A comprehensive analysis of the data we have collected on the online presence of hundreds of automobile dealers proves it
At 3 Birds, we’re big believers in the importance of maintaining a positive online presence for your dealership. After all, almost all customers research vehicle purchases online, and 60% of those customers have no contact with your dealership before coming in to your store.1 This means that your online presence (your website, your dealership’s pages on consumer and automotive review sites, your social media presence, etc.) is your “virtual” dealership.
Consumers visit your virtual dealership to learn more about what it is like to do business with you before deciding whether to take the next step of going to your bricks and mortar dealership. If consumers find negative reviews that have not been responded to, most will decide to take their business elsewhere. 80% of consumers will not frequent a business that has negative reviews.2 That is 4 out of 5 people!
Most automobile dealers we speak with know that reputation management is important, even if they do not fully grasp how much failing to foster and maintain a positive online reputation can cost them. Using a discrete example, if you have a mid-sized dealership in a metro area where Yelp is popular, it would not be uncommon for your dealership’s Yelp page to have 150-200 visitors per month. Consumers typically look at a dealership’s online reviews when they are in the end stages of their online research before visiting a dealership in person. This means that if your dealership has negative reviews that have not been responded to on Yelp, 120-160 of the people that visit the page each month will decide not to do business with you.
When you start to do the math and multiply these numbers by your average PVR, your average customer pay RO, or the average lifetime value of a customer to you, you can really begin to feel the impact that negative reviews can have on your bottom line. The next time you’re approaching the end of a month and trying to figure out where those 10 more vehicle sales are going to come from, ask yourself how many slipped through your fingers without you even knowing it because your dealership has a poor online reputation.
Negative reviews will repel the people you are trying to attract. It’s as simple as that.
So, it stands to reason that a positive online reputation will attract prospects to your business, right? Our data supports this. We have analyzed hundreds of dealerships’ online reputations on consumer and automotive review sites over time, and the results are incredibly exciting and encouraging. The dealerships that reap significant rewards for their efforts follow the same steps when it comes to improving their presence on review sites:
- claiming and optimizing their pages on all of the leading consumer and automotive review sites;
- having correct and consistent information on their review pages;
- responding to reviews; and
- striving for a balanced and distributed presence across leading sites.
These dealerships have more reviews written by consumers, do better on organic search results, have higher review ratings, and—perhaps most importantly—have seen significant increases in the traffic to their websites.
So to recap, here are the simple and straightforward answers to the questions we are frequently asked about reputation management for automobile dealers:
Does paying attention to your dealership’s online reputation matter? YES.
Do negative reviews really hurt a business? YES.
Will making the effort to improve your dealership’s online reputation result in selling more cars and service? It will result in more website traffic so, assuming that you have a website that is well optimized for conversion, you will have the opportunity to sell more cars and service. However, your good in store process needs to take the hand off and convert the leads into sales.
Monitoring and maintaining your “virtual” dealership online, is an excellent way of identifying areas of opportunity especially with the knowledge that it translates into more website traffic and the opportunity to increase your ratio of first party leads to third party leads. After all, if you had the choice between a website lead and a paid lead, which one would you pick? So you see, the digital realm really is the new blue sky for dealers.
Consider this a sneak peak or a teaser on our study. Stay tuned for a more comprehensive white paper on the results of our analysis of the impact of online reputation on dealership business. Click here to provide your email address and you will be one of the first people to receive that study or learn more about the 3 Birds solutions that can help you to get your digital blue sky.
 Polk, The Role of Internet in New and Used Vehicle Process, February 2011
 2011, Cone Influence Trend Tracker
Get real-time wisdom about your online presence with the 3 Birds Assessment Product
It wasn’t so long ago that the majority of the car-buying process took place at the dealership itself. From research to comparison to test drive to financing, the process played out much the same way for each customer—and a dealership with a knowledgeable, professional team could focus its energies on a single front with the expectations of considerable returns.
For better or worse, those days are gone.
If you’ve accepted the importance of digital marketing in your dealership strategy, but haven’t gone beyond your dealership website, you haven't fully tapped in to all of the opportunity that exists. Your “virtual dealership” encompasses much more, and your customers play a big role in making it work for you.
Tending to all of your "virtual" real estate via social media and review sites
When people like something, they also like to share it and talk about it—and the same goes when customers come across something they don’t like so much. Social media and review sites give customers the ability to make their voices heard, and you can bet that your prospective customers are paying attention. 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals (Ewing).
This statistic is just one example of the importance of attracting positive reviews while working to negate the circumstances that can lead to negative reviews. There are several ways to accomplish this goal, as you’ll see below.
You shouldn’t take this to mean that consumers are the only ones with influence in social media, though. 78% of respondents in a recent survey said that social media posts by companies impact their purchases (Olenski). Conclusion? You should be posting things to SM that reflect the personality of your dealership and using it as a platform to engage with your customers. Coca-Cola, Moe’s/Taco Bell, Target and Starbucks all use social media to do much more than just sell their products; through their interaction w/ customers on social media they become a valued and trusted part of consumer’s every day. Sure, these are big brands, but dealerships have strong connections to their communities through schools, charitable organizations and community events and this type of localized content goes a long way to connecting with people with shared interests and affiliations.
What you do online matters. Customers are attracted to engaging, valuable content, and your dealership’s social media channels are the perfect way to share the content your customers will love—and that will drive them to your dealership to learn more.
