Automotive Digital Marketing

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How Online Customer Reviews Are Making Or Breaking You

What matters most to your car shoppers? Is it price? Depth of inventory? Maybe – but the Internet has nearly commoditized the auto business. Savvy customers will be able to find the car they want at the lowest price within a few seconds of searching. So where is the competitive edge that draws a buyer to one dealership but not another?


To find the answer, let’s try and think of how a shopper might search for a place to buy their next vehicle. Consumer psychology and common sense tells us that we are more likely to trust the reviews of other customers over a dealership’s Google ads, search result ranking, or any other marketing metric that we tend to emphasize. If I were looking for a great price on a Camry in Dallas, I might search “best toyota dealership texas.” And any search query containing “best” or similar comparative adjectives in it is almost invariably going to display a user rating site like Yelp or DealerRater.


Our evaluation of others’ experiences makes intuitive sense with any high-value purchase or costly service. For example, I recently needed to choose a new dentist. I initially considered using the one closest to my home, for convenience’s sake. However, a high volume of negative consumer reviews changed my mind, and I drove a little farther for a dentist that was highly recommended.


When faced with a choice between two roofing companies to repair a faulty chimney, I didn’t select the one with the most experience, or the one that appeared first in Google results, or even the one with the lowest price. I chose the one that other people with the same problem recommended. I cared about results, about what I knew would get the job done.


And why not trust user reviews? Unlike corporate marketing messages, these previous buyers have nothing to gain by leaving their opinion. They are unbiased, impartial, and – as far as I know – honest. Your shoppers are making the same judgments about your dealership. The simple sentence (and actual review), “AVOID dealership x AT ALL COSTS, THEY ARE LIARS” will do more to your online marketing than any email campaign or advertising effort.


How can you avoid this pitfall? The trick is to get your happy and satisfied customers talking. And Google and Yelp are making it harder for people to leave anonymous reviews. They’ll need accounts with those sites, and their submissions are valuated based on the amount and quality of reviews they’ve left before. But a positive review from a trusted Yelp user is a jackpot for your dealership.


Ask your customers to leave their feedback online. Perhaps you have a computer terminal in your store that customers can leave their opinions on. Consider hosting a service promotion for your buyers that leave reviews. This kind of crowd-marketing is becoming the predominant force behind major purchases – so building up your reviewer rating now will pay big dividends in the long run.


Subscribe to the ActivEngage blog now for marketing and auto dealer news updates!

Views: 773

Tags: DealerRater, customer, dealer reputation, dealer reviews, online, reputation management, reviews


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Comment by Yago De Artaza Paramo on December 11, 2012 at 10:01am

Playing devils advocate, or like Ryan would say: the dark side.

Yelp has a mobile app to leave reviews so I would imagine this was created for people to write a review on the field as their experience is fresh. Why is this K and we ask is not?


One bad thing about reviews is that we will rarelly have a compulsive good review but it is easy to get a compulsive bad one.

Comment by Ryan Leslie on December 11, 2012 at 10:00am

@ Scott, You are exactly right! They SHOULD be differentiating. Let's be really honest about this. If you're a sales professional, your competitor is across the street AND across the showroom floor.

@ Cathy, You nailed it: "If you can't get a review after they leave the store, I'd suggest being more memorable. ;)" I like that quote as much as this one I often share with dealers:

“The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
― Socrates

Are you okay with being quoted next to Socrates? ;) 

Comment by Cathy Nesbit on December 11, 2012 at 9:40am

My point, as well, was directed at not having them written in the store. In my opinion, it would be a little ridiculous not to ask for a review in person. We (not me but our super awesome sales staff) asks for the review in person then follows up with an email thanking the customer for the experience working with them, then again asking for a review and including the links to review sites.  DealerRater is a good one because there are direct links to each staff member with a profile. They can share their own link (reviews) with the customer.

Comment by Scott Ware on December 11, 2012 at 9:38am

I wonder how many Internet Managers wish they could separate their excellent customer reviews from the negative ones of certain salespeople on the lot? Sometimes it feels like there are two completely different dealers on the same property.

Comment by Yago De Artaza Paramo on December 11, 2012 at 9:18am

So we agree on that,


There is NOTHING wrong with asking for a review in-store... you should absolutely be doing that. The problem occurs when the consumer is asked to write the review in-store. There is already a ton of spirited debate about this cataloged on ADM.


