One of the fundamental issues dealers have with buying vehicles online is the inability to lay hands on the vehicle and get a true feeling for its condition.
Manheim’s product aims at curbing such issues. Made in partnership with fellow Cox Automotive company HomeNet, Manheim provides several packages of vehicle image portfolios to help provide peace of mind for dealers bidding at auctions online.
After an expedient six-month turnaround from concept to testing, Manheim partnered with Toyota Financial Services between February and April of last year to see what kind of effects the packages of 1,600-by-1,200-pixel resolution images could have for their online sales at Manheim Ohio and Manheim Phoenix.
What they experienced was a 17-percent increase in conversion rate, up to 62 percent, in the sample size of 2,700 vehicles being sold by TFS.
Bids increased by 26 percent and retention values increased by 1.1 percent, or $132 per vehicle. Arbitration cases dropped by 17 percent.
This was convincing enough for TFS to begin using Manheim’s EVI at the 20 locations with the product by May of 2014. This year, TFS will use the EVI product on all of its consigned vehicles at the 21 Manheim locations fitted to produce the images, including 20 in the United States and the newest location in Canada at Manheim Toronto.
Mike Reid, the national remarketing manager at Toyota Financial Services, helped Manheim create the product after seeing a need in his own business, which currently sells 82 percent of its inventory in the virtual space. The transition to digital imaging, according to Reid, was not at all a painful process.
“It certainly went smooth,” Reid said. “When we (Toyota) started this process of selling cars online, we had a vision that we needed to make the sales process more efficient for dealers, who may have lost their opportunity to make it to the physical auction on a regular basis.
“We certainly wanted to make sure that the images were quality, the pictures told the story of what was going on with the vehicle, and it really made that decision easier for the dealer to make sure they can transact and be confident with that purchase.”
Manheim currently offers its EVI product in three different flavors: “good,” which includes seven high-resolution images taken outdoors; “better,” which consists of 15 high-resolution images taken outdoors; and “showroom quality,” which are 15 high-resolution images taken in the studio booth which is fitted at 21 of Manheim’s locations.
According to Bonnie Hensler, Manheim’s vice president of product development, almost everyone (about 98 percent) opts for their photos to be taken in the showrooms.
“What we’ve found is that the majority of our customers really want that showroom quality,” Hensler said. “They’re great for presenting images online, digitally. And we have found that with those images we have increased sales conversions for our customers. We’ve increased our sale price or MMR retention. And we’ve also decreased arbitration rates.”
Reid says his dealer customers have given him a lot of positive back about the imaging system, a key metric being the consistency of the photos from auction to auction. He also says that many are becoming more and more okay with the idea of buying cars online without getting to see them first in person.
“It’s been a progression for us,” Reid said. “We’ve been selling cars in the virtual space since 2009. And that really came out of necessity when dealers weren’t really making it to the auction and they had to multitask at their dealerships. Yes, the comfort level, it’s certainly been a work in progress.
“The comfort level has been something they have acquired over time. But this has just been the icing on the cake, getting these pictures to a certain level where the dealers really have confidence in what they’re buying.”
Instead of doling the task out to current auction staff, Manheim went out and hired professional photographers to be a part of the full-time staff at the Manheim locations that offer the product.
“This is a pretty well-oiled machine now,” Hensler said. “We have made the investment in professional photographers. So we’re not just taking some people off the street and saying, ‘Hey, take some pictures.’ These are professional photographers that are full-time employees.”
The whole process takes five minutes or less, featuring a streamlined process leveraging photography equipment from Samsung and integrated cloud technology to get the images online as quickly as possible. Each of the locations has a showroom with standard operating procedures and specific service-level agreements which Manheim stands behind 100 percent.
Manheim currently plans to expand the program to include other OEMs and also plans to develop a version of the product for dealer use at its auctions.
The 21 locations that offer the product include: Manheim Atlanta, Manheim Baltimore-Washington, Manheim Denver, Manheim Fredericksburg, Manheim Kansas City, Manheim Milwaukee, Manheim Minneapolis, Manheim Nashville, Manheim Nevada, Manheim New Jersey, Manheim Ohio, Manheim Orlando, Manheim Pennsylvania, Manheim Phoenix, Manheim Riverside, Manheim San Diego, Manheim San Francisco Bay, Manheim Seattle, Manheim Statesville, Manheim Texas Hobby and Manheim Toronto.
To read the full case study of Manheim and TFS' trial of EVI, click .