Smartphones Are Used More than Desktops and Laptops

According to our study Mobile Influence on Car Shopping, smartphones are used for nearly half (46%) of online car shopping activities¹. Desktops or laptops are a close second, being used for 41% of all online activities¹. Tablets are a distant third, being used for only 13% of online car shopping activities¹.

This shows a shift in the way consumers interact with the world today, not just in car shopping. Not long ago, desktops and laptops were the primary method of surfing the Internet and shopping online. With the advent of higher quality digital, mobile technology, consumers are allowed to shop online on their own terms.

Dealers that recognize the role mobile plays in consumers’ lives will be the most successful in moving metal. This is why it is important to think from a mobile, digital perspective when creating an advertising strategy. Optimizing vehicle inventory to be seen on smartphones— along with the necessary merchandising—is key to engaging car shoppers and influencing them to choose one vehicle or dealership over another. It should be no surprise, then, that Millennials are the primary users of smartphones in car shopping. This generation has grown up with technology and has quickly adopted a mobile mindset when it comes to interacting with the world and consuming entertainment, information, or shopping online via their smartphones.

We know the role smartphones play as the device of choice in car shopping, but what actions are car shoppers performing? Smartphones are especially the device of choice for viewing maps and directions to the dealership, deciding which dealerships to visit, and reading dealership reviews. This makes sense — using a mobile device while in transit to help navigate to their dealership of choice. This also means that car shoppers have made a choice and researched enough to be satisfied to choose a dealership’s lot to visit.

The high prevalence of use of dealership reviews on smartphones also shows that consumers may be cross-shopping competitor dealerships while on the lot. Auto shoppers want real-time information. We know from our own research that 63 percent of auto shoppers were still researching dealerships after showing up at a dealer’s lot, and more than half of those visited additional dealerships based on what they found via their mobile devices².

We can’t discuss the role mobile plays in the car shopping journey without understanding the role that desktops and laptops play as well. Desktops and laptops are especially the device of choice for viewing vehicle colors/360 vehicle views, completing credit applications for vehicle financing, and using build and price vehicle tools.

Device Usage in Specific Car Shopping Activities

Figure 1.  Car Shoppers Are Judging You, February 2017.

 

Essentially, desktops and laptops are used for those tasks that may seem more laborious to the consumer — providing detailed information via online forms or more video-heavy experiences — that are deemed easier to perform with larger screens and keyboards.

Desktops and laptops have their place, and when used, one could assume that consumers are highly focused and engaged when giving in-depth information in this way.

Screen size can also play a role in collecting various types of information, and it could just be a preference amongst some car shoppers to use desktops and laptops in some cases. We see here that most consumers are searching dealership inventory on their desktops and laptops. Car shoppers may be in their early stage of shopping, wanting to choose vehicles, review specs, and incentives to later compare vehicles and move to their mobile device.

In any scenario, smartphones are a key touch point for car shoppers with any dealer’s brand.  It’s these mobile touch points that influence the car shopper and drive them to action – sometimes literally driving them to the dealership’s lot.  Keep this in mind the next time you do a review of any advertising strategy or a reallocation of advertising funds.  Placing emphasis on a mobile presence can pay off significantly.

 

[1] Mobile Influence on Car Shopping, Cars.com White Paper. February 2017.

[2] Behavioral Analytics on Mobile, Cars.com, Q3 2016

Cars.com Recognized with “Best Car Buying or Selling App Experience or Mobile Web” Award

Cars.com is proud to be the recipient of AUTO Connected CAR News’ award for Best Car Buying or Selling App Experience or Mobile Web.  AUTO Connected CAR News’ annual Tech CARS Awards winners are determined by consumer votes. This recognition reflects our commitment to delivering superior experiences to consumers while delivering quality metrics and results to our advertiser customers in a mobile-first world.

Mobile-First Mindset

Cars.com is the first and only third-party website in the automotive space to go mobile responsive. The massive endeavor, which allows for a seamless site experience across devices, has paid off. In addition to receiving “Best Car Buying or Selling App Experience or Mobile Web” award from AUTO Connected CAR news, Cars.com ranked highest in overall satisfaction among third-parties in J.D. Power’s 2016 Automotive Mobile Site Study℠* (October, 2016). And, according to App Annie data, our app is a consumer favorite in the US with 10% more iOS and Google Play downloads in 2016 than its closest car sales app competitor.