The glass is half full--Identifying areas of opportunity
In a dealership, reviewing data--reports, spreadsheets, financials--is a part of everyday life and an essential way to identify existing areas of opportunity for increasing sales, revenue and efficiency. At 3 Birds, we have created a Digital Assessment that is an incredible tool for identifying these areas and leveraging them to best capitalize on your dealership's "blue sky"--areas of opportunity that are ready and waiting to be tapped into!
Our Digital Assessment tracks four critical areas of your online presence:
· Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page)
· Website Optimization
· Reputation Management and Consumer Review Sites
· Social Media
In each field, you’ll learn where your greatest opportunity lies and how to maximize your sales efficiency through clear, easy steps.
Your dealership’s search rankings have a clear impact on your conversion rates for customers searching in your area. A recent study found that 53% of the clicks for organic listings go to the first result, dwindling to just 15% for the second and 9% for the third (Miller). In addition, the keyword search that refers the most traffic to dealer websites is the dealership name. Owning your page one search results on dealership name is an important way to make sure consumers who are searching for you find only you and to keep competitors from stealing your click. Our assessment tracks your dealership’s appearance in the top 10 search results for your dealership name, and suggests ways to push out competitive or harmful results while broadening your exposure.
Your main website is the foundation of your virtual dealership. It’s where you have the best chance of converting a customer. Is your website well-optimized to convert traffic into leads? The assessment evaluates factors that help your website rank higher in search results and impact your conversion rates.
Reputation Management and Consumer Review Sites
As mentioned above, tracking your dealership’s presence on popular consumer review sites is crucial. To get the most out of your review site presence, though, you should be optimizing your review page listings and engaging with customer reviews. Our assessment looks for claimed listings, correct information, and review management and moderation in the last 90 days.
The optimal social media strategy varies for each dealership. However, every dealership can benefit from actively engaging on the major social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare, and Google+ Business. The assessment tracks your dealership’s engagement on these critical channels and reveals opportunities to get more out of your social media strategy.
Using the assessment to expand your virtual presence
You know what you need to be doing to maximize "virtual blue sky" and optimize your virtual dealership and, by extension, ultimately maximize sales and service opportunities. How do you get from where you are today to where you know you need to be? By taking an assessment of your current virtual presence and measuring progress. The assessment tracks more than 70 data points to provide a comprehensive view of your dealership's online presence. When performed on a regular monthly basis, the assessment adds even more value by showing real-time growth in each of the four areas and is an excellent tool for groups to use as a benchmarking tool.
Ready to learn more about the assessment and see if it is a fitting solution for your group? Contact us today to learn more about making the 3 Birds Marketing assessment part of your virtual dealership plan.
Ewing, Mike. (2012) “71% More Likely to Purchase Based on Social Media Referrals [Infographic].” HubSpot.
Miller, Miranda. (2012) “53% of Organic Search Clicks Go to First Link [Study].” Search Engine Watch.
Olenski, Steve. (2012) “Are Brands Wielding More Influence In Social Media Than We Thought?” Forbes
See what you’ll gain with more positive reviews—and what you’re losing without them
1. Claim and optimize dealer pages on leading consumer and automotive review sites
The best bet is to claim and optimize your pages on all of the leading consumer and automotive review sites (Bing, Cars.com, DealerRater, Edmunds, Google+, InsiderPages, Yahoo Local, Yellow Pages, Yelp) as well as any secondary sites that are popular in your region. Consumers will write reviews where they feel comfortable doing so and have an affiliation so put your best foot forward by optimizing your page. This helps give your business the most control over the content on your page—at least until your customers get involved. The good news is that just by virtue of claiming and optimizing the page you are adding content that will get crawled and indexed by the search engines. As a result many dealers see review sites begin to come up on their page one search results even before there are reviews written by consumers. A review site search result can push a competitor off your search results.
2. Include correct and consistent information across your review pages.
Phone numbers, websites, and even addresses can change, and changing this information on your main page isn’t enough. In addition to presenting a unified face for your dealership, this information plays into your NAP local ranking factors—see The New Geography of Google: Your Link Strategy Post-Penguin 2.0 for more information.
3. Respond to reviews—in a timely fashion.
There are few things more gratifying than getting recognition of your voice online. Where customers are concerned, this means responding to as many reviews as possible, thanking customers for positive reviews and addressing negative posts quickly. In some cases, a well-reasoned response to a negative review can be as powerful as a positive one. We have many clients who have even turned a negative review into a vehicle sale by being proactive.
The Bottom Line: Your Online Reputation Can’t Be Ignored
It’s easy to see that your dealership’s online reputation is more important than ever. When it comes down to the end of the month, can you afford to lose 4 out of 5 customers to a negative review—or would you rather be confident that you’ve engaged the majority of your customer prospects? Clearly, it’s no question at all.
A visual overview of the 3 Birds Assessment Product, featuring Megan Gardner and Austin Myrick
As we have outlined throughout and in the video interview above, like it or not, every dealership has a corresponding virtual dealership based on a number of factors that directly reflects on and impacts the day-to-day operations of the existing dealership. The Assessment product provides an effective tool for dealership groups to measure their progress in key areas 3 Birds has identified as crucial to a dealership's optimal online presence. Interested to learn more about the assessment product for your group or platform? Contact us to learn more.
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If you’ve never experienced what the Wire can add to your online marketing, contact us at 3 Birds Marketing today for a free demonstration to join the growing number of dealerships that utilize 3 Birds' integrated digital marketing platform each day.