Dealer Reviews are more important than ever in today’s “go-online-first” world. The vast majority of consumers begin their research and shopping journeys online. In fact, consumers use online reviews for half or more of new purchases. Reviews are influential.
Today, online resources carry more weight in consumers’ minds as compared to more traditional information sources because of the speed at which information is updated and made available for consumption. If you’re an advertiser, spending more of your time and energy in digital will pay off more in reaching and gaining share with consumers because of the speed at which the online marketplace moves.
Specifically, reviews play a pivotal role in consumers’ minds by helping them decide how they will proceed in their shopping journey after looking up a product or service and analyzing how other consumers felt about their experience. Over 90 percent of consumers who shop online, regardless of product or service, say they use online reviews¹. That’s significant! Online reviews aren’t going away, and how you react to online reviews will greatly impact your standing in consumers’ minds. Let’s take a look at some data.
How do Consumers Use Online Reviews?
Consumers use online reviews for half or more of new purchases. Reviews are influential. But, to what degree? Well, a large majority feel that online reviews are helpful and almost half would avoid a purchase without them, in general.
Dealers need to understand the extent to which online reviews influence purchase decisions. It makes sense that in our digital culture today, younger consumers use reviews more compared to consumers 55 years and older, but older consumers shouldn’t be ignored in an online review strategy. If a dealer doesn’t have online reviews, they are effectively ignoring the younger, Millennial generation with significant buying power.
“Eighty percent of Millennials said that they plan to purchase a vehicle in the next five years. At 80 million strong, and with more than $200 billion in annual buying power, there are plenty of sales to be generated from Millennials².”
What Review Sources do Consumers Trust the Most?
Consumers trust reviews from experts and from others who have purchased the same product they are interested in as the most influential.
From our study, three quarters of consumers trust expert reviews, and nearly as many trust reviews from other customers. The level of trust in experts and other customer reviews is on par with family and friends as sources.
Advertisements, whether online or through other media, are not as trusted. It is interesting here, though, to note that men, parents, and frequent review users are more likely to trust advertisements for making a major purchase — those sources by TV, radio, newspaper and other traditional media — with 25% indicating as such compared to 73% trusting expert reviews.
We recommend dealers have a process in place that highlights expert reviews on the makes and models they carry that will reinforce their own brand and get consumers talking. Dealers should also highlight reviews provided by customers who have previously purchased from their dealership. Doing so can help reassure potential consumers they are making the right decision in choosing the dealer they are researching.
How do Consumers Feel about Negative Reviews?
Negative reviews not only provide a look into how perceived poor experiences are handled at a dealership, but they can also highlight a pain point that may need addressed in the dealership’s own sales, service, or operations processes — an issue that may not have been apparent before. But, responding to negative reviews and showing other consumers that you’re willing to do what’s needed to make consumers happy after purchase can greatly improve your digital word of mouth and credibility in the minds of future consumers—setting you apart in the marketplace.
We aren’t done talking about dealer reviews. Stay tuned to our blog for more on the role reviews play in the car shopping journey in the coming weeks. All content, unless otherwise cited, comes from our own research in partnership and with execution and analysis by an independent third party, Versta Research. We performed a quantitative survey of 503 recent and prospective car buyers from November 3 – 15, 2016. Our sample was carefully sourced and screened from a large national research panel.
 Review Usefulness and Recency, Cars.com, November, 2016.
 Millennial Car Shoppers, CDK Global, 2015.