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.