Reviews Influence Car Shopping Decisions: Infographic

Understanding when and how online reviews are used can help to make sense of a complicated topic: do reviews influence car shopping decisions?  The answer is yes!  But, what are car shoppers doing with reviews?  What review types are they looking up?  We gathered this information and published it in our latest white paper “Car Shoppers are Judging You,” which can be found here in full.  However, we wanted to put it  in a more quickly digestable form, so take a look below and download the PDF infographic to learn what consumers are doing with car related reviews.

Car Shopper Use of Car Related Reviews

 

 

Looking At Dealer Review Behavior

Last week we discussed the value in your online reviews – how consumers use reviews and the role of positive and negative reviews.  It’s important to the dealership’s success to have a strategy in place to monitor and respond to all reviews.  Now, let’s dive into consumer behavior by looking at the number of reviews consumers want to see, how recent reviews need to be, and the devices used to read them.

What’s the minimum amount of reviews needed to influence a purchase decision?

Across categories, consumers want to read at least 4 to 5 reviews before making a purchase decision. We also found that one-third of consumers are wanting ten or more reviews to help them make a purchase decision. Think about it — what goes through your mind when you see a product or service with one review? Thoughts may range from, “It must not be good if there’s so few reviews” or “they must be new if there’s only one. I’ll keep looking.” The amount of reviews a dealer has available to consumers online matters — the more the better.

Customers think the same thing. Work hard to grow the amount of reviews for consumers to read, and keep them coming!

Those consumers who are frequent users of reviews expect more reviews than those who aren’t using reviews as often. Car reviews specifically are the second most useful type of review that we found, and car reviews have the largest amount of minimum reviews needed to satisfy consumers—with a mean minimum of 11 reviews being ideal to influence their purchase decision. Car dealership reviews are expected to have the same amount of reviews to be considered useful by consumers when choosing a dealership. If dealers have an effective online review strategy that prioritizes growing reviews, then this number shouldn’t be hard to achieve and it keeps fresh review content alive for an online audience.

How recent to do online reviews need to be to be deemed relevant to consumers?

When discussing recency, car reviews should be within the past six months to be considered useful. Across categories, however, consumers mostly accept reviews within 6 months to one year. Reviews within the past three months are ideal and are seen as having the most value.

Now, not everyone looks at the age of reviews, but for those that do, the more recent the better. Consumers want to make their decisions based on — practically — real-time information. Younger audiences, especially the Millennial generation, live in a world of instant gratification. If they can’t find what they’re looking for or don’t like what they find at a dealership, they’re likely to keep looking until they do. Dealers who don’t have enough recent reviews are going to lose in the marketplace when it comes to digital word of mouth.

Depending upon where a consumer is in their shopping journey, a review could be the catalyst to make a decision sooner. Dealers want to have their best and most representative foot forward to help consumers make that purchase decision — to buy from them.

What devices are consumers using to interact with reviews?

It’s interesting to see what devices consumers use to engage with reviews. You could assume that those who choose to write reviews on mobile devices are ‘in the moment’ and happy with their experience and want to write a review while it’s still fresh in their minds. On the reverse, they could have had an awful experience and want to vent. Either way, mobile is a means to review experiences and do it quickly. We found that 42% of consumers leave online car reviews via their smartphones.

In looking at dealership reviews, 34% of consumers leave them, but 47% of these reviews are done via smartphones — more than individual car reviews.

On the other hand, some consumers may choose a desktop to leave reviews. We found that because of the ease of use for some consumers or a lack of urgency to leave a review, a desktop may be more ideal for some consumers after purchase. For dealership reviews, we found that 78% of reviews are done on a desktop. We also found that 82% of car reviews written are done on a desktop as well.

For the largest purchases in a consumer’s life— vehicles and homes— they tend to use online reviews earlier in their research process compared to other purchases.

In any scenario, dealers need to create and execute a strategy to follow up with consumers after their purchase, asking for reviews of their experience to continue growing that digital word of mouth. Perhaps a consumer didn’t have a mobile device to leave a review when they were on the lot. Maybe the consumer meant to leave a review but forgot. Sending follow up emails, making phone calls, or sending texts can be a great way to continue growing dealers’ brands by asking the customer how happy they were with their experience and then asking for a review.

The Value in Your Online Presence & Reviews

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.

