hold the keys to the kingdom.”
The end result are images that look “100% believable,” says Bob Wheat, general manager of eVN client Village Ford in Dearborn, MI.
Other clients speak of avoiding the laborious task of photographing lot inventory. “It was not possible to manage photographing 600 vehicles at multiple locations in a timely manner,” says Bill Brunner, general manager of Paramus Chevrolet in Paramus, NJ.
Opinions within the industry vary as to the optimal number of vehicle photos or images to put on a vehicle details page.
One study said no more than 10. Autotrader had experimented with different numbers before settling on eight. A digital retailing expert once said you can’t post too many. But viewing fatigue can kick in.
“The industry used to use dozens,” Stevenson says. “If I give 30 images, how many do you think are clicked on? The average is 10.”
eVN puts 24 images in a vehicle’s gallery. The company is starting to track which ones get the most clicks and which are clicked before others.
Typically, a three-quarter-angle exterior image is the first click. “That’s no surprise,” Stevenson says. No.2 usually is the dashboard. But it varies by vehicle – and by shopper, he adds. “A pickup owner might click on the truck bed first.”
Steve Finlay is a retired WardsAuto senior editor. He can be reached at [email protected].