The case for automotive brands using reviews

As I mentioned in a post last year, the automotive industry has been relatively slow (in general) to adapt to the web, and seems to have been reluctant to use reviews.

I can understand that brands and dealers may have had concerns about reviews. After all, a few bad reviews could potentially damage sales, while consumers may vent their fury at dealers by poorly scoring the car itself.

However, much car research takes place online and, as with other sectors, consumer and media reviews form a large part of this. Indeed, according to recent stats, 94% of new car buyers research online before buying. 

So, whether automotive brands like it or not, their potential customers are researching, and part of this research means looking for reviews. These researchers are going to find them, so isn’t it better to make these resources available on your own site?

This is the view taken by Kia, as its Head of Customer Communications John Bache explained:

With customer research moving online, we wanted to adapt to that. We knew that customers were happy with our products, and we wanted to harness that. It was a leap of faith to some extent, but if people want to find reviews online they are there somewhere. We’d rather provide them and keep people on our site.

It isn’t just reviews of Kia’s cars either. Customers can also leave reviews of the dealerships.

This helps to portray Kia as a more open brand, but can also have the added bonus of helping the company to uncover any customer issues, as well as incentivising the dealers to provide high levels of service.

How has Kia used reviews offline?

In addition to its use of reviews on the website, Kia has been actively promoting these user reviews offline. For example, visitors to its showrooms can see summaries of review scores:

In addition, Kia used online reviews in its recent TV ad campaign, prompting viewers to head online to check out the opinions of people who have bought its cars.

The sheer volume of reviews helps to build credibility too. Kia now has more than 4,000 user reviews on the site, with the majority being positive.

How has this worked out?

The results are impressive so far. Since launching the offline campaign in January, Kia has seen record numbers of site visitors, as well as record showroom sales.

  • Q1 web traffic was up 21% YOY at 3,383,249 visits.
  • Q1 dealer website traffic was up 72% on Q1 2012, at 487,124.
  • Q1 vehicle registrations were up by 12% at 19,204.

It should be noted that reviews online weren’t the whole reason, though they have undoubtedly played a big part.

Kia has managed to get the basics right, such as having mobile optimised sites, and gearing them towards different user behaviour.

For example, Kia’s mobile users are more action-orientated, and are looking to read reviews and find local dealers rather than request brochures, so the site is adapted to promote these actions.

Reviews mean engagement

One effect of user reviews is that people are spending more time on Kia’s site and taking actions after doing so.

Users reading reviews are:

  • 484% more likely to request a brochure.
  • 300% more likely to book a test drive.
  • 509% more likely to search for a local Kia dealer.