[1] Review Usefulness and Recency, Cars.com, November, 2016.
[2] Millennial Car Shoppers, CDK Global, 2015.

Car Shoppers Are Judging You: A White Paper

We at Cars.com love reviews and DealerRater.  We also love helping connect car shoppers to the right car and the right person at the right dealership.  So, we worked to find out how car shoppers use reviews today and how reviews influence their car shopping and car servicing decisions.

We know online resources carry more weight in the consumer’s mind 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.

With this white paper, we provide insight into the role digital word of mouth plays — especially online reviews — in driving action for consumers throughout the car purchasing and car ownership life cycle. Furthermore, we want to provide key takeaways that help dealers better understand how consumers use and interact with reviews at different stages and provide ideas to help dealers update processes and strategies related to digital word of mouth, and discuss the role negative reviews can play in digital word of mouth.

Interested in learning more?  Click to download our “Car Shoppers are Judging You” white paper to take advantage of your reviews and grow your digital word of mouth today!

Dealer Reviews Matter — The More Recent, The Better

Dealer Reviews are more important than ever in today’s ‘go-online-first’ world.  Consumers, more often than not, begin their journeys online when they start their vehicle search.  Reviews can play a pivotal part in helping consumers decide how they will proceed to research and shop for their next vehicle.  Over 90 percent of consumers who shop online, regardless of product or service, say they use online reviews¹.  That’s significant!

We’ve been actively working on growing the amount of reviews on Cars.com to better inform car shoppers for years now.  We’ve grown from offering only Dealer Reviews to also offering Service Reviews and now integrating DealerRater reviews for car shoppers.

Now that we feature DealerRater reviews, consumers have access to three million more consumer submitted reviews in addition to existing reviews on Cars.com to total 4.6 million dealer reviews site-wide. This can only grow the review platform to benefit consumers and dealers in one location.

In a recent study conducted to learn consumer opinion of online reviews, respondents indicated more often that recent reviews were useful when compared to less recent reviews regardless of the product or service – not a surprise here¹.

The majority of respondents feel that reviews should be within the past six months when they read them or more recent in order to be considered useful¹.  When we specifically asked how they felt about car dealership reviews and car reviews, 44% of respondents agreed that both should be within the past six months to be considered useful.

Based on the  integration of DealerRater reviews onto Cars.com, and research conducted on the value of more recent reviews to the consumer, dealer reviews ratings currently live on Cars.com will be adjusted to reflect only those recent reviews within the past 24 months.  This will help make reviews more actionable and relevant to the consumer who is considering a dealer.

But why? As reviews age, employees can turnover, processes that were reviewed can change for the better or worse, and inventory offered for sale could have significantly changed.  Utilizing the most recent reviews is beneficial to dealers as they provide a better tool for gauging current consumer satisfaction.  The benefit for consumers being now they can make decisions on more recent and relevant information.  The end goal being to connect consumers with the right dealership, with the right person, and right vehicle at the right time.  Additionally, reviews can pinpoint issues in a consumer’s shopping journey that can be improved by the dealer.

Given the reach of Cars.com and DealerRater across multiple touch points online, a single review can reach across multiple platforms where consumers are shopping to provide more value to all involved by being seen by millions of consumers not just on Cars.com, but other frequently visited third-party automotive sites potentially leading to an increase in walk-in traffic at the dealership.

So, now is the time to take stock in your current dealer review rating.  Consumers read reviews and write them for all to see.  Knowing the benefit of reviews as a powerful force for change and for driving influence and traffic to the lot, it’s important to continually monitor and reply to dealer reviews and make changes as necessary based on consumer feedback.  In the end, when you know how you’re reviewed, you can better influence consumers to show up and make that vehicle purchase.

[1] Review Usefulness and Recency, Cars.com, November, 2016.

Voice of the Consumer: October Insights

Every month, we reach out to visitors of Cars.com for insights into their experiences.  These insights help us at Cars.com stay connected to consumers to ensure we are always in tune with their wants and needs and can better improve results for dealers.

We consistently ask Cars.Com visitors what their top suggestions are for improving their visit as well as what the reason is for their visit.  A key suggestion over the past six months was that of requiring multiple pictures and all vehicle specifications to be filled out on VDPs so the consumer can be fully informed of vehicle offerings¹.  Ever since we began receiving this feedback, we have worked with dealers to fully fill out all merchandising on their vehicles and include interior and exterior photos.  However, in October we saw fewer suggestions asking for this, which we think is likely driven by dealers acting on this feedback, which is always to their benefit.

