April 11, 2013, 5:31 PM

Kia Motors UK drives up customer traffic with customer reviews

With a hosted service from Reevoo, Kia turns reviews into a surge of test drives.

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There’s nothing like reading online customer reviews to drive people into a car dealership, Kia Motors UK has found.

As parent Kia Motors Corp. worked to improve its vehicles over the past few years, it grew concerned that the consumer perception of its brand wasn’t improving as well, the company says. One indication of that was a lack of people coming into dealerships for a test drive.

But since deploying an Internet-hosted customer reviews system early last year in the United Kingdom to let its customers tell its story, Kia has found that, among people who come to its U.K. site and read reviews, it sees more than a three-fold increase in the number of people making an online request to take a Kia for a spin, compared with site visitors who don’t  read reviews, says John Bache, head of customer communications for Kia Motors UK.

“If you’re coming to the Kia web site to read reviews, you’re more likely to be looking to purchase,” Bache says. “People who are reading reviews are much more enthused about the product.”

In February 2012, Kia Motors UK deployed an Internet-hosted customer-reviews management system from London-based Reevoo, which also manages the system for the automaker. When a Kia Motors UK dealer sells a car, it routinely gathers the customer’s e-mail address and forwards it and the customer’s name and vehicle description to Reevoo. Reevoo then e-mails the customer within six weeks to ask her to write a vehicle review that Kia Motors UK can post on its web site. Customers are not offered any kind of incentive to write reviews, Bache says.

Reevoo usually gets 30% of car buyers to respond with a review, according to Reevoo founder Richard Anson. But the response rate for Kia Motors UK has been 41%, Bache says. As a result, Kia Motors UK now has more than 4,500 customer reviews on its site, Kia.co.uk, as well as on its mobile site, he adds.

In addition to a 244% increase in the number of people making online requests for test drives since deploying the Reevoo system in February 2012, Kia Motors UK has also found that site visitors who read reviews are at least four times more likely than visitors who don’t read reviews to click for a vehicle brochure or to locate a Kia dealer, Bache says. That has resulted in a 377% increase in the number of online requests for a vehicle brochure, and a 349% increase in the number of visitors on Kia.co.uk searching for a Kia dealer, Bache says.

Kia uses the Reevoo system to post replies to some customers’ reviews. In one recent reply to a customer who had complained that the owner’s manual for his 2012 Kia Sportswagon didn’t adequately explain the car’s features, Kia posted a reply with links to videos explaining car features on its web site and noted that it was working on an improved manual.

The Reevoo system also provides an online forum on Kia’s web site where visitors can ask Kia owners questions about Kia vehicles. When Reevoo e-mails owners requesting them to submit a review, it also asks them if they will agree to occasionally monitor and answer questions posted by visitors to the Kia site. 64% of the customers contacted by Reevoo who agree to submit reviews also agree to participate in the customer forum, Kia says.

Although Bache says Kia can’t say exactly how much new sales and traffic the new reviews strategy is driving, he says Kia believes reviews have contributed to the company’s unusually large increases in sales and web traffic in the first quarter of this year. “We are confident that the reviews and their accessibility on the web site, both mobile and desktop, play an important role in this,” he says.

The boost in traffic and sales is also coming, he adds, from a new series of TV commercials Kia Motors UK is running to publicize its online customer reviews. “They’re worth more than anything we could say ourselves,” the TV ad says.

Deploying the Reevoo customer reviews systems starts at about $1,000 per month, according to Anson.

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