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FordDirect Survey Finds Consumers Prefer Dealers Who Engage in Online Conversations

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DEARBORN — A new survey from FordDirect, the online business of Ford Motor Co. and its dealers, shows that it’s increasingly important for auto dealers to develop a strong outline presence.

The survey was released Saturday in Florida at the National Automobile Dealers Association Convention and Exposition.

“Today the auto shopping experience begins long before the customer steps foot into the dealership, and the dealership’s online reputation can determine where a consumer ultimately elects to do business,” said Valerie Fuller, FordDirect COO. “The results of this research indicate just how crucial it is for dealers to enhance their online presence and reputation to attract customers.”

The study, conducted in December, gathered responses from more than 1,100 automotive consumers on the importance of reputation management and social and digital media in selecting a dealer and purchasing new and used vehicles.

A dealer’s online reputation was identified throughout the survey as a key influencer in the buying process, with 63 percent of shoppers reporting they are less likely to purchase from a dealer who receives negative comments online. However, even negative comments can be an opportunity for dealers to win a consumer over. In the survey, 59 percent of auto shoppers said they feel more positive about dealers who respond to negative comments.

“These findings point to the importance of active monitoring and response in relation to reputation management for dealers. As social media and review sites grow in popularity, consumers increasingly are turning to them before making purchasing decisions,” added Fuller.

Other key findings from the study include:

* Nearly 40 percent of auto shoppers access dealer Websites using a mobile device (i.e., smartphones and tablets)
* 42 percent of consumers are interested in connecting with dealerships via social media for access to incentives like coupons
* 71 percent of used-auto shoppers and 64 percent of new-auto shoppers visiting dealer websites are most interested in viewing videos showcasing a vehicle’s interior and technologies

Trends in consumers’ reliance on social and digital channels to inform their auto shopping experience has led FordDirect to enhance its Social Media and Reputation Management Service to include new offerings for Ford and Lincoln dealers.  FordDirect has traditionally provided free social media services where dealers are offered syndication of three to five engaging weekly posts to the dealership’s Facebook page, news about Ford products, national sales events and industry trends. Nearly 1,200 dealers already participate in the free services.  Next month, Lincoln working with FordDirect will be rolling out its social syndication tool to Lincoln dealers.

In working with the Ford Digital Team, FordDirect’s free offerings have been expanded upon to include a new sales event sweepstakes application.  Through the application, sweepstakes promotions including vehicle giveaways and one-of-a-kind experiential events are integrated onto the dealership’s Facebook page to drive social media engagement with consumers. Additionally, FordDirect and the Ford Digital Team are currently working to launch a reputation reporting tool where dealers can track, measure and assess their online reputation. The reputation tool will be available next month. Additional services are provided through the paid versions of FordDirect’s full-service Social Media and Reputation Management Service.

“Digital technology is a key driver in dealer sales and profitability,” said Fuller. “Social media and reputation management can help dealers attract customers, increase engagement, and ultimately positively influence where consumers elect to go to buy and service their vehicles.”

For more information on FordDirect, reputation management, and social and digital marketing, please visit: www.FordDirect.com/DealerCenter.

More at www.FordDirect.com/DealerCenter .

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