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As I shop the Amazon store online for my son’s birthday gift, I start checking reviews of the products displayed. I notice that on the description page for each item there are reviews for each item as well as an overall rating for the reviews. It got me wondering how many people actually look for and read these ratings since we really don’t see them on car dealers’ websites. I start seeing ratings like 79 out of 81 people found this review helpful and there were similar ratings for each review. I was not only surprised by how many people took the time to write a review but also by how many people took the time to find, read and rate the review. I was also surprised by who was writing all these reviews. Let me add that I was shopping for Air Soft Rifles and video games. The reviews online for these products as well as the merchants were not only written by adults but also by kids and teenagers. Today’s consumer is relying more and more on the internet to find and research products before heading out to the physical store.
Now, think back a decade or so and remember when your dealership first went live with its website and compare what the internet was then to what it is now. Initially dealers just listed their cars online with a brief description and some poorly taken photos or even stock photos. In the last decade or so e-commerce has progressed significantly to include video, interactive websites, live chat and so on. The consumer is able to sit in comfort at home and shop for a vehicle on-line. However, we cannot underestimate the power of “word of mouth” in this new digital age. Consumers are doing their homework and searching out reviews of products and merchants. The auto sales industry is no exception.
To illustrate my point, let me share with you a quick story. As all you football fans probably know by now, the Chicago Bears lost to the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Playoffs less than 72 hours ago. Today, MyFoxChicago reported that a salesman at a Chevy Dealership in suburban Chicago was fired Monday for refusing to take off his Green Bay Packers tie. As I was reading the article, I googled the dealership and found that while the first result was the link for the dealership, the rest of the results page contained review sites with reviews of the dealership. WOW!! Seven different reviews were posted within the last 2 hours and all were negative due to this incident. This is a prime example of how one decision can produce a wave of reviews by the general public. I am not taking either side on this incident, but share this story in order to highlight the proliferation of online reviews and the possible impact it can have on your business.
As an online consumer myself, I do check the reviews of products when I am on store websites such as Bestbuy.com, Amazon, etc. (or sent to bizrater or pricegrabber by google) in order to find out what other people think about a particular product or merchant. I will confess that I have steered clear of a few products and online merchants based on reviews I have read. Dealers, managers and salespeople need to figure out how to manage their online reputation before it destroys them. Today’s consumers are armed with an arsenal of iphones, laptops, etc. allowing them to quickly convey their experiences with a product or merchant, good or bad, with millions of people instantly through on-line review sites, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. In order for dealerships today to remain competitive, they must leverage the power of the internet to boost customer confidence and sales. It is critical that part of your e-commerce solution includes a focus on generating and disseminating positive reviews about your product and your dealership.