Word of mouth marketing has always been vitally important to the success of auto dealers.  For years, people would hear about a product or service from neighbors, family or co-workers and be influenced in some way by those conversations.  The advent of social media and online review websites allows consumers to now spread the word about positive or negative experiences faster than before and made even easier with mobile devices.  Since nearly all consumers today research purchases online, reviews have become one of the biggest influences when it comes time for consumers to make decisions.  The same applies for car shopping.

Consumer reviews about dealerships can be a deciding factor for some shoppers when considering which dealer they want to do business.  It is important to know how much influence and what influencing sources are considered when consumers make a vehicle purchase.  When we break down existing generations into Baby Boomers, GenXers, and Millennials, we found interesting results in what ultimately influences their purchase decisions when researching on Cars.com.  We know that GenXers rate third-party automotive, automotive research or marketplace sites (like Cars.com) as slightly more influential than other age groups (especially Millennials).  Millennials, however, rate word of mouth/recommendations and TV ads for a dealership as more influential than other age groups (Baby Boomers and GenXers).


*Source: Cars.com Consumer Metrics Study, August 2016

Based on this information, we can see that first hand research on vehicles via third party sites, like Cars.com, and word of mouth/recommendations are the most influential.  This isn’t so surprising when you consider your own research habits whether you’re on Amazon.com or in a local store making a high dollar purchase, you’re doing your research.  However, when you take a look at what influences each age group next, we see that dealer reviews are a key factor in making a purchase decision.  It’s also not surprising that a dealer’s own website is a key influence as well.  Third party sites like Cars.com helps drive all of these influence factors to help dealers win.

Knowing this, it is important for dealers to dedicate time to managing their online reputation.  Sites like Cars.com and DealerRater allow dealers to reply to reviews they receive and gives them the opportunity to thank consumers for positive reviews or to reach out to a consumer who submitted a negative review and make it right.  Consumers do find negative reviews to be helpful when deciding where to buy, and when a dealer takes the time to respond to a negative review, it shows the extra lengths to which that dealer is willing to go to provide good customer service.  We recommend always responding to every review received knowing that other consumers are also watching, regardless of generation.