Online reviews, and especially Google reviews, should be a huge priority for any business operating today. It takes some time and constant effort to properly execute a review management strategy, but it’s worth it: reviews provide the very foundation of your online reputation, and how you manage them can mean the difference between life and death for your dealership.
Trust-building and Brand Differentiation.
We live in an age where widespread internet access means that dealers don’t get to make the first impression when a customer walks onto their lot. With a vast majority of consumers conducting a vast majority of their research online before ever setting foot inside a dealership, dealers must be able to establish and build trust at the very outset of a prospective customer’s online journey. To this end, online reviews are critical to the initial establishment of trust for online shoppers. Research has shown that:
These numbers speak volumes about the necessity of online reviews for today’s shopper, and why including them in your reputation management strategy is no longer merely an option. Review management, as one component of a greater rep man strategy, will continue to be critical for the foreseeable future.
Reviews are also necessary for brand differentiation. Consider that the automotive industry is an almost perfectly competitive market: a consumer can find the same or essentially the same products and features at any dealership within a given segment. As a result, we must find other ways to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. One way many dealers are doing this is by creating a unique and pleasant car-shopping experience. But even if you’ve formulated a slam-dunk customer experience, how will online shoppers know about it? You guessed it: by reading reviews on the internet. Given that 90% of consumers read online reviews before deciding to visit a local business, your reviews are what will make you stand out so that buyers want to visit your store rather than the one down the street.
Making Reviews Work for You.
Like social media, online reviews are not a one-and-done thing; making them work to your advantage requires incorporating them into your larger reputation management strategy, and growing and monitoring them on a regular basis. Three of the most important factors for effectively managing your online reviews are recency, quantity, and quality.
When an internet user enters a search query into Google, Google’s aim is to serve up content or businesses that are most relevant to the search terms. It follows, then, that recency increases relevance, and dealerships with the most recent content and reviews will fare better on search results pages.
Along with being a key search ranking factor, the recency of your online reviews has a direct impact on whether consumers decide to visit your website and, ultimately, your dealership. BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey revealed several key findings that go to the importance of recency:
To sum this up, you must be constantly seeking new reviews – every day, from every customer. Getting ten great reviews in two days in order to cover up one bad review is not a viable business practice; today’s customers are more savvy than ever, and they will quickly catch on, resulting in a degradation of your dealership’s credibility and perceived trustworthiness.
Constantly seeking new reviews isn’t important only for recency, either; it goes to quantity, too. Consumers look to see how many reviews have contributed to your dealership’s overall star-rating. Think about it from a consumer’s perspective: Are you more likely to trust a business with five stars and only 2 reviews, or one with 4.5 stars and 50 reviews? Common sense points to the latter.
The star-ratings and content of reviews is, as you can imagine, hugely important, both for SEO ranking as well as for building consumer trust. On its support site, Google has said that “Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.” Rating and content quality are important to prospective customers, too. According to Podium’s State of Online Reviews survey, 3.3 is the minimum star-rating a business must have for consumers to even consider engaging with it. And since 68% of consumers would pay more for the same product or service if assured they would have a better experience, it’s important that the substantive content of the reviews include an evaluation of the various aspects of each customer’s experience that led them to write a review.
There’s an important caveat here, though. Having a few negative reviews isn’t always a bad thing; the key is how you respond to and manage them. In fact, a large number of online car shoppers say that they’d trust a dealership that professionally and caringly responded to a negative review more than they’d trust a dealership that had no negative reviews whatsoever. If you manage them properly, one or two negative reviews can actually enable trust rather than hindering it.
The bottom line is that online reviews have a huge impact on your bottom line. If properly solicited, managed, and monitored, they can propel car shoppers to both your website and your brick-and-mortar dealership, and ultimately result in a significant lift in sales.