Mobile-First Metrics

As consumer behavior drives change in the industry, Cars.com has also revolutionized measurement tools for car dealers and manufacturers. According to our “Mobile Car Shopper Survey,” more than half of consumers use their smartphones on dealership lots to get more information¹. With the launch of our Lot Insights report, we put a stake in the ground demonstrating the importance of mobile attribution for dealers. The first-of-its-kind report, which uses geo-fencing technology, allowing dealers to track and analyze mobile car shopper behavior on or around the lot.

“We’re on a mission to evolve how we measure value in the automotive industry,” said Brooke Skinner Ricketts, CMO, Cars.com. “Our Lot Insights analytics and reporting is a great first step, but we’re not stopping there. Mobile accolades like this create momentum behind our efforts as they prove the changes taking place in our space. We will continue to lead with a user experience that aligns with modern car buying behaviors and provides our advertiser customers better understanding, reach and influence.”

With mobile momentum continuing to build, we’re just getting started. To deliver quality, in-market shoppers to our advertisers, Cars.com will continue to innovate to provide the best consumer experience across devices while delivering results for our advertisers…for every turn.

Click through to read more about the winners here. 

¹ Mobile Shopper Study, VerstaReserach, December 2016

Mobile Consumers Turn to Cars.com During Super Bowl

Last night’s Super Bowl where the New England Patriots triumphed over the Atlanta Falcons was historic. Not only because of the game itself, but because of the advertisements.

The Super Bowl has been the holy grail of advertising since Apple launched the MacIntosh in 1984. Today, just as many people tune in to see the ads as they do to watch the game. It’s a “tent pole” moment for any brand — including auto manufacturers – as advertisers spent upwards of five million dollars for a 30-second commercial during this year’s game. But, what’s more important is how a brand’s big Super Bowl moment translates into next moments of engagement online.

During the big game, we monitored traffic and search lift in real-time and compared the results to averages of the four prior Sundays.  The results are in and they show the influence the Big Game has on consumers as well as the significant role that Cars.com plays as a leading destination in the mobile consumer auto shopping journey:

During the game, nearly 60 percent of visits to Cars.com came from mobile devices on game day.

  • The nine auto brands with commercials during the game averaged a seven percent lift to their brand pages on Cars.com and a 238 percent lift to pages of specific models that were advertised during the game.
  • In the eight minutes following their commercial, visits to Alfa Romeo pages on Cars.com saw a staggering 1,179 percent increase in comparison to the same time period prior to the airing of their spot — a sign that their Big Game investment was highly impactful.

Brand model pages also experienced significant search lift, particularly from mobile devices which increased by 1,074 percent for the brand models that were advertised during the big game. When compared to Cars.com traffic over the four prior Sundays, automotive brands who advertised during the Super Bowl saw the following lifts to their advertised model pages:

  •  Alfa Romeo Giulia – 7,320%
  • Audi S5 – 1,391%
  • Buick Cascada – 424%
  • Buick Encore – 59%
  • Honda CR-V – 35%
  • Kia Niro – 497%
  • Lexus LC 500 – 861%
  • Lexus LS 460 – 888%
  • Mercedes-Benz AMG GT – 910%

It’s a significant investment on the part of auto manufacturers to advertise during the Super Bowl, and the resulting boost in traffic by make and model validates their choice to do just that. In 2017, we will continue to build a platform to create these influential audience connections — and in turn drives sales for our dealers — for every turn.

Interested in seeing the full press release?  Click here.

Mobile Influence on Car Shopping: A White Paper

Car shoppers are interacting with dealerships on mobile. It doesn’t matter if it’s via an app or a mobile browser on their smartphones or even a tablet, consumers are finding dealers where and when they want to find them. This is significant for many reasons. As a dealer, it means there is a need to have a constant online presence that properly merchandises inventory, a need to have numerous methods of contact, and have their brand properly optimized for mobile. That’s a difficult task when the sheer volume of vehicles is considered along with the numerous touch points the Internet provides and the day-to-day operations of the dealership. But, many dealers do well with these efforts and those that do understand mobile are the most successful today.

