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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?

In Marketing, Consumers Want to Know What is In It For Me

by Tim James

 

People aren’t watching your commercial or video because they want you to sell them your product. They’re watching because they want you to sell them a solution.

In the world of online marketing, oftentimes marketers forget this very basic concept. Think of it as painting pictures when selling. The idea is that you want to tell the consumer why they need a feature, so that the consumer will visualize how each feature will make their life better, easier, more efficient. How it will make them more money, or provide a solution to a need. It’s not uncommon for salespeople to go on and on about the features of a vehicle. It has this type engine. It’s safe. It has Bluetooth, etc. They may as well (and some probably are) read the window sticker to the customer. Great salespeople, however, understand that the customer doesn’t necessarily care about the fact that the vehicle has Bluetooth, unless it’s tied back to how it benefits the customer.

Mr. Customer, one of the great features on this vehicle is that it has Bluetooth functionality. This will allow you to connect your cell phone wirelessly and accept or make phone calls without taking your hands off of the steering wheel. Which will make your commute for you and your family safer.

Consumers may watch dozens of video walkarounds in their car-shopping journey. If you’re doing live video walkarounds of your vehicles, consider this: How would you do a walkaround for a customer right in front of you? Why would you do your live video walkaround for your website and VDP’s any differently?

Create more memorable videos that capture a customer’s attention and sell the consumer on why they need the features of each vehicle. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about the vehicle’s features. What I’m saying is that you’ll create more powerful videos if you tell the consumer why those features are important and highlight the impact each feature will have on their lives.

Live Video Walkarounds: Are they Worth the Effort?

by Tim James

While most forms of digital marketing offer some value to dealers, the one constant has – and always will be – the better your inventory merchandising, the higher your sales.

In the digital world, your merchandising takes place on your VDP Pages, making your VDP Pages one of (if not “the”) most valuable pieces of digital real estate that you have today. The goal of the merchandising on your VDP Pages is to get a consumer emotionally attached to the vehicle, to take “mental ownership.” Or, at a minimum, to generate enough interest that the shopper will come to your store and take a test drive. If you can’t obtain one of these goals, then you hope that your presentation of the vehicle at least had a large enough impact on the shopper that they will remember one of your vehicles as they continue their shopping and bounce from site to site.

This is why you invest the time and/or money into your current digital marketing strategy: You have a website that gets good traffic and that has good flow to the Vehicle Details Pages (VDPs); pay 3rd parties for VDPs on their sites; have high quality photos for each vehicle on its VDP; use a good quality vehicle description for each vehicle; and even have all kinds of “conversion widgets” and such on your VDP Pages. You know how important your VDP Pages are. And you currently invest a lot of time and money into your efforts to have the “best” presentation of your vehicles as possible on those VDPs.

Now, up to this point, I haven’t told you anything that you don’t already know. But let’s consider this:

• People retain 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and an amazing 70% of what they see & hear combined. This means that a shopper is at least 40% more likely to form an emotional attachment and remember “your” inventory if they are able to watch videos of the vehicles on your VDPs.

• More than 85% of today’s consumer’s say that they prefer product video over photos and a text based product description. Shoppers are significantly more likely to spend a greater amount of time on your VDPs — and more likely to return to YOUR website at a future time — if they know that they can receive their content the in the form in which they desire to receive it…video.

• Live Inventory Videos average 600% more engagement than stitched photo videos. This means that having a stitched photo video is better than not having a video at all; however, you will receive a significant boost in engagement if you are utilizing live inventory videos. This IS the best presentation of your vehicles (merchandising) possible for your VDPs.

The actual process of shooting a live inventory video only takes around 2 to 5 minutes per vehicle. Yes, it may take you a little longer in the beginning, when you first start shooting the videos, and before you are comfortable with the process. But, after you’ve shot a few, you should easily be able to get your process down to the 2 to 5 minute range. The actual process of shooting a live video is hardly an overwhelming investment of time, especially when considering the engagement and conversion benefits.

What DOES take time is everything else. You have to manually upload the video to a “host” (or multiple hosts), rename every file as you upload it, and then manually process the video URL to each location that you would like for the video to play. I’m sure there are plenty of you reading this who remember the days that this same “time consuming” process was at one time true for your photos. Shooting the photos was the easy part, but to get your photos to all of the various digital touch-points, you had to manually rename them and upload them touch-point by touch-point. Instead, many dealerships would either choose to not keep their photos current on the various digital touch-points, to outsource the photo process to a 3rd party, or would hire an in-house staff to do nothing but shoot and upload photos all day. As time progressed, and as dealerships started to realize how important the photos were to the merchandising process, more and more started investing in technology that made the upload and distribution process fast and easy. They still had to have someone shoot their photos, but that’s all they had to do and technology took care of the rest.

