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There’s a big elephant standing in every showroom.1clickhelpdesk.com is something many automobile retailers know is there, but all too often they choose not to acknowledge – or do anything about it. That “elephant” is their digital reputation – and it’s standing in a showroom increasingly at risk of being empty if dealers don’t pay more attention to managing their digital reputation. One of today’s biggest challenges to retailers, including dealerships, are highly informed consumers. When it comes to automobile purchases, today’s highly informed consumers are spending nearly three months gathering make and model, price, and dealership information from nearly 25 traditional and online sources – all before they even set foot in a dealership. From all they’re reading online about other consumers’ experiences at your store, these highly informed consumers often are making

choices about whether to visit your dealership based on your digital reputation. But, as these consumers browse online sources, they’re also aware that not all online sources are created equal. They tend to favor third-party and user-generated resources, such as review sites or online comments from friends and family – with nearly 70 percent of car shoppers indicating dealership reviews are very or extremely important to the research process. So, like other situations where there’s an “elephant in the room,” it’s time for dealers to recognize the situation and deal with that elephant. That means developing and implementing a strategic reputation management plan that includes monitoring what’s being said about the dealership online, responding to comments, and further building their online reputation.

Before a dealership can develop a strategic plan for managing their digital reputation, it’s important to understand why a positive online reputation is critical. • More than 80 percent of consumers say reviews written by other consumers are valuable or extremely valuable. • Nearly nine in 10 consumers trust online reviews about a business as much as they trust personal recommendations. • More than 90 percent of consumers use social media and review sites to help them select a dealership. Customer reviews, ratings, and stories matter to consumers when it comes to shopping and buying decisions. So, ignoring negative reviews and online mentions – pretending the elephant doesn’t exist – can discourage the highly informed consumer from considering your dealership for sales or service.

So you’ve acknowledged the elephant in the showroom and recognize you should be monitoring and responding to customer reviews. But, only using a read-and-respond strategy puts consumers in control of a dealer’s digital reputation. Dealership personnel have to wait for customers to complain online before they can respond to negative reviews. While dealerships wait, they run the risk of losing shoppers who are standing on their car lot, reading those negative reviews and online mentions on their smartphone. To take control of their digital reputation, dealers can do more than acknowledge the elephant – they can also make it work for them. To do this, dealers should be taking a proactive approach and building their online reputation. Managing your digital reputation is like any other business process and practice: It takes the right combination of attention, technology, and commitment from the organization to be successful. The following checklist can help dealers who want to take the next steps in implementing a strategic reputation management plan.