As auto buying transitions to a digital-first world, consumer reviews are more important than ever.
The 2021 Automotive Reputation Report analyzed online reviews from more than 20,000 automotive brands and dealerships in North America (United States and Canada), and 15,000 more across Europe.
The top five non-luxury brands are Nissan, Subaru, Honda, Mitsubishi and Toyota, per the research. The top five luxury brands are Infiniti, Lexus, BMW, Acura and Audi.
“We recognize that it is essential to anticipate and respond to shifting consumer needs and preferences,” says Allyson Witherspoon, vice president and U.S. chief marketing officer, Nissan. “We’ve worked closely with our dealers on these efforts, from prioritizing the production of our core models to expanding our online retailing capabilities with Nissan@Home, an ecommerce experience that allows customers to take the car buying process completely online.”
The annual report outlines how brands performed during COVID-19 including dealer groups and dealerships based on response rate to negative feedback, engagement scores and average scores across dealerships.
The automotive industry has seen it all over the past year, from huge spikes in sales to inventory challenges, says Joe Fuca, chief executive officer of Reputation.
“Through it all, dealers and manufacturers have embraced digital tools and customer feedback to create a smooth car buying experience for all,” Fuca says.
Review volume for 2021 is higher than ever. Nearly 80% of consumers say reviews are important and 41% say they will read at least five reviews before visiting a dealership. Reviews and star ratings drive customer leads, with 64% of consumers surveyed saying they would travel more than 20 miles to a top-rated dealership.
Customer service is the main driver of positive ratings for auto dealerships. Despite the rise of digital, buying a car remains a largely human-centered, face-to-face experience. Sixty-five percent of car shoppers said they are influenced significantly by in-person visits.
Inventory shortages prompted by the chip shortage are top of mind for customers. Reviews mentioning shortages have increased almost 33 times from January 2021 to July 2021.
On a related note, price is the top driver of negative ratings, and 82% of consumers surveyed said price is an important consideration, more than any other factor.
As a result, dealerships need to manage consumers’ expectations about prices during the inventory shortage when demand is outstripping supply, per the research.