Digital Dealer #7 – Yelp Reviews
My next Digital Dealer presentation was led by Darnell Holloway of Yelp and covered some Yelp-specific opportunities in online reviews. As this is a topic I cover often in 20 Group meetings, I was hoping to get some insight into how stores can better leverage positive reviews. Yet the thing that stands out in my mind most was the concern that many dealerships had about legitimate reviews not showing up on their page. Holloway referenced Yelp’s policies to police reviews, thus getting them more legitimate than other review sites. But one of those policies includes not showing reviews if they are the only one posted by an individual (in other words, if they do not use Yelp more than that one time). This makes sense when setting up automatic controls against fraudulent reviews, but buying a car is a pretty different experience from going to a restaurant. I could see many people trying to be helpful with a huge purchase by reviewing a dealership without using the site again. Shouldn’t there be some way to make these visible? One internet manager said she was missing nearly 50 positive reviews, which certainly would have helped her low Yelp score. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be a clear cut solution to this issue.
As for the rest of the session, there were still plenty of points worth recounting here:
• According to a Digital Air Strike study, 70% of consumers found reviews helpful. However, the type of review was not specified. Another session I attended cited a study that showed only 9% of customers read dealership reviews. It both of these are true, the vast majority of “helpful reviews” would be OEM or vehicle, not dealership, specific.
• Of these 70%, 30% said they were directly affected by a good review or negatively affected by no reviews (I assume bad reviews would fall in here as well);
• For automotive specific Yelp reviews – 34% are 5 stars, 24% are 4 stars and 18% are 3 stars;
One takeaway from the session that is also relevant for other review sites is the need for dealers to utilize the “business owner’s account” [biz.yelp.com]. Having this account set up allows you to track user views by device, add photos, dealership information, photos and descriptions to optimize your page, and (perhaps most importantly) to respond to reviews. Responding to negative reviews in a timely, professional manner is crucial, but Holloway also suggested responding privately to positive reviews. I have always suggested responding to every review publicly and I still think this is a good practice if done right, but I guess he is pretty competent in this subject so I’ll defer to him here…. Also, he recommended responding to aged reviews by acknowledging that they are old but with an explanation that “things have changed”.
Holloway also offered some best practices for proactive reputation management:
• Let people know you are on Yelp but don’t specifically ask for reviews (again, if done right I think asking for reviews is fine but he is the expert);
• Create “Check-in Offers” or “Yelp Deals” (such as a free oil change when you “check in” at the dealership). This has the added benefit of prompting those customers to leave a review;
• Update your e-mail signature with a link to your Yelp reviews;
• Use in-store marketing to get the word out, also use your business cards and stationary to alert customers of your efforts;
• Yelp has a partnership with Digital Air Strike that allows you to buy search advertising on Yelp.
While the true ROI from reviews is in question, it is clear that it would be unwise to ignore them. I believe there is great value in keeping up with all review sites and having an active role in the conversation, especially if Google continues to pursue their auto shopping service. You have to distinguish yourself somehow, what better way than getting your customers’ positive experiences out there!