Today, 87% of tire dealership customers start their shopping process with an online search. They want to know which dealerships are closest to their location and which offer the best prices, brand options and overall service. In many cases, only the tire dealerships that can create a positive online impression will receive an in-store visit.
Because a growing number of buying journeys begin online instead of at the dealership, you can be fairly confident that your potential sales leads will see your website before they visit your store. Therefore, a strong online presence is crucial in order to set up your dealership for long-term success.
Building your website’s online visibility - in other words, ranking well in search engine results - takes time and patience, but there are other resources you can use to increase your website traffic.
Below are tips and strategies to drive more traffic to your website by gaining online prominence through your social media and online reviews.
Does your dealership have an active social media presence? If not, we strongly encourage you to invest in building your dealership’s presence on heavily used social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Even if you don’t have a large social media following at this time, you can see significant results through social media.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, social media was evolving into a resource for consumers to connect with brands as an alternative to more traditional communication methods, such as in-store visits, phone calls and emails.
Especially among younger generations, social media serves as a secondary search engine because it functions as a source of research and brand interaction. Due to the dual impact of the pandemic and the generational gravitation toward social media, we are witnessing an impressive year-over-year increase in social media activity and social users.
In fact, direct messaging giant Facebook Messenger is predicted to hit 2.4 billion users by the close of 2021.
A big piece of social media is community-building. Your community is one of your dealership’s strongest sales assets and social media makes it easy to connect with prospects who want to shop locally. As you build a following within your community, your dealership can gain a reputation as a go-to source for high-quality service.
And by making your social media platforms a gateway for customer connections, you can easily invite customers and prospects into your dealership by posting about your upcoming seasonal sale or grand reopening.
If you have limited marketing funds and need an affordable method to boost customer engagement, you may find social media to be an ideal solution. In addition to free organic posting, many platforms also offer a boosted content feature, allowing you to significantly increase the visibility of an important social post and reach a higher volume of your audience for a handful of dollars.
A somewhat more expensive — but nonetheless incredibly valuable — option is using paid social ads to reach followers and non-followers alike.
Facebook, in particular, offers a highly renowned paid ads function that includes laser-focused targeting capabilities. Hyper-targeted paid ads maximize your marketing dollars because they only appear to specific social media users based on age, radius, online browsing habits and other factors.
The power of online reviews
Social media also is a popular source for online reviews. Social media was designed for sharing, including opinions of your recent experience at a business. Many consumers take to social platforms to leave reviews and you can build optimal brand equity by staying aware of what customers are saying.
How often do you check the review sections of your social media platforms or on third-party sites like Google My Business or Yelp? According to Bright Local, in 2020, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses - an increase from 81% in 2019.
And according to website conversion rate optimization company Invesp, 88% of consumers who read online reviews trust them as much as personal recommendations.
With so many consumer eyes on your dealership’s reviews, your reputation hinges on how you respond to these reviews - both the good and not-so-good. Taking time to provide a thoughtful response to online reviews shows that your dealership cares about the customer experience. You may think it’s unnecessary to respond to a positive review. After all, that customer is already happy with their experience! What value does your response add to that experience? Keep in mind that this customer took the time to say something nice about your dealership. Not only is it common courtesy to respond, but it shows other online users that you recognize the value of your customer base.
Has your dealership received a bad review? It’s tempting to ignore these posts and instead focus on the positive responses. However, doing so can severely damage your dealership’s credibility. People consider reviews to be highly reliable and they may develop a poor opinion of your dealership if they see bad reviews sitting unaddressed on your social media or third-party sites.
If you are met with an unpleasant review, you can take one of these steps, based on the context of the situation:
A customer is upset about something that can’t be helped. You can’t control every facet of someone’s visit. Maybe your dealership experienced a very busy day and had to extend wait times or maybe a customer disagreed with one of your policies. Even if you are not responsible for the situation, it’s important to demonstrate empathy and try to provide a solution. Apologize that the customer had a less-than-stellar experience at your store or on your website and invite that customer to get in touch with your team to collaborate on a solution.
A customer is upset because of something your team may have done. Apologize that you did not meet the customer’s expectations for quality of service and state that your dealership really cares about delivering a meaningful experience. Invite the customer to contact your store so that you can collaborate on a solution.
A non-customer leaves a review. These aren’t common, but occasionally you may experience a case of mistaken identity or receive an intentional and malicious spam review. If your dealership name is similar to another business, a disgruntled customer of that business may mistakenly post their grievance to your page. Another possibility is the unfortunate existence of internet trolls, who spread ill will at random or target people with which they hold a personal grudge. If you know that a bad review is from a noncustomer, politely respond that you don’t have a record of their visit and extend an invitation to contact your store if there is a legitimate grievance. is response also provides important clarification for other online viewers that your dealership is not at fault here.
You may not be able to change an unhappy customer’s mind, but you can make a good impression with future customers. Even if you know a customer is a lost cause and the relationship can’t be salvaged, it’s important to respond to the review with sincerity to show other online browsers that you did everything you could to make a customer happy.
How reviews impact site performance
The internet is becoming increasingly connected as shoppers adopt a multi-channel approach to online browsing. Your efforts on other channels influence the performance of your website, both directly by pulling in leads from other platforms and indirectly by enhancing your website’s visibility.
Here are three common scenarios that highlight the importance of optimizing your online presence outside of your website:
Scenario #1. A prospect submits an online search inquiry for “best tire brands 2021” and then clicks on a popular tire manufacturer that appeared at the top of the search results page. They like the look and feel of this manufacturer’s brand and decide to perform another search for local dealerships that carry the brand. Your website appears at the top of the search results and the prospect peruses your site for a while. However, before they call your store, they want to ensure that your dealership really is as great as it seems. They switch over to Google My Business and confirm from your positive reviews and timely review responses that your dealership really is something special. They grab your dealership’s phone number from your Google My Business profile and give your store a call.
Scenario #2. A prospect is scrolling through his or her Instagram feed and sees a paid ad for your dealership. Recently, this customer had performed some online searches for tire services and your ad seems to offer exactly what he or she was looking for. The customer clicks on the ad and is redirected to the services page of your dealership’s website. A slight alternative to this scenario is that the prospect wants to get a better feel for your business before they interact with your ad. The customer clicks over to your dealer’s Instagram page and scrolls through your plethora of fun, informative posts. Convinced that your dealership has a customer-friendly attitude, they find your website URL at the top of your Instagram profile and click to your website.
Scenario #3. A prospect performs an online search for local tire dealerships. Your website is among the top search results, thanks in part to your social media and online review efforts. Why is this? Search engine algorithms consider factors like social media and online reviews when generating search results pages. An active social media presence and good online review standing can boost the visibility of your website, helping more online shoppers discover your dealership on search engines.
Regardless of how a prospect goes about narrowing down their online options, the bottom line is that social media and online reviews both serve as crucial funnels to your website.
By focusing your online marketing strategy beyond the limits of your website, you actually can drive more traffic back to your site and raise awareness of your dealership among shoppers who may not have found you through online search alone.
Sarah Prellwitz is a content specialist who creates website and digital marketing pieces for digital marketing agency Net Driven, which has more than 60 different partnerships with major manufacturers, wholesale distributors and trade associations. Net Driven provides a wide range of digital solutions, including responsive website design, e-commerce, digital advertising, social media management and more. For more information, email [email protected].
Click here to read other recently published Tire Dealer Survival Guide articles: