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Study: Negative Reviews Grow More Powerful  

  Written by Sarah Mahoney  

Negative consumer reviews online are becoming increasingly important to would-be buyers, according to a new study, with 80% of consumers saying they have changed their mind about a purchase after reading a thumbs-down report.


That's up from 67% last, according to the new 2011 Online Influence Trend Tracker from Cone Inc., a Boston-based public relations and marketing communications agency.


"Negative information is now just as powerful as positive information," Mike Hollywood, Cone's director of new media, tells Marketing Daily. "For marketers, that means that leaving your head in the sand and just letting people make negative comments isn't working any longer. Reaching out and trying to make the consumer experience better, even if you can't solve the problem, is important."


The good news is that word-of-mouth for positive reviews has swayed 87% of shoppers, confirming their decision to purchase. And nearly 90% say they find online channels a trustworthy source for product and service reviews.


The study also finds that the pricier the purchase, the more likely shoppers are to do extra digging, with people saying they are nearly 25% more likely to verify recommendations for high-cost purchases, such as cars, than they were in 2010. And 59% say they are more likely to research products or services online because they can easily access applications on their cell phones.


The survey, which is based on responses from just over 1,000 adults, finds that shoppers are doing homework well beyond reading user reviews and comments on e-commerce sites, and are 50% more likely now than they were last year to search for articles and blog recommendations (42% in 2011 vs. 28% in 2010).


An important trend, says Hollywood, is that consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about sorting out which reviews are more important, and a credible-sounding negative review from someone willing to leave their name, for example, makes a bigger impact than a cranky anonymous consumer.


"Consumers do have the ability to sniff out who might have an ulterior motive. They are definitely giving more credence to their trustworthy sources, often valuing the opinion of bloggers and reviewers more than mainstream media," he says. "Marketers can use that to their advantage by targeting the bloggers and commenters in their industry that have, or will soon have, that level of credibility."




What is YOUR opinion on the impact of negative reviews on a car dealership's sales and service business?

Tags: Dealership, Negative, Powerful, Reputation Management, Reviews

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Replies to This ADM Discussion

I think prospects get frustrated sifting through tons of data that has no relevance for their particular review search. The ability for literally anyone to review us from disgruntled former employees to people who had problems that the dealer had nothing to do with actually makes some dealers who do a good job appear worse.
The reputation that a dealer and their employees have worked hard to protect are jeopardized by people who never spent one dime at the dealership. Then you have companies who leave up negative content on dealers 3 and 4 years old. How relevant is that with the turnover rate for dealer employees?
Negative reviews only help a dealership if they are acted kon in a positive way and that action is displayed.
If they are ignored, the dealer or employee deserves what they ask for.
Just my two cents worth.

I can give you a real life example of this. I was at a BHPH dealership about three weeks ago and one of the things I took a look at was there Google Reviews. In all they had 12 reviews and 4 and a half stars. Of course they weren't paying much attention to them, I even had to claim the listing so that I could take a closer look at things.

I noticed right away that all of their reviews were good except that last two, the two that were showing up at top. The first negative review was posted on the 5th of March 2011, the second in the beginning of July. I took a look at the average conversion of impressions to website visits, for the 6 months prior to the first bad review, that number was 15.5%. From March till the beginning of July it had dropped to 5.2%. The month of July, after the second bad review dropped to a measly 1.4%.

After setting up a way for them to solicit reviews, they now are sitting at just over 35 reviews and in the last 30 days their conversion is back up to just over 13%. If that doesn't tell you the power of negative review, nothing will.

That is a VERY COMPELLING story that reeks of the elusive "Social Media ROI" unicorn!
I agree, from there we can see how many of those referrers turned to leads and which of those leads sold. I did a mock up to show them about how many sales the bad reviews cost them... I was able to close them as an ongoing client on that alone.
How can you tie the leads to the reviews by averages? I agree with this theory, I would just like to see the specifics. If there were no other outside influences in that market, it seems sound.
How can we arrive at a conclusion without asking each customer if they read the reviews, even the ones who just visited?
Very easily Kim, you set it up in Google analytics. You can set up a segment using Google Analytics that will tell you how many people came from a specific URL (Google Places) and how many of them reached a specific page (the success page they see after submitted a lead). From there you know how many leads were submitted by people that were referred to a site from the Google Places page.
Remember though, in the study I stated I was just talking about the conversion rate of impressions to website visits. Not the number of leads, I just added that to what Ralph said, it is easily tracked.

The numbers are amazing for the dealer you cite. In about 3 weeks time you claimed their listing for them, set up a way for them to solicit reviews, saw their reviews triple, averaging more than one per day and as a direct result, saw average conversion of impressions to website visits increase over 900%. If as Kim said, ".....there were no other outside influences....." then this single effort was monumental. You must make the assumption that each, or most the BHPH customers read the reviews as Kim has eluded to claim this campaign as the cause for the steep increase in average conversion of impressions to website visits. It has been my opinion that the demographic profile least likely to be influenced by reviews in general, good or bad, is the BHPH shopper. The fewer options we have available to us the less discriminating we become.

No doubt the overall health of the dealer has improved as a result of your effort David.

It's all good, keep digging and make us better.





To be totally transparent their Google places page had an average of around 4k impressions over the whole time I conducted this "study." Also, there was no magic bullet involved I just, in a nutshell, told them to ask for reviews from past and current customers. In two days alone they had received 12, 5 star reviews. 

In other words, the traffic was already there, people were already reading their reviews, but now that they are seeing GOOD reviews people are clicking through to their site. This is one place, with the use of social media, that a dealer CAN see almost instant gratification. Most dealers want more traffic to their site, the numbers don't lie.

This is a great topic and I think everyone would agree that dealers without negative reviews are suspicious or awesome. Thanks for the info.


Great Topic!


I think the thing that ALWAYS gets left out in this discussion is that you NEED negative reviews. They play a crucial role in a dealer's reputation management strategy.


I was watching my beloved St. Louis Cardinals at about the time this post went up yesterday. Top of the ninth, down by a reachable 4 runs in the heart of the order and my man, Albert Pujols is at the plate. Cuttin' that lead to 3 right now. The wind up, the delivery, the powerful swing, the crack of the bat, the soaring pop fly that came to rest in the first baseman's glove 15 feet to the right of the bag...


My point, you are going to pop out to foul territory occasionally. Your customer expects you to and if they don't see evidence that it happens it IS a problem. I think that last quote that talks about "credibility" is what is most important in this discussion. No negative reviews = No credibility. We are people dealing with people, right? It is expected that we are going to have a miss every once in a while. How the dealer handles that miss is what the unsold prospect truly cares about, and it can be the most effective aspect of a rep management strategy.


Reviews and true 3rd party review sites are not in and of themselves marketing. You can and should market them to your unsold prospects and absolutely have a strategy to improve your score and get positive reviews on those sites, but they aren't marketing. The "sniffing out for an ulterior motive" is the adverse effect of trying to make marketing look like an independent 3rd party review site. No negative reviews at all would quickly move a site out of the "trustworthy sources" category.

Ryan - Without a reasonable amount of "NOT Completely Satisfied" reviews, the entire reputation management program at any dealership is at risk of a complete loss of credibility... The key is to show a very public and very humble response to those less than perfect evaluations.  An apology, acknowledgement of the customer's validity, some exploratory inquiries and a suggested response by the dealership to make things right will go a lot further than 100 Five Star reviews that few people will believe without the "Corroborating Evidence" of a smattering of properly responded negative reviews.


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