AutoTrader.com released the findings of its new "Multi-Device Car Shopping Study," which provides deep insights into how consumers use a combination of their personal computer, smartphone and/or tablet to shop for vehicles. Currently, only 23 percent of car shoppers are utilizing two or more devices, and the Multi-Device study showed that the PC/laptop is still the primary device used for car shopping. However, the rapid adoption of mobile devices in general will likely lead to a significant increase in multi-device car shopping in the coming years: AutoTrader.com predicts that the number will more than double to over 50 percent by the year 2018.
"With slightly less than a quarter of car shoppers using multiple devices, we are clearly still in the early stages of multi-device car shopping, but the 77 percent who are left will be hopping on the bandwagon soon enough," said Isabelle Helms, senior director of research and marketing analytics at AutoTrader.com. "As dealers and OEMs look to innovate in the mobile space, it's important that they study these early adopters intently, as they are the ones who are going to be defining the road for all those who follow."
The fact that consumers are adding more devices, rather than replacing one with another, is having far reaching implications for how those multi-device users feel about the car shopping process. According to the study, 80 percent think that multi-device usage enhances the vehicle shopping process, 78 percent think multi-device usage increased their knowledge about automobiles, 77 percent think that multi-device usage empowered them when shopping for a vehicle and 57 percent think that multi-device usage shortened the purchase process.
"We have seen in some of our other research that the Internet has created significant efficiencies in the car shopping process, reducing the total amount of time consumers spend shopping by several hours," Helms continued. "The increased efficiencies multi-device users are reporting point to an even faster journey as they move toward the purchase, so dealers and OEMs will need to be diligent about creating impactful and informative experiences on each and every device shoppers may turn to."
One key to these efficiencies is that multi-device users can shop for vehicles on demand—whenever and wherever they want. In fact, three out of four car shopping activities were spontaneous, and 25 percent of multi-device users reported that "found time" was a top motivator for shopping on a device. "Found time" includes those spontaneous moments throughout the day when consumers are bored and have an opportunity to access a device.
Street shopping and television were also motivating factors. "Seeing a car on the street" is the second leading motivator for smartphone users at 26 percent and for PC/laptop users at 22 percent. Television commercials ranked in the top three motivating factors across devices as well, at 18 percent for PC/laptops, 16 percent for smartphones and 23 percent for tablets. Automotive marketers should be particularly cognizant of the connection between offline events/advertising and device usage to ensure that they are reinforcing consistent messages everywhere shoppers encounter the brand.
And while there is a perception that car shoppers often use their smartphones at the dealership, the study showed that only a very small percentage of the total shopping activities conducted by multi-device users—two percent—occur at the dealership in a typical week. That means almost all online car shopping occurs outside the dealership.
Nevertheless, more than half of multi-device users start their research on a smartphone or tablet in a typical week, making it critical that the experience creates a first impression that will encourage consumers to continue engaging with the brand across devices. Of those surveyed, 38 percent said that not offering a mobile optimized site would negatively impact brand opinion, while an even greater percentage—68 percent—said that offering a poor mobile site experience would negatively impact brand opinion.
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