The great news is that this same technology now exists for your videos. All someone has to do is shoot the video (2 to 5 minutes) and technology will automatically name, upload, and distribute the videos for you (and often in real-time). In fact, you can even have your photographer shoot the video for you at the same time they are shooting their photos. And if you aren’t comfortable with your photographer talking about the vehicles while shooting the videos, then technology can even automatically add the audio layer to the video as it is being automatically uploaded. And you could even have one of your Sales or BDC Team members (from the comfort of their own office) re-record the audio layer of the video and instantly replace the automated audio layer on all of the digital touch-points (in real-time), if so desired. No more wind or highway noises, no airplanes flying overhead, and no worrying about the weather.

Even greater news is that these same videos can then also be utilized by your sales team and/or BDC team for personalized walkaround videos for lead responses. Instead of the time consuming, over and over process of shooting one video that would be seen by one person, of checking out the keys, finding the vehicle on the lot (in the heat, cold, rain, snow), pulling the vehicle out of the line, shooting the video, parking the vehicle, walking back inside, checking in the keys, uploading the video to a “host”, grabbing the URL and sending the video URL out in an email…the sales or BDC team member can now simply pull up the existing video (being used on the VDPs), re-record a personalized message as the audio, add background music (if desired), click save, and email out…all in less time than it takes to check out the keys and find the vehicle on the lot.

We used to find all kinds of excuses for why we didn’t keep our VDPs (across all of the digital touch-points) updated each day with 25, 35, 55+ photos. Excuses ranged from “it’s too much work” to “it costs too much money (if outsourced).” And I’m sure you can find plenty of new excuses as to why you aren’t shooting live videos for your VDPs and using walkaround videos for your lead responses…but the fact is that “it’s too much work,” is no longer a valid excuse, especially when you consider the impact that it will have on your sales.

As Hispanics buy more cars, stores add videos in Spanish

Eighteen months ago, Coast Nissan in San Luis Obispo, Calif., introduced Spanish-language videos with each car posted online.

General Manager Eric Ideman said it was a response to two trends:

•  His customer base along the central coast is heavily Hispanic, with many speaking only Spanish or preferring to communicate in the language.

•  Data showed increasing numbers of online vehicle-shoppers watching car videos.

“We have lot of people searching [for cars] in Spanish,” Ideman said. “We wanted to make sure they could get their videos in Spanish, too.”

Hispanics account for an increasing percentage of car purchases nationally, causing dealerships across the country to reassess how they market to the demographic, according to Eley Duke III, vice president of Duke Automotive (Chevrolet-Buick-GMC-Cadillac) in Suffolk, Va.

The videos at Coast Nissan and sister store Coast BMW appear as links on the Web pages of specific vehicles. They are for new and used vehicles. And they are either vehicle walk-around videos or a series of still photos spliced together with voice-over.

Duke said the area has a small Hispanic population nearby. But, he said, he added Spanish-language videos in December to the inventory he shows on the dealership website and social media feeds because he doesn’t want to lose a single sale to a language barrier.

Duke, like Coast Nissan, added the videos at the recommendation of one of its digital ad agencies, ZMOT Auto. The agency recently announced a deal with inventory video maker Flick Fusion to provide Spanish-language voice-overs to Flick Fusion’s videos.

In 2014, Hispanics accounted for 12 percent of retail vehicle registrations minus fleet and commercial vehicles, according to IHS Automotive. The number was 9.3 percent in 2010, according to Marc Bland, IHS Automotive vice president of diversity and inclusion. “If an automotive brand is looking for growth, there’s no better place to look than the ethnic consumer — with Hispanics leading the way,” Bland said.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that Hispanics, who numbered 52 million in the country in July 2011, or 17 percent of the population, will account for 30 percent of the population by 2050.

Duke said video-watching also is on the rise among car shoppers. “Videos are such a big part of a visual society,” he said.

According to Google’s “Digital Drives Auto Shopping” study published in November 2013, more than half of auto shoppers watch 30 minutes or more of video during their shopping journeys. Moreover, one in four watched an hour or more, the study found.

In recognition of those trends, Coast Nissan is offering all of its online inventory with videos in English and Spanish, Ideman said.

The store is not as close to heavy Hispanic foot traffic as some competitors, he said. So Coast Nissan also is ensuring that its paid search ads, blogs, chat and website content are in Spanish, too, so those customers can find and interact easily in either English or Spanish, he said.

It isn’t good enough, Ideman said, to get an online lead or phone call from Spanish-speaking customers and make them wait for a response until the store can get a bilingual salesperson to contact them.

“People want an immediate response, or they go away,” he said.

Coast Nissan sells about 80 vehicles per month split evenly between new and used.

Of the store’s six salespeople, four are bilingual. And so is Coast Nissan’s finance director, who is responsible for closing deals in finance and insurance.

Ideman said, “We want to hold them all the way through the transaction.”

Written by David Barkholz [Originally published 2/16 on Automotive News]

Building Rapport Before the Lead Is the Way to Win the Sale

By Tim James

In my last blog article, I discussed the importance of building rapport with leads through the use of “Why Buy From Me” and “Lead Response” videos personalized for each customer. Now I would like to take this one step further — Building rapport should in fact start much earlier than simply upon the receipt of a lead.