The two get confused quite often.

Comment by Ryan Leslie on December 11, 2012 at 9:11am

Yago, You paint me like the Jedi Master from Star Wars. "These are not the Droids you are looking for." I have no Jedi mind tricks, promise, you can ask my wife ;)

There is NOTHING wrong with asking for a review in-store... you should absolutely be doing that. The problem occurs when the consumer is asked to write the review in-store. There is already a ton of spirited debate about this cataloged on ADM. It is interesting to go back in time and read those old strings.

The key to collecting valuable reviews is using reviews in the sales process to establish your value to the consumer! I'll say that again with emphasis, The KEY to COLLECTING valuable reviews is USING reviews to create VALUE!

We say this a lot at DealerRater. 5 words and 5 stars doesn't sell cars! A valuable review is nothing more than the retelling of the consumer's story. As a consumer I am much more likely to tell my story when I'm asked by the person that served me and know that my story will benefit them AND others. Writing reviews is inherently altruistic, unless it is a compensated endorsement it has no inherent value to the author, right?

Here is an overly simplified version of what we teach:

  1. Use your reviews early and often in the sales process
    1. I posted at length about this a few days ago here if you're interested
  2. ASK  for the review
    1. How you ask is important- Covered this in the bonus section of the video I recorded, think altruism, think the customer wants to prove they were smart for choosing you
  3. Follow up
    1. Rating reminder cards- email templates- both great ways to follow up and make it easy for the consumer
  4. Thank them for their review
    1. This is actually step 1 if you are doing it right- A public thank you on FB or twitter is indeed using your reviews early the sales process, you are planting a seed with those that already know you and trust you ;) In marketing terms their SMOT is your next customers ZMOT. This is a cycle of success!

PS. Yago and I don't always agree, but we always have a good time disagreeing...

Comment by Cathy Nesbit on December 11, 2012 at 8:28am

It's a bad idea to ask for reviews from the store, with few exceptions. When multiple reviews are sent from the same ip address it looks suspicious which is why google came and wiped out some dealers, and changed the way they collect reviews.  It's hard to verify the reality of the reviews if they are coming from your store. does allow for reviews from the store. They go through a verification process which takes an extra day or two.

If you take good care of your customers you can email them links to some different sites requesting a quick review. If you can't get a review after they leave the store, I'd suggest being more memorable. ;)

Comment by Yago De Artaza Paramo on December 11, 2012 at 7:58am

@Stephen Jackson,


Be careful with the suggestive powers of Ryan... he is a powerful one.


While not suggesting reviews at the store will raise the quality of the reviews overall (by quality meaning real) I still don't see what is wrong with asking people how they liked their experience. We get asked that every single time at a restaurant. So that is a good things for Dealer rater.


What could change is when you get asked and then you get an Ipad in your face to enter a review. Asking is not be the issue but pushing to get a review right in there. A better way has to be devised where you can ask and push for the review so you don't just get the bad ones but that also complies with the in store review policies.

Comment by Stephen Jackson on December 11, 2012 at 6:33am


Maybe you're right about soliciting in-store customer reviews - especially if it was a direct cause to content removal, something I hadn't heard about or considered. My point is that we can't just wait idly for buyers to surprise us with their opinions. We need to get the brand advocates talking. What does DealerRater suggest?


Comment by Ryan Leslie on December 10, 2012 at 2:35pm


I really enjoyed reading your personal consumer behavior. I think it is great when as marketers we can take a step back and see how marketing actually affects us.

I do want to offer a couple things for consideration. There really is no such thing as an anonymous review on Google. In order to post a review a G+ account is required. The reviews that are likely to stick are from the G+ accounts that are used frequently which will generally have more complete Bios, pictures etc. When you ask a customer to write a G+ review for your business it may not be a small anonymous favor.  

The only thing I disagreed with in your article was the last paragraph. Review collection in store to a credible third party site is a bad idea. This is no longer up for debate on Google and Yelp. Google laid waste to a lot of content overnight in Aug and well respected subject matter authorities have identified in-store collection as a contributing factor to the removal. There has already been a lot written on this topic, so I won't rehash all of it here, but this is something that DealerRater strongly discourages and has for the entirety of our 10 yr history. I wanted to be really clear about this since "DealerRater" is a tag for the article.

Otherwise, very well written post!


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