Another key takeaway is the stock type searched as well as consumer behavior for searching for that stock type.  The majority of visitors who are looking for cars for sale are coming to Cars.com to look for used inventory (83%) and are researching car pricing (55%) and comparing cars (54%) in which they are interested¹.

This is interesting when considering the current state of the consumers shopping journey.  Over half of consumers in their initial vehicle research or shopping phases are considering a used vehicle².  As they progress through the shopping process, they go back and forth between consideration of new and used vehicles².  This leaves opportunity for dealers to get to know consumers when they show on the lot to research, learn more, or test drive a vehicle.  Asking questions surrounding their consideration set can help dealers influence car shoppers.

In this same study, we found that a third of car shoppers ended up actually purchasing a used vehicle – down from over half².  So, while consumers initially search for used inventory, shoppers tend to buy up with new vehicle consideration increasing as shoppers move closer to purchase — half of used car shoppers consider CPO².

We also want to take a look at what consumers think about service and repair, and how they are choosing to engage with Cars.com on the subject.  In the below graph (Figure 1), we can see that consumers were mostly looking for reviews and price estimates of repairs.  Respondents looking for diagnostic repair codes increased by 10 percent over September 2016, while those looking for maintenance schedules and time estimates decreased by 10 percent month over month¹.

Figure 1. Voice of the Consumer, Cars.com, October 2016

Considering the features used most by consumers who are engaging with Service & Repair content is important as a lot of repeat business to dealerships come from the service lane — most service department customers have past experiences with the dealership where they originally purchased².

While this is positive to hear, growing the service lane is a great step in encouraging customer loyalty – an important consideration for consumers when they purchase a vehicle as they know servicing their vehicle will inevitably happen.

Encouraging this loyalty can be done by learning the barriers consumers must bust through to consider servicing their vehicle at the dealership.  This could be done by dispelling myths about the cost of repairs, the time necessary to have a repair completed, the transparency of the work done, and the quality of customer service³.  Addressing any concerns car shoppers have at the point of sale in regard to service can greatly benefit customer loyalty and reinforce their commitment to a specific dealership.

The voice of the consumer is important.  We want to provide them with the tools necessary to make an informed vehicle purchase and, in turn, provide dealers with the means to reach our audience and give car shoppers the experience they desire.  It’s understanding their wants and needs and where they are in their car shopping journey that isn’t always clear.  But, that means we will work harder to make it easier not just for car shoppers to find the right vehicle, but also for dealers to connect with car shoppers.

[1] Voice of the Consumer, Cars.com, October 2016
[2] Dealer Walk-Ins Analysis, Cars.com, March 2016
[3] Dealership Action Report, DealerSocket, October 2016

Connect with Consumers: A Reputation Marketing Checklist

The below guest article was written by Brian Pasch – Founder of PCG Companies, Author, and Keynote Speaker.  Originally posted on LinkedIn.

Once you have a consistent process in place to ask your customers for online reviews, you will soon be one of the highest rated business in your local market. You can use this to your advantage by developing a reputation marketing strategy. Reputation marketing extends the reach of your customer reviews by advertising to in-market shoppers.

There are two marketing banner recommendations that I would like you to embrace. You should create banners that tout your reviews, like the examples below. You can add your company name/logo to the graphic as well. These types of banners can be used in many ways, and I have given specific suggestions, in the form of a checklist, later in this post.

image1

The second type of banner is one that features your customers with a text overlay of a quote they gave to you about their experience. I have provided a great example below.

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You will want to have your customers sign a release to use their image in online marketing campaigns. When you include photos of actual customers, you build additional credibility for local consumers.

You will see that the image also documents where the customers live, and this should not be omitted from your graphics. You want local consumers to see that you serve the many communities that are located near your business. I would make it a priority the get at least one photo quote from consumers living in cities that you want to serve.

Reputation Marketing Checklist

I bet you can think of a few ways to advertise your customer service excellence online and in the showroom. Here are a few reputation marketing strategies to consider. Highlight which strategies appeal to you the most and then work with your advertising agency and staff to implement them.