Think about the first contact a customer has with your dealership. Chances are good that they either went to your website, or found a vehicle that matched their interest on a third party site. At this point, detailed descriptions, images and video walkarounds can certainly make your vehicle stand out from the others. But how about further increasing the probability that the customer chooses to deal with you over any competition? How about building trust and rapport at this first entry point instead of waiting for them to put in their personal information and enter your CRM as a lead?

Just as you can integrate video walkarounds of the vehicle on VDP pages, you can also integrate your “Why Buy From Us” or “Why Buy From Me” videos into your vehicle display pages, as well as your most visited page on your website – your homepage. Sell The Dealership, Sell Yourself, Sell The Car…This simple rule can have a significant impact on the number of shoppers who see your online advertisements and ultimately trust you enough to reach out to you and inquire about a vehicle. And a HUGE impact on your sales once the customer arrives on your lot.

These actions help to build rapport and establish trust prior to receiving a lead, making the process of contacting the customer and engaging them that much easier when you do receive a lead. The fact is that you can build so much likeability and trust with a shopper that they decide that “you” are the dealership or sales person that they want to do business with, even before they have landed on a specific vehicle. You will even have shoppers who call you, email you, or even just show up at your dealership, without having settled on an exact vehicle, simply because they like and trust your dealership, or one of your salespeople. They thus reach out to you to help them find the right vehicle. Combine the above actions with walkaround videos and personalized video e-mails and you’ll find it much easier to win over a customer, leaving your competition in the dust.

Start creating rapport at the first touch-point, otherwise you could find yourself competing with four other dealers for the potential customer’s attention. A successful sales career is all about building relationships. The earlier in the car buying process that you can accomplish this, the easier it will be to engage a customer, more customers will show up for test drives, and you will haggle significantly less over price. You will get more sales and higher gross, because you are the good guys and the shopper wants to do business with YOU!

Sell the Car, Not the Price

by Tim James

Ever since the first car dealership opened, dealers have understood the emotional impact of “the walkaround.” As consumers move through the buying cycle, they get to a point where they don’t just want, but need to experience a vehicle that they are interested in. In the past, most consumers would visit the dealership in the evenings, when the lot was closed to avoid “being sold.” But driven by their need to experience the vehicle in person, they still came, day and night.

Well, believe it not, nothing has changed! Consumers still have an uncontrollable need to experience a vehicle first hand as they move through the buying cycle. The only difference is that the initial experience takes place online via a Vehicle’s Detail Pages (VDP Pages). Imagine, however, if a dealer could put one of their vehicles (or their entire inventory) in every mall, venue and every other busy consumer traffic area in their PMA, at no additional cost. Now image if they could have a salesperson at each and every location to talk to customers 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week.

While placing a vehicle and a salesperson everywhere in the physical world isn’t practical for dealers, it’s absolutely possible in the digital world. In this age of online shopping, one of the most important assets that any dealer has is their inventory’s VDP. Chances are very good that car buyers who land on a dealer’s vehicle display page are very close to buying. Every vehicle in their inventory should thus be displayed to its best advantage, and on as many potential touch-points that a car buyer is likely to visit as possible.

Let’s face it. Most of your in-stock vehicles are competing for consumer interest. Many dealers choose to attract consumers via low prices, sacrificing profit for the sale. Smart dealers understand that high quality, visually appealing inventory marketing will get a shopper emotionally attached to a vehicle. It will motivate that shopper to want to visit their store to test drive “their” car long before any “price” motivation will. The fact is, once a shopper begins forming an emotional attachment to a vehicle, you no longer have to be the lowest price to motivate the shopper to visit your store.

Nothing can generate a higher level of emotional attachment than a quality video presentation of your inventory, nothing. The best part of the equation is that your shoppers actually want to see videos of the vehicles they are considering. In fact, video content is quickly becoming the media of choice for consumers. 85% of automotive shoppers stated that they watched a video of a vehicle during their car buying experience, and half of them (49%) take action immediately after watching. While dealers are sure to have nice websites, great pictures of vehicles, attractive newspaper ads with calls-to-action, many neglect the fastest growing type of marketing (and the type of marketing that will have the biggest emotional impact) – video.

Think about it like this, your online advertising should be focused on motivating a shopper to “visit your dealership”, not “buy a vehicle”. Price based motivation is asking the shopper to commit to a purchase before they’ve ever even visited your store or test driven the vehicle. Meanwhile, a video’s power is inherent in its ability to involve multiple senses when displaying the vehicle to an online car shopper. Having high-quality videos will allow shoppers to experience your inventory at the highest level possible online, making it more likely for a shopper to become emotionally attached to a vehicle and have an uncontrollable need to visit your dealership to take a test drive.

Having the ability to then place that video on multiple touch-points throughout the buying cycle increases the odds that the consumer finds, views and chooses your vehicle over your competitor’s, regardless of whether it’s the lowest price.

Improve the quality of your inventory marketing to potential customers and you will see more interest, higher conversion, more profit per sale and a faster turn rate. Sell the car, not the price.