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Guest opinion: Harness the 'raving fans' for top online results

Neil Addley, founder and managing director of JudgeService

Dealers have long been reliant on word of mouth and brand loyalty for sales, and the customer buying experience is a big part of this.

The internet is changing the buying process in all markets.

These days all dealers should be using the internet to inform everything from their sales processes to customer experience, and online reviews are an essential part of this.

With figures from the Auto Trader Annual Buying Report revealing that more than two million car sales last year were helped by dealer reviews left by consumers or personal recommendations, it’s more important than ever to harness the power of the digital consumer to support your sales strategy.

This is because we are moving towards – if not already in – ‘Experience Marketing’, where consumers want to be actively involved with your brand.

As a result, properly satiated consumers will become advocates of your company, or in our words, raving fans.

People are readily sharing their experiences of a brand, product or service through digital channels, and in turn, customers are increasingly likely to look for online reviews to inform their buying process, with research showing that 88 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as their family and friends.

All this means dealers need to be harnessing the power of digital word-of-mouth by ensuring touchpoints encourage people to read, share and take part in reviews about their dealership.

The power of online reviews

JudgeService conducts customer satisfaction reviews on behalf of car dealers, providing management information to help dealers improve their service and generating reviews that dealers can share on their website, social media and advertising campaigns.

The company was set up to capitalise on the growth of social media and our products are used by more than 1,000 dealers across the country, generating nearly 800,000 reviews.   

Research from search agency BrightLocal shows that more than three quarters (84%) of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and nearly three quarters (72%) of buyers will take action only after reading a positive review. Nine out of ten consumers read online reviews and 40 per cent of buyers form an opinion of a business after reading just one to three reviews.

All this shows the overwhelming power of online reviews and dealers’ digital footprint.

If we look at the automotive industry to highlight this consumer trend, we can see that during the purchasing process there are 24 key touchpoints (illustration below) 19 of which are now digital – including online searches, online adverts, social media pages, clicking display adverts, compared to the traditional touchpoints of newspaper adverts, visiting dealerships and seeing TV adverts.

All these touchpoints give dealers an opportunity to communicate their brand to consumers and as such, should be considering a strategic marketing approach encompassing all digital channels, including video, social media and digital advertising.

The customer's voice

As a result of digital platforms where every consumer has a voice, consumers are now key influencers in the purchasing process.

By the time a consumer comes through the door of the dealership, they will have researched their car, the dealership, the finance packages and the experiences of others.

They will know nearly everything they need to know about the vehicle, but they still need to buy.

Our surveys are developed from market demand and our expertise in the automotive sector and we know the power of social media and the importance of dealers having a digital presence to boost their marketing.

Our products offer a range of services, including surveys for car sales, lost prospects, current sales and lapsed customers, covering every aspect of the buying and selling experience.

As well as helping dealer marketing campaigns, our results help internal sales and training processes for our clients.

Author: Neil Addley, founder and managing director of JudgeService

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