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We’re big believers in the importance of maintaining a positive online presence for your business. 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. 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. 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 reviews:
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.
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.
 Polk, The Role of Internet in New and Used Vehicle Process, February 2011
 2011, Cone Influence Trend Tracker