Now more than ever, Dealers can take advantage of the shopping journey becoming more and more mobile. The influence of mobile on car shopping is manageable for dealers. As the prevalence of smartphones and technology grows, the ways by which consumers can communicate and engage with online dealers can only grow, too. This leaves huge opportunity for dealers to optimize their mobile presence and strategy to grow with car shoppers in terms of engaging with dealers’ brands and communicating back and forth.

With this white paper, we provide insight into the role that mobile plays in today’s car shopper journey. We also want to provide key takeaways for dealers to help them optimize their mobile presence to take advantage of how car shoppers utilize mobile in today’s digital world.

Click for our Mobile Influence on Car Shopping white paper for the full version and start taking advantage of mobile today!

5 Questions Dealers Should Ask in 2017

A new year means new opportunity to grow your business.  That means you can’t keep operating under the same mindset when it comes to setting goals, planning advertising, and evaluating metrics if you want to be successful in growing your dealership and continuing to move metal and servicing vehicles. It’s vital to your business to be open to change, to be ready to react to consumers, and to execute advertising to reach customers throughout their car buying and car servicing life cycles.  With that in mind, I’ve come up with 5 questions to ask yourself regarding your advertising strategy to grow your business in 2017.

Am I focusing on the right metrics to judge success?

We’ve already discussed the role that traditional metrics like email and phone call leads play in measuring the success of your advertising strategy on our blog, you can read that here.  But in today’s mobile-first world, traditional metrics don’t carry the same weight as they used to when evaluating your advertising strategy.  Indeed, they are helpful, but when you advertise online versus traditional media like TV and radio, the same metrics to measure success do not translate like they used to.  Sure, you can measure how many eyeballs saw your TV commercial, but when consumers choose to engage with you online, that is more powerful as it shows their interest in you.

Your task, look at your 2016 performance to determine where you were most successful and where you think you can improve.  How were consumers choosing to interacting with your brand online?  With Cars.com for instance, were more customers engaging with you while on the lot versus sending emails and did this result in more sales?  If so, what are you going to do about it?  How does that compare to the success of your TV campaigns or radio buys?  Ask yourself, do your engagement metrics online translate to the success of your other traditional media buys?  Your advertising plans need to cross all platforms to be sure, and when you sit down to measure the success of your plan, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when looking at metrics.

Am I placing my ad dollars in the right media so I can quickly react to my customers?

You probably have a process in place already to review your ad spend weekly, monthly, or quarterly.  That’s great.  But, have you thought about that how, now, your dealership and virtual lot are always online and available to customers to find.  When you sit down to review data and metrics, are your customers sending you signals via this data?  For instance, are customers always calling asking for more photos on your listings or are your engagement metrics showing movement on specific makes and models over others when on the lot?  If so, how are you highlighting this inventory?

Your task, when reviewing your ad plan, ad spend, and performance, can you make the necessary changes quickly based on the signals your customers are sending you to optimize your ad spend?  If customers are asking for more photos, can you quickly send them those photos or send them a video of the car in question encouraging them to visit your lot?  There’s no limit to what you can do and how you react to show your customers you’re listening – just do it quickly.

Does my advertising strategy speak to customers throughout their car shopping journey?

Every consumer that comes across your dealership and brand is in a different stage of the car shopping process.  Have you optimized your online presence to speak to customers in every stage of that journey?  We’ve discussed this in similar terms for consumers who walk on the lot, and the same is true for those customers who are online researching.  By creating content on vehicles and making it available via your own website, the likes of Cars.com, or on social media, you’re influencing consumers to engage with you more throughout their journey because you’re helpful throughout their process.  This is true for the consumer who’s just starting their research into makes and models all the way to the consumer showing up on the lot comparing specs on vehicles who’s ready to purchase.

Your task, create a holistic plan that provides information for every stage in the car shopper’s journey.  If you create content or ads that speak to these different stages and make it available at the right moment at the right time, you can influence customers from a short term mindset to a long term customer.  Show consumers the breadth of what you offer them throughout the car ownership lifecycle.

Am I allowing customers the opportunity to engage with me when and how they want?

