In today’s marketplace, there are approximately 1.29 billion digital buyers. No longer is the question: Have you ever made an online purchase? Rather, it's: When was the last time you did and what were the influencing factors? Last year, e-commerce made up 14.1% of retail purchases worldwide, and this figure will only continue to climb, making it more important than ever for dealers to proactively manage their online reputation and maximize the opportunities for image enhancement. But first, take a moment to think about what considerations went into the decision to click “buy.” Had you shopped with that brand before? Were you in desperate need for a specific commodity? Or, did the online reviews sway you, the shopper, from one brand to another?
As vehicle margins continue to compress, dealers need to differentiate themselves beyond vehicle prices and offer consumers a premium experience.
Reviews have become a crucial component in online retail. In fact, 88% of digital shoppers incorporate some sort of review into their purchasing decisions. This holds true in the automotive industry as well, as 59% of shoppers believe dealer reputation is the single most important factor in their decision of where to purchase their next vehicle.
In the past, digital reputation management has been a pain point for dealers. It’s highly unlikely that dealerships have the skills, expertise, or staff available to properly execute a full-fledged responsive digital strategy on their own, when their primary focus is selling as many vehicles as possible. As such, dealers have often found themselves having to work with third-party operations to improve their online reputation. But, how can dealers tell which third-party vendors are worth investing in? The key is to find an online reputation management solution that emphasizes the following four fundamental things.
The Use of Technology
Selecting a vendor that uses technology to send alerts when a negative review is posted to a dealer’s page is critical for businesses. Dealers shouldn’t be left in the dark concerning comments that could potentially damage their reputation among stakeholders. It’s imperative to react to negative posts in a timely manner, and technology is a crucial component in helping businesses do this.
The Ability to Create Consistent Branding
A significant emphasis should be placed on creating a consistent brand voice. If executed correctly, a company’s steady tone and strategy will resonate through all its responses. Messaging should be succinct and include keywords, the dealer’s location, and the variety of services the business can offer. Dealers should avoid any response strategy that is uncoordinated or sends a message that contrasts with their brand’s identity.
The Parallel Between Reviews and SEO Rankings
It’s common for businesses to forget the first step in the modern buying journey – organic search engine optimization, or SEO. However, there’s a strong correlation between review responses and SEO rankings, and those who recognize its importance are a step ahead of their competitors. The more pertinent information embedded into reviews responses, the higher the site will rank in prospective buyers’ local search results. This is why dealers should consistently respond to reviews with content that uses the business name, location, products, and services.
Timely Responses to All Reviews
Timeliness is key in the digital arena, but it’s especially crucial when responding to comments that could potentially damage a business’ bottom line. Responses that address the problem, educate the consumer, and then demonstrate the dealer’s point with an example, go a long way in smoothing over tensions. That’s why dealers must pay special attention to both negative and positive reviews, so consumers feel like they are being heard.
As vehicle margins continue to compress, dealers need to differentiate themselves beyond vehicle prices and offer consumers a premium experience. An excellent reputation and finding the right vendor to manage it are vital first steps in attracting new shoppers to a dealer’s lot. They can also be the difference when it comes to creating lasting relationships with previous shoppers.
Erica Danford is associate vice president of Managed Services at Dealer.com.