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Most Car Buyers Now Select Dealership Based on Reviews

Car Shoppers Head to Review Sites for Research

Almost seven in 10 consumers said dealership reviews affected their purchase decision

Just like consumers in almost every other sector of ecommerce, car shoppers are doing their research online before heading out to make a purchase. According to an April 2012 poll by Digital Air Strike of US consumers who had purchased a car in the last six months, review sites were a widely used tool by car buyers during the research phase of their purchase process. In fact, 69% of consumers said review sites had an impact on the dealership they visited.


Half of respondents said reading reviews of dealerships had affirmed their choice of where to make a purchase, while about one-quarter said the reviews had no effect on them. But online feedback from other customers held an outsized influence on a small minority of car shoppers—14% said reviews were the sole reason they had decided to visit a dealership. And 5% decided to change the dealership they bought from after reading negative reviews online.

And when it came to actually buying, almost seven in 10 shoppers said reviews had aided them in their purchase decision. About four in 10 said the reviews helped them in a general sense, while three in 10 had decided to purchase from a particular dealer based on online feedback from other customers. Moreover, if a dealership had been completely absent from review sites, one in 10 respondents would have been less likely to purchase from them.

Digital Air Strike’s report also audited 600 US dealerships to gauge their social media presence, finding that most dealers had a lax attitude to Facebook, with only 5% posting on the social network daily. In fact, 42% of dealers posted with a frequency of less than once a week.


eMarketer estimates that US online ad spending by the automotive industry will hit $4.35 billion in 2012, and climb to $7.44 billion by 2016.



Views: 1288

Tags: Based, Buyers, Car, Dealership, Most, Now, Reviews, Select, on


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Comment by Tom Gorham on July 27, 2012 at 5:47am

Carylea, I think you're right that reviews are important.  So are Edmunds leads.  It's certainly helpful for shoppers on those sites to be able to see reviews right there as they shop.

The real point I think is to give customers an option to go where they feel comfortable writing a review rather than pushing them to one or another venue.  After all, it's about the dealer but it's the customer's review.  They have ownership.  Part of great customer service comes from offering customers choices.

Comment by caryleabell on July 27, 2012 at 3:07am

Thank you for your feedback, Tom and Ralph! Ralph- some great suggestions. I'm going to talk to my dealers and show them some of the links you posted- the only thing is- WHERE is on the pages? is in the reviews game- the "star rating" will now appear on Google searches with the listing... time to start including, don't you think?? :) Thanks again, Cary

Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 26, 2012 at 9:14pm

Tom, your point about staff is essential... Without proper sales team training, and the buy-in and support of both sales and service management, the strategy I have outlined will fail... Of course, isn't that true of most dealership initiatives?

Comment by Tom Gorham on July 26, 2012 at 9:09pm

BTW, thank you for this article.  It validates the dealers who have taken reputation seriously!

Comment by Tom Gorham on July 26, 2012 at 9:07pm

Ralph, that was pretty exhaustive and could have been a blog post in itself.  We have a few differences in how to get reviews, but anyway, you have laid out a grand strategy.  I would add that it's not necessarily the volume of reviews (although more doesn't hurt), it's a steady flow that matters.  This requires constant buy-in from the staff.  It's helpful for them to undertand their own "Reputation Management" strategy.  They are professionals and they are being reviewed along with their dealership.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 26, 2012 at 8:34pm

Carylea, I work with many dealers around the country in setting up their Reputation Management strategy and tactical processes.  I have heard many dealers initially express skepticism, and then in many cases believe they have it all handled with iPads to do Google+ Reviews, or DealerRater Certified, etc. The reality of what works best will almost always include giving consumers some degree of choice as to selecting the dealership's business profile on the consumer review network they feel most comfortable with.  But, back to your point, it has been my experience that dealers consider the whole evolution of, and creation of consumer reviews online as a big disruption to their marketing and reputation models, and not in the best way... This sort of frustration, and feeling of not being in control along with a very unclear accountability sequence can make many dealers and GM's just plain irritated with the whole subject.  For me, and the dealers I serve, when I present a logical, well laid out plan to get a handle on the dealership's online reputation management strategy that also solves several other nagging areas of irritation, then most dealers and GM's tha I have worked with simply say "OK, how long to get this in place?" and they want the whole thing set up and processes implemented ASAP.... (which is a whole other problem)

Take a look at the following customer review landing pages that are primarily used for generating reviews when the customer is not physically at the dealership:

These examples of dealer group splash pages show what I like to set up for inclusion in automated emails sent to both sales and service customers, as well as during phone calls when customers are not physically present at the dealership... Here is a couple of examples showing the "choices" dealers should offer customers as to where they feel comfortable posting a review that I referenced: 

As for the very important review generating process when customers are actually at the dealership, I recommend using ether Presto Reviews or BusinessRater combined with a sales process that sets the customer up with an iPad to post their review and describe their car buying experience while the salesperson is gathering documentation and getting the deal set up in the Finance and Insurance Department... This goes a long way towards making better use of the customer's time after a deal is closed and before F&I is ready for the salesperson to bring the customer into their office.  In the service customer lounge, I recommend a PC powered kiosk with signage that encourages customers to rate their experience with the service department while they are waiting for their car to be completed, or brought around after the cashier is done with them... Obviously, the cashiers and service advisors must be trained to encourage customers to post their reviews, or even show them how.  When the dealer is using Presto Reviews or BusinessRater, the whole process is not only much easier than the other non-business targeted review sites, but the dealer has the ability to include survey questions which can become a VERY valuable database of information about the actual customers who spend money at your actual dealership.  Plus, when their is an issue, management gets to find out about it before the customer leaves the dealership, when it is much easier to resolve... Everybody wins!  We are putting this system into Ken Grody Ford's two locations in Buena Park, CA and Carlsbad, CA starting tomorrow!

Comment by caryleabell on July 26, 2012 at 2:35pm

Reviews are clearly important... why do you think it's so hard to get dealers on board?? A majority of my dealers get reviews for one site and ignore others (AHEM, If you are a dealer, I'd love your feedback about how to motivate you guys to start soliciting reviews!!

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