Dealers can look at their Google Analytics and see what percentage of site visitors come from a mobile device. A few years ago, this was less than 20% at many stores. Today, the numbers are often 33- 40% and some even higher. However, even this figure understates the importance of having a first-rate mobile website.
Relative to visitation from desktops, laptops, and even tablets, visits from shoppers on mobile devices tend to come at a time when shoppers are closer to purchase. Additionally, many website visitors never get to the store, but that is less true of those shopping online from a mobile device. A recent study by a consumer research company, Placed, and sponsored by Cars.com showed 59% of those shoppers actually visiting a dealership shopped on their mobile device before going to the store. It may be that fewer than half of your site visitors are coming from mobile devices, but well over half the shoppers coming into your store used a mobile device in the shopping that lead to the visit.
Desktop and laptop use generally ends when the shopper leaves for the store. The same study by Placed shows 63% of mobile enabled shoppers who came to the dealership used their mobile device for car shopping while in the store. This consumer activity is commonly referred to as “Showrooming”, and it greatly impacts shopping behavior. The study notes, “52% percent visited additional dealerships due to information found on their mobile device.” Today, the best mobile device and vehicle merchandising pays off not just in getting shoppers to the store but in getting them all the way through to the sale.
A highly respected research firm, Pew Research, says as of January 2014 fully 55% of American adults own a smartphone. Canadians adults are even more likely to own smartphones. Google reported in July 2013 that 56% of Canadians already owned them. Still, these figures understate the impact on auto sales from franchised dealers. Consumers with higher incomes and/or more education are much more likely to own smart phones and more likely to buy the kinds of new and late-model used vehicles franchised dealers have to sell.
Compounding the issue, most vehicle purchases are made by multiple decision makers or a decision maker along with one or more strong influencers. This enhances the probability one or more of those at the store and involved in the purchase have a smartphone. It would be safe, if not conservative, to assume roughly two-thirds of those buying from franchised dealers are smartphone owners.
Dealers selling high-line vehicles should assume virtually everyone coming in to the store is armed with a smartphone. Ownership among those with incomes over $75,000 per year is 76%. For some brands, smartphone ownership among its customer base is nearly ubiquitous.
When the Automotive Internet Use rate for new vehicles reached 64% in 2003, no one needed to tell dealers they had to have a website. Virtually every franchised dealer had one. However, many dealer websites were weak and neglected. The consumer’s shift to mobile came even faster than adoption of the internet itself. Most dealers have a mobile website, but many provide horrible consumer experiences and some simply don’t work properly. Very few are adaptive or responsive, aligning properly with the desktop version and working across a multitude of devices and browsers. Many mobile sites do not sync up well with Google and Google site extensions. The consumer’s shopping activity dictates the importance of dealer’s mobile websites. At this stage, the seriousness of the issue is understated by research that is not industry specific. This may partially account for the state of our industry: the importance of mobile is far greater than the response from most dealers. This leaves a fantastic competitive advantage for those stepping up to the challenge.