CHICAGO, March 9, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Online reviews continue to grow in importance within the automotive industry, with seven of 10 car shoppers stating that reviews of dealerships are a 'very' or 'extremely' important part of the research process1. To better understand this trend, Cars.com conducted a text analysis using the nearly one million consumer-submitted reviews on its site and uncovered several unique shopper behaviors, as well as opportunities for retailers and manufacturers.
"Online reviews are more than social proof; they're equity for dealerships," said Simon Tiffen, senior manager, advertiser insights at Cars.com. "Now that reading and writing online reviews is normal behavior for consumers, we're able to aggregate and analyze real-life experiences to make tangible improvements to the shopping process – not to mention find out some fun stuff along the way."
Consumers Share Reviews During Office Hours
More than half (52%) of all dealer reviews on Cars.com are left between 10 am and 4 pm ET, with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday being the days shoppers most frequently write reviews.
Only 7% of all reviews are left on Sunday, and virtually no reviews are left between 3am and 5am ET.
"Since consumers are most likely to leave a review during mid-day, it makes sense for manufacturers and dealerships to capitalize on that behavior," shared Tiffen. "If you're asking customers to submit a review, time your communication for when they're most open to sharing, which often means during typical working hours."
Bad Experiences Lead to Longer, More Immediate Reviews
The analysis shows that the average length of a dealer review on Cars.com is 62 words; however, reviews that do not recommend a dealership are 142 percent longer than those that do, on average.
Though they account for just a small fraction (4%) of all reviews, negative reviews are 19 percent more likely to be written on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday, presumably after a poor weekend experience at the dealership.
"When a consumer has a bad experience, they want their voice heard," added Tiffen. "Businesses mess up sometimes – that's a given. But now retailers have an opportunity to resolve individual issues as well as identify larger problems connected to dealership process through direct customer feedback."
Given the added strain on dealership staff during peak shopping periods, Tiffen also suggests retailers take notice of the consequences of providing a poor customer experience.
"Retailers need to pay extra attention during high-traffic hours to make sure their customer service doesn't slip," added Tiffen. "This includes monitoring online review and social media channels, where consumers are likely to vent after a negative experience."
Dealerships Ignore Opportunity to Respond
Though simple tools are provided to dealerships to reply to both positive and negative reviews, less than one-third of all dealer reviews on Cars.com are answered. A missed opportunity, the analysis shows that dealer review response rate positively correlates to a higher average star rating.
At a state level, this same trend holds true. Delaware, the highest rated state (4.7/5), has an average response rate of greater than 60 percent. Conversely, the state with the lowest average dealership rating, South Dakota (3.9/5), is home to dealerships with an average response rate of less than 10 percent.
The analysis divided the nation into four geographic regions (Midwest, Northeast, South, West) and looked for trends based on common phrases, type of interaction (sales or service) and other relevant review attributes.
Distribution of dealer reviews on Cars.com by Region
- South – 36%
- Midwest - 25%
- Northeast - 22%
- West - 17%
Midwest: Midwest values hold true in the analysis, as consumers in the region are 358% more likely to reference a dealership's staff being friendly during a sales or service transaction, compared to other regions.
Northeast: The abrasive stereotype often associated with Northeasterners proves to be unfounded, as reviewers in the region are more than twice as likely than other locales to say "thank you" within their reviews. This may be attributed to the Northeast's high index of the terms "salesman" and "dealer," an indicator that customers are addressing reviews to a specific individual, rather than the dealership experience as a whole.
South: Folks in the South account for the highest portion of reviews in the analysis (36%) and are most likely to reference both customer service and professionalism as part of their feedback (e.g., "great customer service" or "very professional staff"). Additionally, individuals in the region are almost twice as likely to reference a family member in a review, with a heavy emphasis on shopping with or for a daughter.
West: Cars.com users in the West are most interesting because of what they don't say. While every other region in the analysis references time (e.g., 30 minutes, less than 3 hours, hour wait, etc.), consumers in the West accounted for just 4% of all mentions. Individuals in the West are also most likely to leave a review about their service/repair experience.
Additional findings from the analysis include:
- On average Cars.com reviewers give dealerships a rating of 4.6 out of 5
- Franchise dealerships account for 84% of all reviews
- Of dealerships that have reviews on Cars.com, 80% have more than 20
- Breakdown of dealer reviews by type:
- Used-car Sales – 38%
- New-car Sales – 37%
- Service – 24%
The analysis was conducted using a random sample of 10,000 Cars.com dealer reviews submitted between 1/1/2014 and 9/30/2014.
1 C+R Research, Digital Influence in Automotive 2014
Launched in 1998, Cars.com is a leading independent research site for car shoppers with approximately 30 million visits per month. The Chicago-based company provides shoppers with credible and easy-to-understand information from consumers and experts. Leveraging its growing audience, Cars.com informs digital marketing strategies through consumer insights and innovative products, helping automotive dealers and manufacturers more effectively reach in-market car shoppers. Cars.com is owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI). For more information, visit www.dealers.cars.com.
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