How are smartphones affecting the automotive buying cycle?

21 Feb 2017 in

Recently we looked at how the automotive buying cycle is changing and, according to Google's Drive to Decide report, online research is bigger than ever before. Thanks to developments in mobile and online technologies, auto-shoppers focus more and more on their own research, which is increasingly carried out on mobile devices.

Purchasing a car has always been a lengthy process, but now there are hundreds more touch points throughout the customer journey that seem to start online with a quick mobile search.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the effect that smartphones have had on the auto-buying process and how automotive dealers must adapt to this modern technology trend.

How did we previously buy cars?

Not too long ago and before Apple and Android came on the scene, buying a car took time, dedication and a considerable amount of effort. Hours would be spent pouring over desktop screens, looking at all the specs available and wondering if you were getting the best deal. You’d then take a trip to a dealership (or two) and ask the salesperson for advice, take a couple of cars for a spin and even then you may not have made a decision.

Mobile technology has changed this process.

The rise of the smartphone

Google’s Drive to Decide report states that smartphone usage has grown 25% since 2012. It’s predicted that by 2020, the number of mobile phone users will pass the five million mark.

On average, people spend 2.8 hours a day on their mobiles, which is considerably more than on their desktops. Smartphones are handy, quick and accessible – making them perfect for spontaneous searches.

More and more consumers use their smartphones to conduct research on, and sometimes purchase, high-ticket items such as properties and cars. Millennials are at the forefront of those adopting these buying trends.

Smartphones and the automotive industry

Smartphones are primarily used as a research tool within the automotive industry; 65% of auto-buyers conduct research on their phone .

Mobiles have given consumers easy access to information about most vehicles through online searches, websites and even comparison apps. They speed up the research process and allow people to research their new car from anywhere at any time. According to Google's Drive to Decide report:

  • 27% of new car buyers look for information in-between tasks
  • 32% of new car buyers researched for their new car while commuting or waiting
  • 24% of new car buyers researched something they had heard from others

Mobiles accompany their owners wherever they go and help them throughout the buying process. Even at the point of purchase in an automotive dealership; a whopping 56% of auto-buyers say they conducted smartphone research whilst at a car showroom.

In an age where information is constantly at the consumer’s fingertips, they are far better informed about the vehicles they are purchasing (and what the competition is offering), so dealers must be too.

A mobile monopoly?

As technology improves, more and more consumers will turn to mobile searches for researching automotive. However, they are not the only device available.

On average, auto-buyers have access to 2.9 devices – including desktops, tablets, smart TVs and even wearable tech that can be used for research. It has been found that different devices are more popular at different times of day:


Mobiles are still the most popular, but this proves that many consumers may be switching devices throughout the day and continuing their research elsewhere.

The actual purchase of a vehicle generally takes place at a dealership – after a test drive or two. 96% of purchases happen in store rather than through alternative methods. Mobile tech doesn’t have a monopoly on the automotive market at the moment and won’t for a long time as it’s clear that people still want the reassurance of visiting a dealership in person.

What does this mean for the automotive industry?

The surge of mobile activity means that automotive companies must rethink their marketing strategies.

All websites must be optimised for mobile devices and offer a great user experience if dealers are going to entice consumers to purchase their vehicles.

They must also consider the number of devices and entry-points to the brand that are available through online search. Whether through PPC campaigns, online ads, searches or links through other pages, many leads will come through your online efforts. But how do you track them if they switch devices, phone the sales team, or even visit the dealership?

Infinity offers comprehensive tracking of both your on and offline leads and can even identify which leads are from a mobile or desktop. It tracks right down to the PPC keyword level and offers unique insight into the efficiency of your campaigns.

To find out more, get in touch with our team today.

Carol Carini

Carol Carini

Head of Marketing
Head of Marketing. Mama. Tea drinker. Skier. Photography, Marketing & Tech Stuff. Football fan by proxy!

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