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The social side of shopping for your next car has always existed, in the form of recommendations from friends or family, but the growth of online retail has changed the landscape for buying and selling cars, whether online or offline. 

Following on from this look at how the automotive industry uses the web, I'll look at how the automotive industry can take advantage of the opportunity that social commerce offers them online.

In recent years, the consumer purchase journey has changed dramatically and this is particularly evident when it comes to buying a car. Car buyers now have a combination of online information available to them, including advice from websites and social media platforms, in addition to customer reviews. 

The result of which is that most consumers have actually made their decision before they step foot on the forecourt, something that many in the auto industry may be unaware of. 

Therefore, car dealers need to not just have great customer service, but also be able to demonstrate their utility to consumers online to ensure it’s their dealership the they visit.

Tapping into social

As it grew, the Internet took much of the social element of shopping out of the consumers’ purchase journey, making online retail a largely isolated affair. However, the development of the social web means that consumers and retailers have the opportunity to bring this social element back into buying and selling products online. 

A key characteristic of social commerce is that transactions are driven by social content and behaviour, which doesn’t necessarily have to be on a social network. For example, social commerce enables consumers to create and share content, such as customer reviews, recommendations, or consumer-to-consumer conversations. 

If, as many commentators predict, the social web continues its growth, the changes in consumer behaviour are something that the automotive sector can benefit greatly from, with a little understanding and some simple tools to help tap into this potential area of expansion. 

Data from our own partners across a variety of sectors finds that the addition of customer reviews can result in consumers spending around 2½ times longer on site, making them 1½ times more ‘likely to buy’. 

Making sure your reviews can be trusted

There’s a real opportunity for the automotive industry to leverage and benefit from the wealth of customer opinion available to them online, as a means of driving sales by helping potential customers make better choices. 

Research conducted by Reevoo earlier this year of 1,000 UK consumers highlighted that almost two-thirds (66%) of car buyers ‘always or ‘often’ read owner reviews prior to making their purchase. 

Consumers are also more likely to buy from a site that offers customer reviews, with 60% reporting being ‘much more’ or ‘more’ likely to make a purchase if the retailer’s web presence includes customer reviews.

In fact, this research also showed that offering car buyers real customer reviews can underpin a successful sales and customer service strategy. 

With major concerns for consumers when it comes to online reviews being: Concern that reviewers have been paid to write positive reviews (36%), reviews aren’t being written by consumers (34%), and that only good reviews are shown (33%). 

Engaging off the forecourt

Social commerce offers car sellers the opportunity to better engage potential customers, before they set foot on the forecourt. 

Encouraging these potential car buyers to spend longer on your website, viewing more pages and trusting what they read, resulting in more opportunities to convince them to purchase your product. 

Therefore, social commerce offers the increasingly competitive world of automotive retailing the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and engage consumers with relevant social content in order to ensure it is their forecourt the customer steps foot on.

Richard Anson

Published 14 June, 2012 by Richard Anson

Richard Anson is a Founder of Reevoo. You can connect with Richard on Twitter or Linkedin.

4 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Tom Anderson | AceFlex

Available information and social commerce is fine, but people make decisions emotionally. I think that the crucial factor here is the design, because the features and services are always similar within the same price range.

over 4 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

Richard, there is a question that you’ve stopped short of asking (for reasons of modesty I presume), so I'll raise it for you – namely, who is best to host customer reviews? The brand or an intermediary?

I've known several people who have worked with Reevoo and I have a lot of respect for the value you've brought to customer decision making, but it would be easy for some brands to believe they could do so just as well themselves.

I've run a number of social trials in this area and found that if (real people) within a brand actively engage in conversation with their customers, then the chances are the nature of this conversation will be positive and customers will be more likely to buy. But the objective of the brand in running such a environment is to build positive sentiment and customers already know this. That's fine for existing advocates, but for the undecided this might actually deter them – because they know that the brand’s objective is fundamentally biased (as it should be).

An independent review site (such as Reevoo) is motivated to find a balance, reflecting both positive and negative viewpoints and thereby provide customers with confidence from a reasoned perspective.

There is room for both, although most brands fail to invest sufficiently in their own on-site reviews (usually on social platforms such as Facebook). I don't see this changing any time soon, the tendency for corporate brands is to delegate customer interaction to full-time specialists, following the call-centre model and in effect distancing decision makers from their customers. Such a defensive approach will always fall short of enabling social commerce.

Intermediaries however, can deliver exactly what customers need - and therefore automotive brands would do well to consider linking to the most respected review sites as part of their social commerce approach.

over 4 years ago

Richard Anson

Richard Anson, Founder at Reevoo

Steve, A great question and I have tried hard not to make my answer Reevoo biased. I believe the opportunity for brands is to engage with their customers on their own properties (be that online, mobile, in-store/showroom) and beyond on the likes of Facebook or Google.
The challenge for brands is that it’s not just about buying software and then sitting back: you have to work hard to harvest content and build verified owner communities – skills and time few brands posses.
Therefore, when Brands consider implementing these services, they should look carefully at the options: they may go for just the software, but need to think if they will need additional resources (internally or outsourced) so someone will take responsibility for that content and driving engagement. And ensure that the relevant content and insight can be accessed and imported to their own CRM database. You then raise the question of trust, something close to my heart, and brands then have a choice to either do everything under their own brand or use a trustmark, such as the Reevoo brand. Either way, it is critical that brands have a mindset of building a trusted and transparent relationship with their customers – because its what their consumers expect.

over 4 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

Richard, the software side of things, as you know, is the easiest part - we were harvesting data and populating single customer views of prospects and customers data 7 or 8 years ago. It doesn't need to be harvested in real-time, and neither is it likely to encompass 'Big Data' for most sectors.

I see the problem more as a philosophical one and the way customer's perceive a brand's intentions. Philosophical because despite the maturity of online to those of us working in the industry, most big brands still treat it as a 'delegated' task rather than something which is core to their customer relationship strategy.

As you know, it takes time, resources and the right tools, but perhaps more importantly it requires a passion for finding the truth (a passion which must be evident to customers) and a commitment to rewarding such feedback. People leave comments and feedback for one of two reasons; either because they're dissatisfied and want justice (or payback!) or because they believe their feedback will be valued - either by other customers or the brands themselves.

If brands do want to embrace the value of customer reviews then they'd better be serious about delivering on these promises, valuing the feedback and nurturing trust (over the long-term). If they can't do so, then make sure it's outsourced to someone who can..

over 4 years ago

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