How Online Reviews Influence Today’s Car Buyers

Posted on

Trust is your business’s biggest asset today. With the ability to easily publish reviews of businesses, products, and services, customer satisfaction is more important than ever before. Because one of the first things a potential customer does before visiting you in person is search for reviews online.

Let’s take a look at how they’re being influenced by those reviews and what you can do to improve your business’s online reputation.

The Effect of Online Reviews on Customer Perception

Online Customer Reviews

There’s no denying the effect an online review can have on the perception of customers. Studies prove that both positive and negative reviews have the power to influence a shopper to make a purchase or look elsewhere.

On the automotive side, customers are test driving fewer and fewer cars and visiting only an average of 1.8 dealerships before making a purchase. In fact, one study found that 40% of car buyers visited only one dealership.

That same study, conducted by DME Automotive, found that 33% of customers test drove only one car. A surprising 16% did not test drive their car of choice before purchase.

Why Are Car Buyers So Decisive?

It’s simple: People are using the internet as a resource to not only research cars, but dealerships as well.

The days when people went to their local dealership just to see cars are over. Car buyers can sample the inventory of 50 dealers in the time it would take them to get ready and drive down to a local dealer’s lot.

Consumers Look for Negative Reviews

Positive reviews are great, and can help your business’s overall image to influence purchases. Negative reviews, however, are much more important because they capture the most attention from prospective buyers.

Before visiting a dealership or purchasing a particular product, people want to know what problems may arise. This is because you’re expected to provide great service or make a great product from the start, so people look for reasons NOT to choose your business instead of reasons TO choose your business.

The Effect of Online Reviews on Search


As of now, there’s no proof that leads experts to assume Google is using reviews in organic results. For hotels and restaurants, however, the correlation between reviews and placement within Google’s carousal results, which appear horizontal above your regular results and work in conjunction with an on-page map, are worth noting.

Indirect Effect on Search

While there’s no proof that online reviews play a direct role in Google’s organic search results, there are a few ways online reviews can affect customer perception through search.

If I’m searching for Ford dealers in my area and I see one dealer with a 4.9 rating and another with a 3.3 rating, I’m going to assume the higher-rated dealer has more to offer and will likely end up clicking on that result. Even if I end up visiting the lower-rated dealer in person, I may end up having a bad experience because I came in with the preconceived notion that the dealer was subpar.

Why Reputation Management is Important


Customers want to know that they’re making the best choice possible when they walk on to your lot. That’s why online reviews are so important. If you’re the 3.3-rated dealership in the example above and can’t understand why the 4.9-rated dealer across the street is moving twice the volume that your dealership is, you need to realize it’s not a marketing issue–it’s a reputation issue.

Your word-of-mouth reputation can change quickly, but online reviews are rarely edited to reflect a business’s efforts to make right on a customer’s negative experience. Those reviews stay with your business for years and years, with the potential to be read by every car buyer in 100-mile radius.

Over at Convince and Convert, Scott Metcalfe created the 3Rs and 2Qs of reviews and reputation:

  • Range
  • Real
  • Recent
  • Quantity
  • Quality

A simple, concise explanation of the 3Rs and 2Qs: You need a lot of recent reviews–written by real people–that detail their experiences to give future customers peace of mind and help sell your business as THE business to visit in your area.

With a flow of regular reviews coming in, potential customers can see that, for instance, 9 out of 10 people who visited your dealership over the past month left with nothing but positive things to say about their car-buying or service experience. The value those reviews bring to your business cannot be understated.

Managing Your Business’s Online Reputation

Managing Online Reputation

Reputation management is a full-time job–meaning it should not be something one of your internet associates simply picks up and checks on a slow day. In order to build and maintain a great reputation online, you need to have your virtual finger on the pulse. Whether that means hiring a digital marketing company to manage things or creating a dedicated position, it should not be pushed aside.

5 Steps to Building Online Customer Reviews

  1. Identify high-trafficked review sites that host reviews of your business.
  2. Link to those sites from your website and encourage customer feedback.
  3. Create a standard for monitoring and responding to negative customer reviews.
  4. Train employees to inform customers that online reviews of service/experience are appreciated.
  5. Build a list of additional sites that host reviews, or could host reviews (sign up for those), of your business and repeat this process.

Don’t Ignore Online Reviews; Focus on Issues


If I could sum this entire article up in four words, they would be: Don’t ignore online reviews. At the very least, someone needs to be monitoring for problems within your dealership. You can identify key issues hurting just about any business by reading their customer reviews, and car dealerships are no exception.

Watch Social Media Experts Erin and Amanda Ryan Discuss Reputation Management