While we like to think that we’re beyond the pressures and stresses of teenage-hood, when it comes to our buying patterns, it’s true what they say: high school never ends. As a teen, it is almost impossible to make a decision without considering what others have to say about it, if your friends have made similar decisions, and what someone else would do in your position. Social acceptance and general opinion are huge factors in decisions small and large, from what to bring for lunch to which college to attend.
21st century shoppers have a similar mindset when it comes to purchases– they seek out recommendations from other people to guide them throughout their buying process. This doesn’t come from a place of wanting to “fit in” or “be cool,” like it might in high school. Put simply, shoppers don’t feel they can trust a product or business without first hearing that others have done so, and have been happy with their decision. Websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare have begun to dominate their respective industries. They give people the confidence they need to move forward with a business. This confidence comes in the form of customer reviews.
Reviews have become so integral that 81% of customers between 18-34 said that they read online reviews before moving forward with any product or service. 85% of people went so far as to say that they read up to 10 reviews before feeling that they can trust a business. The auto industry is no exception to this trend. According to one study, car shoppers are 5.3 times more likely to visit a dealership that has positive reviews online. They are also 90% more likely to visit its website.
Why do reviews have this type of power over shoppers? Quite understandably, people trust other people. They don’t want to listen to you explain why your dealership or a certain vehicle is the best– there is an inherent distrust of the person trying to sell. When an objective third party has positive things to say about your dealership, though, it goes a long way. With shoppers conducting more research online and only visiting 1-2 dealerships in person, your online presence might be your only opportunity to convince a shopper to choose you.
When a customer finds your dealership online, whether on Google, a social media site, or directly on your own website, they will be looking for signals that shows them that you are a trusted, helpful business. Making your reviews easy to find will help shoppers begin to engage with your dealership sooner, and give them the social proof they need to move forward. The effectiveness of your reviews goes beyond your customers. Many companies don’t realize it, but online reviews also play a pretty significant role in your SEO ranking. In fact, Moz, in its 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, found that reviews are thought to make up over 10% of a business’s ranking on Google and other search engines. A low number of reviews, overwhelming negative sentiment in reviews, and seemingly inauthentic reviews all also affect a company’s ranking.
Get the most from your reviews
It’s easy to take a passive approach to online reviews– after all, it’s up to your customers to write a positive review, isn’t it? While all of your reviews will come from other people, there are ways that your dealership can be sure to get the best and most effective reviews, to distinguish yourself from your competition.
Work to deserve them
If your product is truly amazing, people will say so. The first step to getting great reviews is to provide your customers with a great shopping experience at every stage of the process. From their initial interaction with your website through the sale and beyond, customers should always feel that they are receiving personalized attention from your dealership. If after the sale they feel that you went above and beyond, and have shown yourself to be more than an average dealership, they will feel compelled to tell others about it. On the flip side, when you receive a negative review (which is bound to happen), try to learn from it. Investigate the situation and ask the customer for more details. If the complaint seems legitimate, make a note of it and try to improve. For example, if a negative reviewer says that they waited over a week for your dealership to return their calls, check your follow-up process: what can you be doing better, and how?
Don’t let your reviews get filtered
There is nothing more frustrating than receiving positive reviews and having them get filtered by the review platform. Websites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, and DealerRater each have their own guidelines to ensure that spam and fraudulent reviews do not appear on a business’s page. Sometimes, though, they get it wrong and your dealership could see its hard-earned reviews disappearing. Understanding the guidelines and best practices will help you avoid this problem. As an example, Google often filters reviews due to an issue with the IP address of the person posting it. This is done to prevent the same person from writing multiple reviews for the same company under different aliases. The problem is that this rule applies also to your store’s IP address.
So, if all of your customers write reviews from inside of your store on your IP address, they may end up being filtered as spam. Keep this in mind before encouraging customers to write a review from your store or setting up an iPad station to do so. Encourage shoppers to write it from their homes, by sending a follow-up email or notification. It goes without saying that buying fake reviews is never a good idea– while some may slip through the filters, many will not and your page will be penalized accordingly. Work to earn your reviews, and find ways to encourage customers to write them.
If you’ve got them, flaunt them
If you manage to get a number of positive reviews, don’t simply take note of them and hope that the search engines get them “found.” This is not the time for modesty! Post all of your positive reviews on your social media pages as well as on your website. Identify ways to promote them in an unobtrusive way, to provide the social proof that many shoppers are looking for. Monitor all of the various review websites to keep up-to-date on what people are saying, and publicize accordingly.
Don’t let any review fall through the cracks
Besides for encouraging shoppers to leave reviews, the next most important thing for you to do is track all of your reviews, positive and negative. For positive reviews, be sure to thank the person for their comment and promote it accordingly. If it was less positive, respond to the review and try to get more information. You might not convince the person to take down their review by doing so, but other shoppers will appreciate your honesty and openness when they see that you take the time to respond, politely, even to ruder reviews. To be sure that you are not missing anything, set up a Google or other type of alert to receive a notification any time your dealership is mentioned on the internet. You’ll respond to your reviews faster, and strengthen your online presence accordingly.
You work hard to give your customers a good experience, and you certainly appreciate when they recognize your efforts by writing a positive review. Getting those reviews can be challenging, but once you do, they can become one of your dealership’s most powerful tools in converting shoppers and pushing them down the funnel. The social proof contained within a review does a lot more than tell customers that your dealership is “cool.” It informs them of why they should choose your dealership, without them even realizing it.