In the Dealership

  • Create hang tags to merchandise your vehicles with your positive customer service ratings on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and DealerRater; a mock up is shown below.
  • Create pop-up banner stands that display your top ratings. Place these banners in the showroom, service lounge, or any high-traffic areas.
  • If you are using a Digital Dealership System platform, create graphics that can be added to your showroom TV channel loop.
  • Include a banner in your monthly newsletter that supports in-store marketing hang tags, as shown below for [an] Audi [dealer]:

audiimage

Online Marketing

  • Create banners that advertise your reviews to be used in your retargeting campaigns. Make a banner for each review website and mix them into your display retargeting strategy.
  • Create banners that can be placed on your website’s Hours & Directions page to engage consumers who are considering a showroom visit.
  • Create banners for Facebook advertising campaigns that drive consumers to your website. Consider creating a page of customer testimonial videos that build evidence of why consumers should do business with you.
  • Create banners for Twitter advertising campaigns and target consumers who own your brand and/or who are in market for service.
  • Create banners to be used on inventory syndication websites where you have dealer listings page and/or re-targeting campaigns. For example, on Cars.com dealers can load photos and videos on their “Dealer Overview” page (see example below). Add a great mix of customer overlay photos to make the page come alive!

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  • Create banners that tout your reviews to be loaded on your Google My Business (GMB) Page. Just like the Cars.com example, your GMB page is a great place to let your customers speak.
  • Create a video compilation of customer testimonials that you filmed at the dealership. Add graphics in the video regarding your online review scores. This video can be used in video pre-roll campaigns, social media marketing campaigns, and on your Google My Business page.

Reputation Marketing: The Next Step in Reputation Management

By advertising your customer service reviews, you amplify your team’s great work. When you check into a hotel you will often see their TripAdvisor ratings on the counter or back wall. Some consumers will not read reviews on native websites like Google, TripAdvisor, or DealerRater, so bring your positive message to them.

Reputation marketing is even more effective in dealers in your local market have poor reviews or a low number of online reviews. If your dealership delivers an outstanding customer experience, install a process that generates a consistent stream of positive reviews. Then, leverage those reviews with reputation marketing to set your business apart from other local choices.

There are a number of tools that can help you build effective Reputation Marketing campaigns. PCG published a research report on one of those tools: Prime Response. Download a copy of our research here: Prime Response Report

 

Reaching the Female Auto Shopper

As women emerge as a powerful car shopper segment, they are still weary of their dealership experience¹.  This is one of the key findings of research conducted by the Cars.com Insight team.  Often single and financially independent, they are open to a variety of car options because of their disposable income¹.  However, while comprising 39 percent of all cars sold in America today¹, women still feel under served in their shopping experience.  With Cars.com receiving around 5.7 million visits each month from women, there’s a large opportunity to speak to the female shopper audience from auto dealers and OEMs¹.

But, what can we learn about the female auto shopper and how can she be helped to make the right choice in a vehicle?  To start, the female shopper is highly educated.  Our study included 1,046 female respondents, and from this we found that 75 percent had a minimum of ‘some college’ or higher education with nearly 60 percent being employed full time¹.

This also resulted in finding that nearly half earn $50,000 or more and 59 percent have no children at home.  This means the female auto shopper has more education than previous generations and more disposable income.  There’s an opening to speak directly to this audience and, with the right message, we think she’ll be more receptive.  So, how do you reach her?

She values price and fuel efficiency over tech features² and is often the sole decision maker in auto shopping¹.  They also described their role in planning to trade-in or sell their vehicle as having some barriers to actually completing the shopping process¹. Those barriers included “male-centric” messaging with a focus on technology features with which she can’t identify, lack of ‘practicality’ messaging of a vehicle, and a lack of clarity over the ‘real price’ of a vehicle¹.  In taking this information, OEMs and dealers can create tailored messages that speak to the female shopper and help them feel more at ease when car shopping.

How do we do this?  When creating tailored messaging targeted at the female car shopper, there are some additional points to keep in mind as the same male oriented messaging does not always work.  Female car shoppers are more open to make and model but are often unsure about research findings regarding car options and cost¹, which shows a need for transparency in the buying process and vehicle offerings when targeting this audience.

