Can Mobile Change The Face Of Car Shopping?

Ford-CarLike every other retail category, mobile is poised to permanently change the way even high-ticket items like cars get bought and sold. In talking with some of the providers of auto info in the space, I have been told that an astonishing number of people on any given weekend are ready to pull the trigger on a new or used car purchase as they use their phones to research, contact and compare dealerships. And so it is not surprising that in a new survey of interested car shoppers by solutions provider Briabe Mobile, 87% of over 1,600 people surveyed said they expected to use their devices to search for their dream machine.

The survey focused on adults between the ages of 18 and 54 who said they planned to buy a car in the next 12 months and who also ownd a smartphone or tablet. Interestingly, intent to purchase heightened their sensitivity to mobile messages. In many surveys over the years, a majority of people often still say they barely recognize that ads are on their phone deck. But for these car intenders, 3 out of 5 said they had noticed car-related advertising on devices. Just as interesting is how demographics impacts ad sensitivity. Briabe, which focuses on marketing to a range of ethnic targets, found that both African-American (65%) mobile users and Asian-Americans (63%) were slightly more likely than the general market (62%) to notice a mobile ad, while Hispanic mobile users were slightly less likely to (59%).

Despite rumors of their tiny size and invisibility, banner ads are cited by 68% of respondents as one of the most effective forms of auto advertising in order to get noticed -- although still, nothing trumps the appeal of the special offer or promotions that highlight car features, since 76% of those asked said they are likely to click on those ads.  

And the obvious utility of mobile phones on car shoppers is clear, with almost half (48%) already searching for cars and car information on their devices. General search is still the starting point for 20% of shoppers, but specific brand sites actually have tremendous sway here, serving as the entryway for 17% of auto intenders. The enonymous Cars.com gets 17% of initial queries and Autotrader 13%.

Curiously, Facebook is cited by 15% of users as a place where people find auto information. In fact, in terms of ad formats, social media ads are considered by consumers to be among the best ways to surface a brand or offer on mobile devices. Perhaps GM pulled its ad budget too soon?

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