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70 percent of Americans check online reviews before buying

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There’s no question that technology has changed the way people go about their daily lives. From connecting with friends to scheduling everyday tasks, so much has become simpler with a constant link to the Internet never more than a Wi-Fi signal and a few taps of a finger away. However, while smartphones and mindless gaming apps may have made the commute to work a little less stressful, they’ve changed businesses in more ways than might be readily apparent.

According to a new survey from market research firm Mintel, the vast majority of consumers regardless of age, class or gender use mobile technology to supplement their purchasing decisions. In fact, as many as 70 percent of these “new-age” shoppers check online reviews before even considering swiping a card or handing over cash for a product or service they’re interested in, which begs the question: Can your dealership still afford to ignore more than two-thirds of your market base?

Smartphones aren't just fancy toys anymore.Smartphones aren’t just fancy toys anymore.

The digital American
To say that online reviews have become a significant part of the modern car-buying process is an understatement. However, until the Mintel survey, you might have been a little hesitant to say it’s changed this much so fast.

According to the report, 70 percent of consumers that seek advice and opinions before making a purchasing decision do so by checking online review sites. This is a much larger contingent than those who just use social media sites. In fact, independent review sites ranked as one of the most trustworthy sources of information on products and services, with 38 percent of all consumers preferring these sites above websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp.

“Independent review sites ranked as one of the most trustworthy sources of information.”

“In a never-ending quest to buy the ‘best,’ consumers are looking to others, peers and strangers alike, to glean from their opinions and experiences in order to validate the choices they’ve made and to avoid feelings of buyer’s remorse,” Fiona O’Donnell, lifestyles category manager at Mintel, said in a statement.

Predictably, millennials were more likely to seek recommendations from social media sites, with 81 percent of these consumers seeking purchasing advice from the beginning of the process. There wasn’t any massive dropoff in other demographics, though, as 72 percent of people aged 25 to 34 and 46 percent of those aged 45 to 54 check social media networks as well.

The power of positivity
In a new twist on the topic, Mintel also discovered that consumers are more likely to trust reviews from unknown shoppers that seem to share the same personality traits as themselves. O’Donnell explained that this may have something to do with the instinct to seek approval for difficult purchasing choices before they’re actually made.

“People are looking for validation to their choices, [and] a single negative review can leave people second-guessing their choices, resulting in delayed purchasing – or none at all – if they become too overwhelmed by all the feedback,” O’Donnell said.

Dealerships in the digital age need to take note of this finding. It’s not enough to just convince your customers that you have the products they want. Now, you must show them that others think so, too.