They also said they feel “dismissed” and often deceived by dealers when car shopping¹.  They are reticent to reach out to dealers as well so are less likely to provide their information and dislike hard selling¹.  One can infer, here, that she has a perception of a high pressure environment at the dealership and wants to feel prepared before showing up on the lot.  When she comes on the lot, however, know that she is very digitally engaged doing research online due to her fears and concerns.

Armed with her digital research, female shoppers typically walk in planning to buy used inventory but often end up purchasing new and are looking for a fair deal¹.  According to Borrell Associates’ latest report, “2016 Auto Outlook, The Thinning of the Media Pack,” a six-year growth in new-vehicle sales is coming to a head having seen an average of 11 percent growth per year since 2010.  However, 2016 is looking to have only a 0.5 percent increase in new vehicles sold.  It’s forecasted to continue to drop through 2018 and slowly creep back up thereafter⁴.  This leaves the door open to influence their shopping decisions and move them towards a CPO vehicle or leased vehicle as well.  If they are looking for used, however, this can be an opportunity to turn to a demographic that isn’t always at the forefront if new vehicle sales continue to drop in the coming years.  However, regardless of stock type, there is an opportunity to influence the brand they choose, with 72 percent of women being undecided about the make and model¹.

Her top resources for researching about vehicles when shopping include dealer, manufacturer, and third party websites like Cars.com, but they also find friends and family, commercials, and magazine and print publications as significant information sources³.  For both auto dealers and OEMs, reaching them at these touch points with affordability and reliability messaging that emphasizes trust, peace of mind, and convenience can be a great way to cater to the female auto shopper and help lead them to a specific dealer’s lot.

On automotive websites, we found that women do basic safety and price research on vehicles looking for official car records and market pricing¹.  We found that 39 percent of female auto shoppers who are seriously looking for a new vehicle and have done their research still haven’t settled on a specific make¹.  This implies that brand engagement online is the key way to reach the female audience and influence perceptions of brands and dealerships.  She contacts dealers by email¹ which implies she doesn’t like the high pressure face-to-face interaction typically associated with visiting the dealer’s lot.  However, when they are ready to purchase, 61 percent of females seek to negotiate a fair price and prefers to trade-in her older vehicle over selling it herself¹.

The overall approach of the female shopper is practical and straightforward whereby she researches on real car price, car history, and fuel efficiency attributes when making considerations.  She wants to be well informed before going to a dealership seeking that fair price, because they are reticent about face-to-face interaction with someone on the dealer’s lot.

So, how can female shoppers be influenced?  Ultimately, creating targeted marketing to focus on attributes that are more valued to female shoppers like price, reliability, and efficiency will speak to her.  Knowing that she comes in thinking of a used vehicle over new and CPO inventory opens the door for moving females to CPO or leasing options that provide that ‘piece of mind’ that comes with searching for a reliable, fuel efficient vehicle.  Female shoppers can be encouraged to contact the dealer more if best practices are put in place that emphasize trust, peace of mind, and convenience for her.  Implementing a consultative role for sales on the list by listening to female shoppers when they show and avoiding hard selling can go a long way in influencing a purchase.  In the end, the female auto shopper can’t be dismissed as she has a large amount of decision and buying power.

1 Female Car Shopper Insights Report.  Cars.com, Tony D’Andrea, 2016
2 Cars.com American Made Survey, Cars.com 2016
3 Cars.com/Versta Persona Extension, Cars.com, 2016
4 2016 Auto Outlook; The Thinning of the Media Pack, Borrell Associates, 2016

Influence of Dealer Reviews: A Generational Look

Word of mouth marketing has always been vitally important to the success of auto dealers.  For years, people would hear about a product or service from neighbors, family or co-workers and be influenced in some way by those conversations.  The advent of social media and online review websites allows consumers to now spread the word about positive or negative experiences faster than before and made even easier with mobile devices.  Since nearly all consumers today research purchases online, reviews have become one of the biggest influences when it comes time for consumers to make decisions.  The same applies for car shopping.

Consumer reviews about dealerships can be a deciding factor for some shoppers when considering which dealer they want to do business.  It is important to know how much influence and what influencing sources are considered when consumers make a vehicle purchase.  When we break down existing generations into Baby Boomers, GenXers, and Millennials, we found interesting results in what ultimately influences their purchase decisions when researching on Cars.com.  We know that GenXers rate third-party automotive, automotive research or marketplace sites (like Cars.com) as slightly more influential than other age groups (especially Millennials).  Millennials, however, rate word of mouth/recommendations and TV ads for a dealership as more influential than other age groups (Baby Boomers and GenXers).