If you haven’t faced it yet, consumers want to engage with you on their terms.  Given the integration of media across platforms thanks to the Internet, your online presence needs to be seamless to properly speak to your customers.  Your photo and video capability – vehicle photos and information to your commercials – need to be consistently available and up to date regardless of the platform or screen size a consumer chooses to use to engage with you.

Your task, when creating video or photo content, be sure to allow for everything you create to be consumed across platforms and devices.  So, make your TV commercials available on your website in a mobile friendly form.  Create a process to respond to email leads with more engaging photo or video content to influence consumers when you reply.  There’s no end to what you can do or the access consumers have to engage with you, or your competitors if you haven’t thought through all the ways consumers can engage.

Am I optimizing my dealership for the mobile world?

We’ve already said that you need to be mobile to engage with consumers and allow them to choose when and how to engage with you.  But, if your dealership’s content isn’t optimized for mobile screens – phones and tablets – you’re missing out on key opportunities to influence consumers to choose your dealership.  There’s more to this than just optimizing your advertising content.  When you think about how you engage with online advertising content, you don’t always appreciate the popups or lengths of ads you have to sit through when your ultimate destination is to shop or research a product.  Be sure to know your audience and give them customized options – maybe the option of choosing an ad to watch or asking them to follow your social media after completing an ad – giving consumers options can encourage them to explore your dealership and vehicles more fully.

Your task, review your current advertising content and ensure that it is optimized for the mobile world not just in viewability, but in allowing consumers to choose how they consume your content.  Be sure to train your sales teams on mobile and its usefulness for a unified voice in dealing with customers via mobile.

Understanding that a one-size-fits all approach to your advertising spend doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to allocating dollars to traditional media, social media, and third party partners like Cars.com is vital to being successful in 2017.  Now is the perfect time to align and integrate your internal processes at the dealership to maximize your mobile presence, recognize that consumers expect to engage with your dealership and brand on their terms, and to create content that is informative and engaging that can be viewed across platforms.  You have plenty of partners in the automotive space that help you speak to consumers and help you influence them to purchase regardless of where they are in the car shopping journey.

Predictive Behavior on Mobile: The Importance to Your Dealership

Consumers are interacting with dealerships on mobile.  It doesn’t matter if it’s via an app or a mobile browser, consumers are finding dealers where and when they want to find them.  That’s important for many reasons.  As a dealer, it means that there has to be a constant online presence where inventory is properly merchandised, dealer information and contact information are readily available and consistent across platforms, and proper dealer branding is maintained.  That’s a difficult task with employee turnover and inventory turn (the good part).  But, many dealers do well with these efforts and those that do understand mobile are the most successful today.

This is evidenced in how dealers are currently spending their ad dollars in 2016.  The below data comes from the 2016 Auto Outlook: Thinning of the Media Pack study by Borrell Associates¹.  It’s no surprise that digital is taking the majority of ad dollars away from traditional media sources.  It makes sense – consumers are on mobile, place dollars in digital.

newusedmedia

So, let’s take a look at what we know about using mobile before showing up to the lot, and why it’s so important. Consumers will show up on the lot when they want and with varying degrees of information at their fingertips.  Dealers didn’t necessarily know how consumers heard about their dealership or what level of research they performed before showing up unless they physically asked them.  But now, dealers have access to this information without needing to ask.

A while back, we launched our Lot Insights report that shows the number of visitors on and around dealer lots who accessed Cars.com from their mobile devices.  This was revolutionary at the time by showing the value of being online and what is happening on a dealer’s lot.  This also led to understanding consumer behavior on the lot and what behaviors mobile consumers exhibited prior to showing up – valuable information.  That’s what we are getting into here.

Auto shoppers want real-time information.  We know from our own research that 63 percent of auto shoppers were still researching dealerships after showing up onto a dealer’s lot, and more than half of those visited additional dealerships based on what they found via their mobile devices².  These are significant nuggets of information.

One can infer from this that based on auto shoppers’ online research, they found something about a dealership that brought them to the lot, but they want to make sure they are getting the best dealer for them and will continue to shop options while on the lot.  The way they compare options and the behaviors they exhibit are what differs across their preferred method of engaging with mobile.

