Mobile-first Trends in Car Buying

Car buyers are using mobile devices at every point in their search for a new vehicle. In fact, up to 60 percent of first touches for a dealership could come from a smartphone or tablet, according to Christian Fuller, Chief Relationship Officer at Search Optics.

And these mobile shoppers keep using their devices during visits to a dealership and throughout the negotiation process. They’re checking inventory, features, and pricing—not only yours, but also your competition’s.

Today’s car shoppers are more connected and more informed than ever before, and mobile devices are their key entry point. The demographic driving the mobile-first trend? Millennials.

Born after 1980, millennials are a fast-growing market segment not to be overlooked: According to JD Power & Associates, millennials surpassed Gen X-ers in car purchases two years ago. In 2014, they accounted for 27 percent of new car sales in the US, up from 18 percent in 2010. And in 2015, this market segment was expected to purchase approximately 4.24 million cars and light trucks, producing nearly $135 billion in total revenue.
Millennials are more likely to start their new car search on a smartphone, and research shows that one in five millennials exclusively relies on smartphones and tablets to access the internet.

It’s important to note that mobile usage among all Internet-connected Americans has surpassed desktops to become the key entry point to the web and online shopping. The mobile-first trend is shaping not only the way that consumers shop, but it’s also changing the way that brands and business think about, interact with, and do business with their customers.

Google accelerated the mobile-first trend in April 2015 when it began using mobile-optimization as a ranking signal. Now, mobile-optimized sites rank higher in results, show up in more searches, and are seen by more customers.

Mobile devices are backed by a tremendous amount of buying power. Now more than ever, dealers need to take a mobile-first approach when it comes to website design and digital marketing.

So what do mobile shoppers expect when they visit your dealership’s website?

Simplicity- Mobile shoppers rank ease of use as the most important quality in a website. They want access to information with one click. Research shows that with each succeeding click, there is a significant drop-off. Streamline the experience and reduce the number of clicks needed in your customer’s shopping journey.

Accessibility- Mobile users want information fast, and they don’t want to have to scroll excessively to get it. A mobile-friendly site puts the most commonly searched info near the top, such as sales and service specials or offers tied to OEM campaigns. Mobile-friendly text can be read on a small screen without zooming. And links are spaced far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily clicked on.

Relevancy- The number one reason consumers visit your website is to check inventory. So make sure your site provides accurate, up-to-date information about new, CPO, and used vehicles, and that it’s easy for visitors to find.

Transparency- Buyers want to feel in control when it comes to the purchase process. With their smartphone in hand, they can shop the competition within a matter of seconds right there on your showroom floor. When it comes to pricing, vehicle specs, maintenance, and service—basically every area of your dealership—transparency builds trust and credibility with your customers. Without it, they’ll shop elsewhere.

Authenticity- Leary of traditional marketing tactics, consumers today—particularly millennials—seek out social media reviews and blog posts because they place greater trust in what their peers are saying about a brand than in what the brand is saying about itself. A majority of decisions made through interactions on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are related to car reviews and dealer reputation. This makes social media monitoring and online reputation management crucial to your dealership’s success.

Consistency- The mobile-first trend has led to a shift from adaptive to responsive website design. A responsive website works on all devices so that, no matter how they get there, visitors to your site will have the same experience. It’s worth noting that OEMs have already made this shift. Dealers need to ensure their sites are in alignment with what consumers are seeing on the manufacturer’s site.

Search Optics provides mobile-first solutions that help businesses keep up with shifting consumer behavior. Search Optics’ Blueprint Platform™ enables businesses to take a mobile-first approach to website design.

By delivering a fully immersive mobile experience that provides users with relevant content at every stage of their shopping journey, businesses can dramatically improve customer engagement and generate better leads.

Want to check up on the mobile-friendliness of your website? Try Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.


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