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Reviews are The Tipping Point in the Buying Process

Does Your Dealership Have a Reputation Management Strategy? (editor's comment)


Written by Mary Kelly Gaebel - 

We all know reviews are critical to the modern consumers buying process, but according to a study by Cone Communications reviews are more important than ever. The study showed that four-out-of-five consumers changed their mind about a recommended purchase based solely on negative reviews. Your customers are savvier than ever; with advancements in technology and online communities controlling the conversation about your business, you can’t afford to ignore the fact that “…personal recommendations alone are no longer enough to guarantee a purchase, as three-quarters of consumers (77%) agree they are more likely to purchase products or services when they can find additional recommendations about them online.”

Two Reasons Dealership Reviews Are Gaining Momentum

  • The mobile phenomenon is only adding fuel to the fire. With so many consumers relying on tablets and mobile phones as their shopping device of choice, reviews are more easily accessible than ever. According to the study, “Survey data suggest this year-over-year increase in online verification may be attributed to near-universal access to the Internet and the pervasiveness of the smartphone. Today, online product or service information is literally at consumers’ fingertips with nearly three-out-of-five (59%) reporting that they are more likely to research recommended products online because they can easily access applications on their mobile phones, and 81 percent crediting wide-spread access to the Internet.”

  • The second reason is that, due to a depressed economy, consumers are relying more heavily on reviews for large-scale purchases, like cars!  “The increase in online purchase verification may also be attributed to careful spending. Americans are nearly 25 percent more likely to verify recommendations for high-cost purchases, such as cars, today than they were in 2010 (89% today vs. 72%), while moderate- and low-cost purchases did not experience the same jump.”

There’s always a silver lining however; just as a bad review can be a deal-breaker, it can also be the zero moment of truth:  The same study shows that 87 percent of consumers agree that a favorable review has confirmed their decision to purchase.

As a Reputation Management Specialist for ADP/Cobalt I work with my clients to turn negative reviews in to positives for their business, staff and their bottom line. How you handle negative feedback says a lot about your business and your people. So with that in mind, remember that when it comes to responding to unhappy customers via online channels… the customer is always right. With-four-out-of-five consumers basing their purchasing decision on negative reviews, you can’t afford not to take the high road. In some cases, depending on how you handle the situation,you can ask a customer to retract their negative review if the dealership was able to resolve the issue in question. But being proactive will always win the day– it’s all about great customer service, more great customer service and then asking your happy customers to tell the world how you did.


About the Author:

Mary Kelly Gaebel is a Reputation Management Specialist at ADP Digital Marketing Cobalt. She works with dealers to increase dealership awareness and branding via social media outlets. She has a B.A. in Communications from the University of Washington.


Relevant Links:

Content Source: Original article  

Cone Communications press release referenced:

Views: 516

Tags: Cobalt, automotive, best, dealerrater, dealership reviews, google, management, practices, reputation, yelp


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Comment by Dave Erickson on October 18, 2012 at 9:07pm

When I look at our own dealer Yelp review counts I see incredible gains in views and actions since 2010. 456% increase in views and 604% increase in actions when comparing October 2010 to Sept 2012. 

Also, I thought that the part about Younger buyers was especially interesting

"Among 25- to 34-year-olds, online verification is even more vital; 91 percent will go online to verify recommendations before making a purchase and nearly the same number (90%) are more likely to purchase products or services after finding additional online recommendations." 

Considering the Millennnial generation purchasing power this is incredible news to dealers who are taking reputation management seriously.

Thanks again for the article. 

Comment by Automotive Social Marketing on October 18, 2012 at 3:44pm

Cone LLC Releases Online Influence Trend Tracker

New Research Reveals Best Approach to Harness the Power of Online Influence on Purchase Behavior

Overwhelming majority of consumers now look online as the final decision step to double-check recommendations even from their most trusted sources

Cone LLC launches influencer service offering to leverage new consumer behavior norms


BOSTON – American consumers are no longer taking the recommendations of family or friends at face value, according to the latest Cone research. Before deciding whether to purchase recommended products or services, more than four-out-of-five consumers (81%) will go online to verify those recommendations, specifically through researching product/service information (61%), reading user reviews (55%) or searching ratings websites (43%). These are among the findings of the newly released 2010 Cone Online Influence Trend Tracker.

Whom Do Consumers Trust?