Users of Cars.com’s responsive site differ from users of the iPhone App and those differ from the Android app.  That is to say, users of these mobile methods definitely engage with dealerships via mobile, but what our research has found is that they interact with different parts of dealers’ information differently².

bydevice

For instance, the top two pages accessed by mobile auto shoppers are the Used SRP and VDP.  After this, we see New SRP being access by iPhone app users, and VDP photos for used inventory being accessed by Mobile Browser and Android app users.  The activities performed the most frequently on Cars.com mobile platforms include the homepage, used inventory, new inventory, and our calculator as a whole².

When consumers show up on the lot, however, it’s not immediately clear how they engaged with a dealership beforehand, so we’ve broken down the most predictive behaviors of mobile auto shoppers.  We know that most shoppers are looking up inventory and dealership information.  Mobile browser users engage with the calculator for quick payment calculations on the lot.  And, app users interact with favorites, comparing cars they previously saw online to vehicles they are seeing in real-time, a big bonus of mobile².

Furthermore, based on our research, we found that a significant portion of those mobile consumers that send an email lead or a phone lead showed up to the dealer’s lot within 30 days (indeed for all lead and contact types).  That’s significant.  But, these types of leads aren’t the only way consumers interact with dealerships.  A large swath of mobile auto shoppers were texting a dealer, reviewing dealer information, reviewing a CarFax, looking at special offers, saving vehicles to favorites, and looking at dealer reviews².  All of these are in the top 10 predictive activities that consumers perform on Cars.com before showing up to a dealer’s lot.  The biggest takeaways we found, though, were that auto shoppers are accessing driving directions, the dealer map, and reviewing CPO inventory predominantly before showing up on the lot.  These best distinguished auto shoppers who are intending to visit a dealership from causal browsers on Cars.com.

behaviorsbyplatform

Knowing that behaviors by platform differ for consumers is helpful when you consider how to influence them to make a purchase.  Looking at what lead and contact types were performed the most – like driving directions or a dealer map – outside of the classic email and phone leads is another great indicator of consumers showing up on the lot and engaging with dealers online.  It’s also another way to gauge success and reaching an audience by reviewing how consumers choose to engage with a dealership.  Getting them on the lot is the first part.  The rest is up to the dealer.

[1] 2016 Auto Outlook, The Thinning of the Media Pack, Borrell Associates 2016
[2] Behavioral Analytics on Mobile, Cars.com, Q3 2016

Importance of Mobile: Infographic

Check out our latest infographic on the importance of mobile – what consumers do on a dealer’s lot and some of the predictive indicators that they will show up on the lot.  Click to view in full.

mobileinfographic

mobileinfographic1

mobileinfographic2

3 Essential tips for communicating with mobile car shoppers

Mobile shoppers have high expectations and fleeting attention spans. Consumers may receive hundreds of emails per week – and many read most of them on a smartphone – quickly and effectively communicating your dealership’s message is essential to avoiding getting lost in the shuffle. The speed and quality of your dealership’s mobile response can make or break a deal, so always keep these three tips in mind:

mobile ebook holding phoneSpeed Wins

Mobile shoppers are often en route to or already at a dealership actively shopping on their mobile device when they contact the store. A quick, truly helpful response, regardless of communication channel, has the potential to turn a passing window shopper into an in-store customer.

Sharpen Phone Skills

Click-to-call functionality encourages shoppers to call rather than email when they’re using a smart device to shop. And because mobile shoppers may contact the dealership for a wide variety of reasons – anything from verifying directions while on the way to checking vehicle availability – make sure the entire frontline team is trained and available to answer inbound calls.

Tighten Up Email

Whether a shopper sends an email from a desktop or a smartphone, it is safe to assume your response will be read on a mobile device. Account for this by designing all emails to be easy to read across devices, and don’t be afraid to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Simply asking staff, friends and family for feedback on how emails show up on their respective devices can help you understand what your customers are seeing, inform email formatting decisions and increase conversion.

For more mobile marketing tips, download our ebook, Navigating Mobile Marketing

Let’s Chat: How to Stay Flexible When Communicating with Mobile Shoppers

dealership sales process, communication preferences, lead handling processAll things being equal, most dealerships prefer to have potential customers contact them on the phone or submit an email lead before visiting the showroom – and it’s obvious why. Connecting directly with shoppers lets dealerships control the sales process and provides an extended opportunity to market to customers, even beyond the point of purchase.

