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Going Mobile. Just How Important is Mobile Technology Today?

By Roger Dunbar, VP Marketing, TRADER Corporation

Toronto, ON – March 4, 2014 – There’s no question that adoption rates for mobile technology are increasing rapidly. Based on our own findings, mobile currently accounts for more than 50 per cent of total visits and 25 per cent of total leads from the autoTRADER.ca website.

Despite this success, it’s been our observation that many dealers remain skeptical of mobile and its importance in their marketing efforts. So recently — in partnership with Hotspex (a research-based brand consultancy firm) — we completed a mobile focused research effort to explore mobile and web usage, attitudes and expectations across the buying process for car shoppers including mobile only, web only, and mobile + web users.

Fieldwork for the 18 minute survey was completed between July 26th, 2013 and August 18th, 2013. The study was conducted online in Canada (regionally representative) among N=1,337 car buyers, (both new and used), in English and French, and quotas were set up based on platform used mainly during their most recent vehicle purchase process.

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

To provide some context, over half (56 per cent) of customers consulted an auto marketplace website during their most recent vehicle buying experience (including both new and used shoppers), outnumbering the next nearest sources, including print classifieds and mobile classifieds, by a margin of at least 2:1.

While mobile usage is growing rapidly, desktop computers are still by far the more prominent device used across all phases of the buying process averaging 46 per cent of all Internet usage. Desktop use tends to skew towards the beginning of the purchase cycle up until the negotiating phase.

By comparison, mobile (smartphone and tablet) usage, is, on average, just 15 per cent across all phases however, tablet usage is highest for the vehicle research phases (narrowing down list and deep research) likely due to its screen size (tablets are often used like computers).

Overall, mobile usage — as it relates to the buying process — is driven more by efficiency than content. In other words, the great advantage of a mobile device is that it’s always with the user, even when watching TV or eating a meal. The great disadvantage is the size of the screen and the challenge in searching for more complex content.

Mobile users primarily employ their device to check prices, though “Mainly Mobile” users do use their devices just as they would a desktop with general web searches, reading reviews and vehicle specs, highlighting the importance of understanding that there is no single segment of consumer when it comes to shopping across media platforms.

Checking prices is also a primary task for “Mainly Desktop” users, though they also tend to do more web searching than “Mainly Mobile” users. Compared to “Mainly Mobile” users, “Dual Platform” users tend to use their desktops for more time-consuming tasks like reading reviews, which given the screen size makes perfect sense.

As dealers are most probably aware, no matter which segment or device is being used throughout the buying process, price is “king”. Specifically, checking prices is among the top activities at each phase for each segment and while mobile is more likely to be used at home than on the go, when it is used at the dealer, it is used mainly to negotiate a price.

Another interesting fact revealed that customers who used autoTRADER.ca (either web or mobile) to select their vehicle are most likely to visit dealers without prior notice (i.e. no phone call or email), with approximately 67 per cent simply showing up at the dealership.

So, with the ever increasing complexity of marketing cars today, it would be easier to just set aside a challenge like “mobile” for another day, particularly as the majority of consumers still use their computer to research their car purchase.

But we all know that mobile usage is growing… fast, and mobile devices are becoming smarter every day. Perhaps more importantly, entire segments of consumers are devoted to their mobile devices, and mobile is increasingly important at certain buying stages including the all-important price checking.

So while it would be easier to try and ignore mobile, embracing this important platform seems like the wisest choice.

Originally published in Trilium Automobile Dealers Association’s Hotline – Volume 3, Issue 1, January 2014.

About the Author

Milan Brankovic

Senior Manager, Channel Marketing

TRADER Corporation