As consumers have become increasingly impervious to traditional media, marketers have realized that consumers are turning to their personal network of friends, family and acquaintances to confirm their opinions prior to making purchase decisions. Heeding this behavior shift, marketers began targeting consumers’ inner circles with word-of-mouth then social media campaigns as the new marketing tipping point for purchase decisions. Today, these campaigns are no longer enough. Data from the 2010 Cone Online Influence Trend Tracker reveal consumers have added yet another step prior to reaching for the credit card – online verification.


“Consumers have become extremely savvy about how brands are marketing to them,” explains Bill Fleishman, Cone’s president and head of Brand Marketing. “Partly due to an increased skepticism toward brand marketing, consumers have elongated the decision-making process to seek additional sources of affirmation before making up their minds. As marketers, we have another step to take before we close the loop.”


Online Verification: The New Consumerism Norm

Increasing skepticism of traditional media, technology advancements and growing online connectivity have all combined to give consumers ultimate control of their research volume before deciding what, when and how to buy. Thus, personal recommendations alone are no longer enough to guarantee a purchase, as three-quarters of consumers (77%) agree they are more likely to purchase products or services when they can find additional recommendations about them online. Among 25- to 34-year-olds, online verification is even more vital; 91 percent will go online to verify recommendations before making a purchase and nearly the same number (90%) are more likely to purchase products or services after finding additional online recommendations.


Cost Not a Factor, Consumers Verify Product Claims

This information-seeking behavior is not exclusive to high-cost purchases. Consumers will verify recommendations online for products or services at a range of price points, including:

  • Low cost: 72% of Americans would go online to do additional research about recommended movies or restaurants;
  • Moderate cost: 85% would go online to do additional research about recommended computer equipment; and,
  • High cost: 82% would go online to do additional research about a recommended car.

Cost may not be a factor, but the tone of online information plays a powerful role in the purchase decision, often outweighing the initial recommendation. More than two-thirds of consumers (68%) agree negative product or service information found online can be a mitigating factor in deciding whether to purchase. Conversely, positiveinformation reinforces purchase recommendations for a full 80 percent of Americans.


Online verification does take on a more crucial role for certain purchase criteria. For example, two-thirds of consumers will go online to verify recommendations about products or services they’ll own for many years (66%) or those that have an unfamiliar feature (65%). Product claims are also fair game, as Americans will verify recommended products or services with health and safety claims (66%).


“While online verification may not be required for every product category, our research shows that there is a wide range of products and services that will be scrutinized via the Internet regardless of price point,” says Fleishman. “Online verification is now the deciding factor to drive consumers to that final purchase. Marketers who ignore this behavior shift will miss out on a golden opportunity to influence purchase decisions. Reaching influencers online is no longer a nice to do – it is a must do.”


Verify, a New Service to Create Online Influence

Singling out this new step in the purchase behavior spectrum can be a significant shift in thinking for brand marketers. Although traditional marketing efforts will not be replaced by online influencer identification, marketers must consider including an approach to reaching online influencers in every integrated marketing strategy. Even more key to finding the right influencers in the right forums (blogs, user review websites, social networks, etc.,) is the timing of the outreach to them. Since consumers will be searching online for opinions as the last step in their decision-making process, these cyberspace influencers will need to be in place prior to when paid and unpaid media reaches its saturation point. Cone’s new Verify influencer service is a customized approach to identify the right people, social media platforms and communications strategies targeted toward consumers engaging in online verification.


“Cone’s new Verify influencer service creates online brand advocates by identifying key online influencers with authority, audience and applicability within any given industry, issue or space,” says Fleishman. “Verify will single out those online influencers consumers look to for verification and help ensure the right messaging is in place before a final purchase decision is made.”


For a copy of the 2010 Cone Online Influence Trend Tracker fact sheet, please contact Andrea List ( or visit To learn more about Cone Verify, please contact Cici Gordon (

About the Survey:
The 2010 Cone Online Influence Trend Tracker presents the findings of an online survey conducted June 7-8, 2010 by ORC among a representative U.S. sample of 1,055 adults comprising 513 men and 542 women 18 years of age and older. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is ±3%.


About Cone: 

Cone ( is a strategy and communications agency engaged in building brand trust. Cone creates stakeholder loyalty and long-term relationships through the development and execution of Cause Branding, Brand Marketing, Nonprofit Marketing, Corporate Responsibility and Crisis Prevention and Management initiatives. Cone is a part of the Omnicom Group (NYSE: OMC) (

Andrea List
Cone LLC


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