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Resist the Robots: Automatically Generated Descriptions and Videos Piss People Off

Merchandising your inventory to suit today’s customer is not just hard, it’s downright painful.

You need to take over twenty great photos of a clean car that just arrived as a trade-in or off the transport truck. It needs to be VIN decoded and have all the equipment and options added. People want a description that highlights the most important features, as well as the things they cannot tell from a picture, like the accident and service histories.

And now, more than ever, they are demanding video footage of every piece of used inventory. (Let’s not forget great video walk-arounds of new models, as well.)

Yellow robot trying to use laptop

So what are the most common strategies?

Some dealers have resorted to hiring full-time merchandisers, and to me that makes good sense. The best department stores and clothing retailers take it for granted that paying for merchandising is just the cost of doing business.

Some dealers feel like they cannot afford it. Others make their best attempt, and some just leave it be. Most, unfortunately, are the type who get lured in by providers with automated services: automatically generated descriptions and videos that are alleged to boost SEO rankings, engage consumers, and increase leads.

Sounds perfect, right?

When you pay for quickness over quality, you get what you pay for

I can understand the appeal of a service that makes these claims: “For a few hundred buck$ I get all my descriptions and videos. How sweet is that!”

The reality is these automated services are a huge waste of money, not to mention they have no impact on SEO, engagement, and leads.

Let’s take a look at these two services.

i. Automated descriptions

Automated Descriptions work based off a VIN explosion (or burst, or decode). Like playing a game of automotive Mad Libs, the reality is that a not-insignificant number of VINs come back nonsensical. (And the results are much less funny.) When this happens, you get incomplete descriptions that make you look foolish.

Take colour, for instance. If the colour field is left blank, you get things like this:

This vehicle is nice in color” or “This vehicle is [BLANK] in color”

Say the VIN does come back pretty good and you get a description like this:

Greetings. This 2011 Buick Regal is for sale on our lot in Grande Prairie and ready for you to take home. This low mileage sedan has just 40797 kms. It’s black in colour. It has an automatic transmission and is powered by a 2.4L I4 16V GDI DOHC engine. This vehicle also has the following options: Alloy Wheels, CD Player, Sunroof, Uconnect, Am/fm Radio, Steering Wheel Controls, Alarm System.

Why no mention of Bluetooth connectivity, auxiliary inputs, or heated seats? And what is Uconnect?  Don’t expect the average buyer to know your badge-specific lingo. Automated descriptions do not seem to want to prioritize any of the features that matter to today’s car buyer. Not sure what these features are? Check out this blog we did based on Car Story’s March Report.

ii. Automated video

Automated video makes me even more upset. The fact that people get away with charging for this blows me away.

Let’s get one thing straight: a bunch of still images sliding across a screen with some robot voice speaking at warp speed and listing features like intermittent wipers is absolutely not a video. Netflix would not have a market cap of over $46 billion (at time of writing) and YouTube would not be the second largest search engine if all they showed were these—to be frank—shitty, wannabe videos.

Still need a little extra convincing? Go to the YouTube page of a dealer who uses this strategy and take a look at how many views they get. I bet you it’s within one or two of zero.

Man in blue shirt yawning while on laptop

But what about the SEO benefits, Duncan?

Think that automation helps you rank well in organic search? Open up Google and type in any long-tail keyword search that should describe your listing and see what comes up; I bet you it’s not the robot-image video you’re hoping for.

Automated services do not do justice for you, your vehicles, or your dealership. In many cases, they piss people off and make you look foolish. We live in the age of information transparency. If you are not giving the consumer the info they are looking for, they will get it somewhere else.

Hard Work Gets Results

The point I am trying to make with all this is that you have to put in the work. It’s unfortunate, I know. If you want great results you have to put in a great effort. If you want average results, well then do what the average guy is doing. Taking actual videos and writing great vehicle stories will have a profound impact on your results. Cancelling your automated service will only save you money.

Need a helping hand? Give us a shout and we can point you in the right direction.

Product Merchandising

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