E-commerce expert explains why asking every customer to submit an online review is the best way to encourage positive reviews, head off negative reviews and get car buyers talking about your brand.

Customers once wandered from dealership to dealership when choosing which car they wanted to buy. Those days are over. Dealership visits are on the wane, with only 1.2 visits per car purchase. Now, when people want to learn about a make or model, they don’t head to the sales floor; they go online and read the reviews.

According to data from the 2011 Google Gearshift Conference, 94 percent of consumers do research online before buying a vehicle. The reason is simple: Savvy consumers are less likely to trust a salesman or an advertorial produced by a dealer. They want to learn about a vehicle’s pros and cons from people with no vested interest in the company; in other words, their fellow car buyers. They want to read honest comments and reviews before they decide which vehicle to buy.

A 2011–’12 study by Online Cars indicated that 73 percent of customers expect to see reviews written by owners on dealer sites. That number can only increase.

According to the Online Cars study, nearly three-quarters of the car buyers surveyed said they chose their dealership based on positive peer recommendations they found online.

You may already have testimonials on your site from happy customers. Consider taking it a step further by utilizing a platform that enables you to get honest, detailed feedback from every customer.


Comments and reviews are fast becoming an indispensable tool in your social media toolkit, along with a vibrant Facebook page and Twitter presence. Comments need not be static. They should allow your customers to interact with each other, enabling them to have a conversation about your brand.

A Fly Research study from 2011 indicated that 63 percent of consumers prefer their ques- tions to be answered by owners rather than salespeople. By enabling comments on your site, you haven’t just provided present and future customers with a place to talk about their purchase. You have created a community of interested and engaged followers.

Across the Atlantic, Kia Motors UK has seen tremendous results by utilizing a social engagement platform that allows its customers to respond, interact and engage with the dealership and other customers.

At the beginning of this year, Kia launched a marketing campaign around customer reviews. From TV and online ads to instore review displays, the cam- paign resulted in more than three million visits to Kia.co.uk in the first quarter of 2013 and a 72 percent increase in traffic to Kia dealers’ sites comparing to the first quarter of 2012.

Since tying its marketing activity to customer reviews, Kia Motors UK saw a 300 percent increase in the number of test drives, more than twice as many page views, a 29 percent increase in return web visits, and a more than sevenfold increase in clicks to the dealership locator.

Kia discovered that, when customers and potential customers come to the site to read reviews, they’re more likely to be looking to purchase. People who read reviews (both positive and negative) are much more enthused about the product as a result — and willing to share their experiences.


You may be worried about negative comments and criticism. You’re right to be concerned. Research shows that if you allow “passive collection” of reviews — enabling reviews and then waiting to see what customers coming to your site have to say — an estimated 26 percent of the comments and reviews will be negative.

The customers motivated enough to spontaneously return to your website to write a review will likely be driven by anger or disappointment. No one wants to see these negative voices drown out the happy ones. This is why the right social engagement platform will proactively reach out and invite all customers to comment and review their cars or the service they received at your dealership.

Inviting customers to comment, rather than just waiting and hoping, lowers the likelihood of negative reviews and encourages that helpful mix of insights consumers crave.

It is also important to remember that negative reviews can actually help your business. Consumers spend four times as long on a site when they interact with bad reviews, trust the reviews they see far more and convert nearly 70 percent more often. And customers don’t just look at the bad reviews in isolation; it’s the ratio that matters.

In fact, 68 percent of customers trust reviews more when they see a mix of both good and bad. And a whopping 95 percent suspect censorship or that the reviews are faked, paid for or planted if they don’t see any bad scores.

Bad reviews are often the most popular feature of a site but not because customers are looking for reasons not to buy. They’re interested in digging deep into the data about each feature and each option from people who’ve already purchased.

Remember, not everyone agrees on what makes for a “bad review.” For example, one customer may honestly gripe about having to pay extra for a moonroof. Another customer is likely to shrug that off since a moonroof isn’t important to his purchase.

Showing that “negative” review on your dealership site shows consumers that you value opinions and feedback. You’re not losing sales by showing them bad reviews; you’re steering con- sumers toward purchases that won’t disappoint them.

Purchasing the right commenting platform has many other benefits. Reviews bring increased traffic to your site by improving its search-engine rankings. It keeps potential buyers on your site longer by providing them with vital, thought-provoking information. And most importantly, dealerships see an increase in web leads and online sales.

Finally, customer comments can also bring your dealership the kind of honest feedback that you could pay a market research firm thousands of dollars to get. Honest reviews can help your business improve everything from marketing to customer service to product design. They also give you the opportunity to demonstrate how responsive you are to your customers. The key is to provide your customer with impartial reviews from loyal customers who are interested in sharing the details of their purchase with others.

Your business benefits by gaining trust. The right commenting platform will give you access to those genuine reviews from customers who provide useful, honest data that will increase your sales and customer satisfaction.