merchandising

How to Shoot Professional Quality Videos with a Smartphone

When dealerships first start their video marketing programs, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “Will I have to buy an expensive camera?” The answer is no. Just about everyone these days has a smartphone that can shoot HD video. When used properly, the quality of video produced can be exceptional. All it takes is practice.

Most dealers start with inventory walkaround videos and these are probably the trickiest videos to shoot, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.

First, to ensure a good high-resolution (and non-pixelated) video, adjust your camera setting to record video at 1920 x 1080 and 30 frames per second (fps), unless you plan to extract your still images for the inventory from the video.  In that case you may want to utilize 60 frames per second (fps).

Next, invest in a stabilizer. Most smartphones have a pretty good stabilizer built into them today, but they will only make a good video better. This is the merchandising layer for your inventory that most shoppers are going to view, so invest in the tools that you need to provide the best experience for your shoppers that you can. Don’t fool yourself into believing you can walk around the vehicle while holding the smartphone steady in your hand. The result will be a bouncy video that will make your viewers seasick and result in low video completion rates.

A hand-held stabilizer or tripod is better than nothing, but if you want to produce the best quality video invest in a 3-axis gimbal for a couple hundred bucks. It is worth every penny! For top of the line stabilization a 4-axis gimbal is even better, but may run you a couple thousand.

Currently we recommend using a set-up that includes your smartphone, and the DJI OSMO camera/gimbal combo. This is a really cool camera that takes amazing quality video and connects wirelessly with your smartphone, so you can use your smartphone to view what the camera is recording.

You can find a DJI OSMO starter kit for around $500 and depending on how you want to accessorize it, you may spend $700 to $800. This is a small investment that will make your inventory shine!  GoPro also offers some great camera/stabilizer combinations that cost less and produce very good quality videos as well.

Once you have a stabilizer, the next thing you’ll want to address is lighting. Smartphones have small lenses so adequate lighting is critical. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re shooting outdoors, but always position the vehicle so you will not be pointing the camera into direct light, such as the sun.

When you first begin shooting walkarounds, you may want to allow extra time to shoot the entire video two or three times. With each ‘take,’ experiment with different ISO settings, which measure your camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. On a sunny day your ISO settings will be lower and on cloudy days your ISO settings will be higher. If you do shoot on a sunny day, avoid shooting midday because that’s when the sun casts the harshest shadows. Instead, schedule shoots for early morning or late afternoon.

For vehicle walkarounds, you want to feature shots panning the side of the vehicle, as well as the front and back so the viewer has a good sense of what the vehicle looks like from all angles. Open the doors and shoot the interior, both front and back.

Then focus on shooting the features that you will use to sell the car, such as the Infotainment system, new tires, safety features, etc. The total length of your walkaround videos can range from one to four minutes. Don’t believe experts who tell you that all videos have to be one minute or less. Though this is probably true for a bad or dull video, if the presentation is informative and entertaining, two, three or even four minutes is okay. There are plenty of dealerships that get 80 to 90 percent completion rates with videos that long, and plenty of dealerships that only get a 50 to 60 percent completion rate with their bouncy and dull one- minute videos.

If you are worried about the audio track for your videos, you can have your photographer shoot your videos and have a data driven audio track added to the video automatically.  If you are adding your own audio while shooting the videos, or if you decide to shoot your walkaround videos featuring a salesperson or spokesperson giving a live presentation, invest in a good noise-cancelling microphone.

Either way you can always go back and replace the audio layer of the video if you want or need to without having to re-shoot the video.  You can even personalize the audio layer of the videos for specific leads (personalized walkarounds) without having to shoot another video, saving you a LOT of time while producing an identical personalized walkaround video to one that was shot from scratch.

Finally, expect that the first few videos you create will probably suck. Don’t be discouraged! Practice makes perfect. Keep doing it and eventually things will click. Pretty soon you will find your own unique style and every walkaround video will become a mini-masterpiece.

What tips do you have for shooting professional quality video with your smartphone?

Think Virtual Reality is a Fad? Think Again.

by Tim James

Virtual Reality has been quite a craze recently with video gaming and other consumer electronics. However, the high cost of entry and expensive units limited its reach. Even Google’s cardboard VR glasses required smartphones that cost upwards of $700. The Oculus Rift Goggles were even more expensive and required high-end computers to work.

Now, however, Sony has provided a more cost-effective way for consumers to experience VR with the release of VR glasses designed for use with the Playstation 4 game console. With an installed base of 44 million Playstation 4 owners, the glasses instantly sold out on pre-order and are still hard to acquire, which illustrates the high demand for VR experiences. This release immediately made Virtual Reality readily available for mass consumption.

But if you think 44 million is a lot, what about rolling out Virtual Reality to over 2 billion consumers?

Well, that’s about to happen!

In a recent article, Facebook’s CTO revealed a roadmap for the future of Virtual Reality. As you may or may not know, Facebook owns Oculus Rift. However, according to Facebook, their plans for the future of VR for Facebook users do not include Oculus Rift. Instead, Facebook is working on a standalone product that will make Virtual Reality glasses which are integrated with Facebook “cheaper, easy to use and highly distributed.”

The project, named StandAlone, could instantly thrust Virtual Reality into almost every consumer’s hands, transforming it into common use in all areas including conversations via messaging (both audio and video), marketing and content on Facebook’s platform. Imagine experiencing all of the content posts and marketing messages in a VR setting.