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*Source: Cars.com Consumer Metrics Study, August 2016

Based on this information, we can see that first hand research on vehicles via third party sites, like Cars.com, and word of mouth/recommendations are the most influential.  This isn’t so surprising when you consider your own research habits whether you’re on Amazon.com or in a local store making a high dollar purchase, you’re doing your research.  However, when you take a look at what influences each age group next, we see that dealer reviews are a key factor in making a purchase decision.  It’s also not surprising that a dealer’s own website is a key influence as well.  Third party sites like Cars.com helps drive all of these influence factors to help dealers win.

Knowing this, it is important for dealers to dedicate time to managing their online reputation.  Sites like Cars.com and DealerRater allow dealers to reply to reviews they receive and gives them the opportunity to thank consumers for positive reviews or to reach out to a consumer who submitted a negative review and make it right.  Consumers do find negative reviews to be helpful when deciding where to buy, and when a dealer takes the time to respond to a negative review, it shows the extra lengths to which that dealer is willing to go to provide good customer service.  We recommend always responding to every review received knowing that other consumers are also watching, regardless of generation.

7 Reasons to Reconsider Online Reviews

7 Reasons Reviews

In little more than a decade, online reviews have transformed from a small feature for restaurants and bars to an essential component of nearly every consumer transaction. A breakthrough innovation, thousands of dealerships across the county are now using dealer reviews to their advantage on a daily basis; however, many have yet to get started.

Whether your dealership has a great handle on its online reputation or has barely scratched the surface, these seven key trends will help refocus your store on the importance of online reviews.

Related: Cars.com Reaches 1 Million Dealer Reviews

1. They’re Everywhere

If you’ve purchased new gear, visited a new barbershop, dined at an unfamiliar restaurant or taken a vacation recently, there’s a good chance online reviews were fundamental to your decision-making process. In automotive, it’s no different. More than 90 percent of consumers reference online review sites when selecting a dealership, meaning stores without a healthy foundation of reviews stand at a disadvantage.

2. They Drive Engagement

The more reviews a dealership has, the more quality content shoppers have to engage with. In fact, there’s a positive correlation between dealerships with multiple new dealer reviews and vehicle detail page (VDP) activity; stores with seven or more recent dealer reviews on Cars.com receive an average of nearly three times as many VDP views, compared to dealerships with no new reviews.

 3. They’re Essential to Millennials

No generation has adopted online reviews more rapidly than Millennials. A cohort that’s grown up with social networks and online shopping tools, 81 percent of consumers age 18-34 say they seek opinions through online reviews before purchasing any product or service, according to a recent report from Mintel. And given that a portion of Millennials have yet to qualify for a driver’s license, it’s an area of huge opportunity for both dealerships and manufacturers.

4. They Matter to Service Customers

Online reviews have traditionally been a point of emphasis on the sales side of dealerships, but new data suggests that online reviews are just as relevant in the service lane. A significant point of influence, car owners rank online reputation among the top three most important factors when selecting a vehicle service provider, along with technician certification level and warranty.

5. They’re a Great Hook 

General Mangers who’ve implemented successful reputation management programs will tell you that it’s very common to have car shoppers arrive at their dealership and ask for a specific salesperson by name all because of what the customer has read online. A large library of compelling online reviews can even help reel in shoppers from neighboring cities and states.

6. They Can Help Identify Process Issues

There’s no better way to gauge the success of your team than by getting direct feedback from the customers they serve. Online reviews offer a window into the consumer experience your dealership provides – both good and bad – and allow managers to identify and correct process issues before they become long-term challenges. On the flip side, they can also be a phenomenal tool to spotlight the work of top performers.

7. They’re Just Getting Started

In less than four years, car shoppers have shared more than 1 million dealer reviews on Cars.com. The explosive growth of online reviews spans across all industries, and dealer reviews on Cars.com, as well as other automotive reviews sites, will only continue to rise in importance in the coming years.

Getting started with online reviews takes planning and effort. For additional tips, check out our recent ebook, Scheduled Maintenance.