Sell more vehicles by boosting your online reputation

The auto dealer industry has a trust problem. Consumers are leery of the stereotypical car salesman and how arduous the buying process is. In the past, consumers and dealers would engage in a painful dance, where they negotiated back and forth before finally arriving at a sale price. Oftentimes, the painfully long process would leave consumers exhausted and frustrated with the outcome.

Consumers are so wary of the traditional car-buying experience that as far back as 1994, they were clamoring for more transparency and simplicity from the industry. In fact, the now defunct Saturn became the 3rd best-selling car model in 1994, largely due to its simplified retail experience (i.e. no price negotiating).

Today’s savvy consumers are following in the footsteps of those early Saturn fans. They are empowered with information long before they even set foot inside your dealership. They’ve done their research, know their price point, and are not interested in negotiating. And most of their research takes place (you guessed it) online.

But how can you win the trust challenge if consumers don’t engage with you before they come into your dealership? Well, customers do engage with you before the come into your dealership — through your online reputation.

They’ll hunt down reviews, seek out recommendations from their personal networks, and do their own dealer comparisons. Trust is earned, and it begins online. It’s also paramount to driving customers to visit your dealership. Your business landscape is very competitive — dealers sell very similar products at very similar price points, all in a crowded marketplace. Your ability to build trust online will boost your reputation and can be the key differentiator that helps conquest your competition.

With any challenge comes opportunity and the trust issue is no different. Here are some steps you can take to enhance your dealership’s reputation online and build your brand. 

Manage your brand, amplify your reputation

Encourage customers to leave reviews and respond to them — even (especially) the negative ones. Remember these are opportunities for you to thank you customers, improve your processes, and move your business forward. Sites like the BBB and Yelp offer your dealership a great way to boost its online reputation, increase your brand recognition, and built trust. 

3 trust-builders for your website

Trust-builders are both expressed and implicit. Not having trust-builders on your website is a surefire way to lost potential customers. Here are some simple, easy-to-implement elements you can add to your website to build trust.

1) Showcase your awards

Has your dealership won any awards? Let’s be honest — awards come in all shapes and sizes, and some resonate more than others with consumers. A few that resonate with auto buyers are ones that tout successful customer service and satisfied buyers. Think of statements like “highest-rated customer service in the region” and “check out our 5-star reviews on BBB.org”.

2) Price match guarantees

Consumers always want to know that they are getting the best price available. Purchasing a car, for most consumers, is a major investment and one they don’t take lightly. Put them at ease by offering them a simple price match guarantee. It’s unlikely your competition will be able to undercut you enough with their sticker price to hurt your business, so take that extra step to put your customers at ease.

3) Add a security seal 

Privacy and security online are major concerns to today’s consumers. Let them know their data is safe with you, by adding a security seal to your website. Cars.com saw a 2.7 percent lift in their online conversions when they added a McAfee Secure seal on their website forms and landing pages. 

Customer testimonials are key

Quotes from happy customers can be a powerful trust builder with potential leads. Your customers focus on recommendations and reviews. When you add testimonials about your products and service on your site, it builds trust and generates more interest.

Want more fans? Incentivize them

Want to get your customers to become even bigger fans of your dealership? Incentivize them. Nothing makes customers happier than saving money. Offer rewards for using your service deck for routine maintenance needs. Examples might be offering a free oil change for every four purchased, or a free car wash after an annual tune-up. 

Get social!

Thinking about social media? Not sure how to leverage it to boost sales? Let’s start with the ugly truth: Social media can be a huge time-suck, and proving attribution can be a challenge. When you combine those opportunity costs with the seemingly endless array of issues facing various social media platforms (privacy, cost per acquisition, competition, entitled consumers), it can seem like something you’d be better off ignoring altogether.

But, for all their flaws, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can be harnessed for managing your reputation — and for selling vehicles. In fact, 22 percent of buyers reach out to their Facebook community when researching vehicles.

Put a social media plan in place

Make sure you have company rules in place regarding who gets to post on social media, what they get to post, and who they should direct customers to contact when they have an issue. Above all, always acknowledge a customer’s pain point.

Did something wrong? Acknowledge it

Keep it straightforward, acknowledge your customer’s pain point, and vow to do better. You are not there to engage in a back and forth on Twitter, so keep it perfunctory. Remember, those Tweets live on in the ‘twittersphere’ forever so choose your words carefully. Every business makes mistakes, and customers demand an ever-increasing amount of attention. 

It might sound paradoxical, but online prospects who are interacting with your brand or website are often looking for a reason to leave, not a reason to give you money. That means you need to eliminate as many reservations as possible by having a solid plan behind your online presence, in order to build trust and increase engagement with leads.