But it usually doesn’t work that way.

Half of consumers don’t believe there’s value in contacting a dealership prior to visiting, with most citing it as an unnecessary step in the car buying process. Others prefer more private means of communication like chat and text messaging. What’s more, increased smartphone ownership across all demographics has only extended this gap, forcing dealerships to adapt.

Reconciling defined sales processes with new consumer trends can be difficult, but rather than push customers to communicate in ways that might be uncomfortable to them, it’s important to work with your team to meet shoppers on their own terms.

Be Present To Win

When it comes to emerging communication channels, the biggest opportunity – one that’s often missed – comes from simply being present. If your dealership isn’t available to customers through chat, text and other mobile-centric platforms, it’s missing out on a growing audience of car shoppers. To get started, take inventory of the communication channels you have at your disposal, including the text and chat features available on Cars.com, and assign members of your team to start managing the ones that are most relevant. Work to be “online” every single day.

Account For Alternatives

If a shopper prefers to have an email or text conversation instead of calling your dealership, by all means let them. Being overly aggressive or insisting to switch mediums (i.e., “You’ll have to call us”) can drive would-be buyers away and promptly end conversations. As an alternative, build new steps into existing sales processes to account for all types of communication. That way, you can audible on the fly while continuing to build rapport with shoppers.

Track Conversations Across Channels

It’s common for shoppers to bounce between research tools, dealership contacts and communication channels in the weeks leading up to purchase. For example, an individual may begin a chat conversation on Cars.com, reach out the next day over text, and then finally call the dealership a week later before visiting. By monitoring conversations across channels through a CRM tool or other system, your dealership can track interactions, cut out redundancies and provide a more personalized buying experience.

Though not every process can change, keeping consumers at the forefront of decisions and respecting communication at every step along the way will ultimately lead to happier customers and long-term success for your dealership. For more mobile communication tips, check out our recent blog post, 6 Smartphone-Friendly Best Practices To Increase Your Dealership’s Show Rate.

How to Work Against the Clock to Drive Showroom Traffic

2-phone-watch-path-copy

Whether it’s a countdown of days until the end of the month or minutes needed to reply to an inbound email, in automotive, the clock is always ticking. When communicating with customers, timeliness matters, and failing to set up processes that ensure prompt, informative follow up to customer inquiries can put your dealership in jeopardy.

Real-time Expectations

Consumers are quick to the draw. According to the Mobile Marketing Association, 95 percent of text messages are read within 15 minutes of being received, meaning replies to chats, texts and emails your dealership receives should generally come within a matter of minutes, not hours or days. By responding promptly, you show consumers your dealership is listening and available, which can go a long way to establish relationships.

A related study reported by Harvard Business Review shows a similar trend. The research, which was conducted prior the major boom in smartphone adoption, highlights a steep drop in conversion when businesses fail to respond to customer inquiries within the first hour they’re submitted. It implies that the likelihood of having a meaningful sales conversation is tied to how fast a representative can reach out to answer questions and share information.

While the bar is set high, don’t be discouraged if your dealership falls short. Instead, work to make small improvements to response time, tracking your success on a weekly or monthly basis.

Benchmarking Success

However, before benchmarking your store’s lead handling and communication processes, look to understand the composition and structure of your team. Do you have a fully staffed BDC or does every salesperson field customer inquiries directly? Are team members provided smartphones to engage during off hours? Is there a dedicated staff member to handle weekend emails and chat messages? Is there a CRM system in place to track and manage conversations across communication channels?

By answering questions like those, you can set goals that are aligned with your dealership’s true capabilities. If you see an opportunity to provide additional resources or restructure workflows, take it.

Quality First

Finally, remember that speed matters, but a quick response is only as good as the quality of the message. Rather than choosing one or the other – speed or thoroughness – work to balance both; an immediate yet irrelevant reply will only damage your chances of building relationships with prospects. Conversely, by showing potential customers you’re there for them and willing to provide a timely, personalized experience, you’ll set yourself apart from competitors and boost showroom traffic for the long haul.

To learn more mobile communication best practices, check out our recent article, 6 Smartphone-Friendly Best Practices to Increase Your Dealership’s Show Rate.