Many automakers are currently implementing or actively working on their own VR experiences. And a few already have VR content in place. Virtual Reality is here and consumers are pursuing and embracing this technology. With the cost of entry decreasing and consumer adoption increasing, Facebook’s VR glasses could instantly change the game.

Dealerships that aren’t prepared or that have not already implemented VR experiences with their inventory merchandizing may find themselves scrambling as this technology is increasingly in the hands of consumers. VR isn’t going away, and it is not a fad. It’s also not the future. It’s the now.

Are you prepared?

Don’t Use a Band-Aid When What You Really Need Are Stitches!

by Tim James

There is a lot of talk and buzz building about the importance of video marketing – as there should be. Video is quickly becoming the preferred medium for consumers. Don’t believe me? Literally thousands of articles exist on the Internet illustrating the benefits of using video in your marketing.

But for this blog I would like to take a step back for a minute. I’ve talked about using video in emails, virtual reality, etc. However, it’s time to get back to basics, because, despite the power of video, there are still some dealers who don’t even have videos of their vehicles on their websites.

Let’s get real here. You spend tons of money on your website. That website has one major purpose – to show off your inventory so that a car shopper can get emotionally attached to a vehicle and call you. And I am sure you also spend quite a bit of money driving traffic to your website and vehicle display pages. As well as a considerable chunk of change to get your vehicles on third party listing sites in order to influence and engage with car buyers there. Seeing as all this money is spent to market inventory and drive traffic to it in order to do the only thing that matters – sell a car – then it makes sense to ensure the greatest return on your investment by having the very best advertisement for your vehicle on that vehicle display page!

If you aren’t actually taking full-motion videos to merchandize your vehicles, the next best thing is stitched photo videos. Yeah, I have heard the naysayers that don’t see the value of stitched photo videos but, at the same time, are not doing any video whatsoever. Those dealers are missing out on customers. You don’t have to listen to me… but you should be listening to your customers – and here’s a nugget of data for you:

According to data, stitched photo videos on vehicle display pages have an average 75 percent completion rate.

Now let me ask you a question. Would stitched photo videos have a 75 percent completion rate if customers DIDN’T like them? Of course not. Most dealers have about 40 or so pictures of each vehicle along with a written vehicle description designed to provide information while simultaneously creating an emotional attachment to the vehicle. By presenting this same information with a video (even a stitched photo video), you increase both the informational and emotional value of the content, which means you get more leads.

Look, let’s remove our “opinions” from the equation and just focus on the data, which clearly shows that consumers like and are influenced by stitched photo inventory videos. Time and time again we see dealers go from NO video whatsoever to stitched photo videos — and very quickly realize a significant increase in some of their most important KPIs. We have seen122% increases in unique VDP views, 110% increase in total VDP views, 75% increase in return website visitors and lead form conversions of 95% or more. These are actual increases realized by your peers, just by adding stitched photo inventory videos!

If you’re NOT using video, don’t you want these performance increases from your website? And these are results from dealers that simply flipped a switch with their video provider and turned on stitched photo videos. This took no extra effort on their part whatsoever. The pictures are already being taken. The software does the rest.

Nobody ever said video marketing needs to be overwhelming. Sometimes you have to crawl before you can run. But what really matters is that the mere act of crawling will get you farther than doing nothing whatsoever.

There are many other reasons that inventory videos are critical to your Video Marketing Strategy, even if you only use stitched photo videos — particularly when it comes to the data capture and utilization power of inventory videos. The bottom line is that customers want to watch inventory videos and they will have a significant impact on your sales. If you don’t provide it for them, you may find them watching another dealership’s videos. And that probably won’t work out in your favor.

Is Having Too Many Pictures A Bad Thing? Perhaps

by Brian Cox

It wasn’t too long ago that we saw most dealers’ VDP pages contain only a couple of pictures of a vehicle. As technology improved and made it easier and more efficient for dealers to take and upload more images, best practices quickly raised the standard for image quantity to 40 or more pictures. Now, however, a recent article in Automotive News cites a white paper that suggests that a VDP page that contains more than 9 photos causes “image fatigue” in a consumer. Apparently this results in a drop off in lead volume as consumers get tired of clicking through multiple images to find the information they are seeking – whether that be interior images, exterior images, or whatever aspect may be important to that particular buyer.

The thought process behind providing multiple images is that the consumer has the ability to inspect a vehicle online and gain more interest by having any questions about vehicle condition answered. The results of the white paper suggest that the optimal number of photos on any given VDP is nine. According to the report, used vehicles posted for sale with nine images generated 50 percent more leads than those without any images; 56 percent more leads than those with 20 images; and 71 percent more than those with 30 images.

Why does it seem like best practices have gone backwards?

My take on that it is this: It’s easy to see how today’s online car shoppers can get image fatigue by clicking 40 pictures, one by one. That being said, I don’t think it’s any less important for shoppers to be able to obtain the information they need without experiencing the “image fatigue” suggested by the white paper.

It’s actually a very easy solution… video.

At the time it became a best practice for dealerships to have 40+ pictures, video marketing was in its infancy. Many inventory videos were crude and looked unprofessional. As technology has improved tremendously, video has become the media type of choice, as stated by many research studies. And not just in the automotive industry, but in every sector.

So, perhaps consumers tend to lose interest after clicking on too many images. Or, perhaps the real reason they lose interest is that the dealer didn’t provide the type of content that would keep a consumer’s interest, the one that is preferred by most demographics, the one that converts and sells cars… video.