Cars.com says dealerships are full of great salespeople who add value to the in-store experience.
The third-party shopping site's planned purchase of review site DealerRater will help dealerships spread the word about strong employees to a wider spectrum of potential customers, says Cars.com CEO Alex Vetter.
"I think this is a critical time because there are several new online-only players that are entering into the space, and they're trying to cut dealers out of the equation. Cars.com has always known that a great dealer experience can be found if you do your homework online," Vetter told Automotive News. "We're helping dealers get the word out that their buying experience is as good, if not far superior, than some of these digital-only retailers."
Cars.com's acquisition of DealerRater will create a database of more than 4 million consumer-submitted reviews of dealerships, salespeople and service centers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Those reviews and future ones will be dispersed across Cars.com -- potentially including its related sites, Auto.com and PickupTrucks.com -- and DealerRater as well as other sites that DealerRater already is integrated with, including Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader.
DealerRater, formed in 2002, has compiled more than 2.5 million reviews across 41,000 U.S. and Canadian dealerships. Over 14 million consumers access DealerRater content across the web each month.
Cars.com has its own, though smaller, database of dealership reviews. Cars.com hosts millions of new- and used-vehicle listings along with price tools and editorial content.
DealerRater CEO Gary Tucker told Automotive News that he will remain with the company after the acquisition. DealerRater will retain its name.
According to a study from marketing company Digital Air Strike, 79 percent of car buyers and 68 percent of service customers say review sites are among the most helpful tools when choosing a dealership.
Online consumer reviews are word-of-mouth marketing -- one of the oldest forms of marketing and probably the most cost-efficient, Vetter said.
"Online reviews are becoming more critical than ever in all shopping categories, but even more so in the auto category," Vetter said. Consumers "trust reviews as much as they do their family and friends."