Google Auto Says Mobile is the Place to Be

By David Metter

In a study published this month by Google’s Automotive division titled, “The 5 Auto Shopping Moments Every Brand Must Own,” it’s crystal clear that dealers need to have a strong mobile strategy in order to stay in the game.

The study breaks the car buying experience down into five moments. Three of them are dominated by consumers using mobile devices to gain information. This information is key to what they buy and where they buy it.

According to Google, the five auto shopping moments every brand must own are:

1.     Which car is best?

2.     Is it right for me?

3.     Can I afford it?

4.     Where should I buy it?

5.     Am I getting a deal?

Once the consumer reaches the, “can I afford it?” moment, they turn to their smartphones. “Search interest for MSRP and list prices is at its highest level ever, growing 25% in the past year, driven in large part by mobile, which accounts for 70% of these searches,” the study stated. From that moment on, consumers rely on their phones for everything from researching dealers, “one in three located or called a dealer on their mobile device,” to inventory searches, which are, “growing more than four times faster than overall auto search interest,” and dealer contact information, “search interest in dealer phone numbers is up over 78% in the past year, the majority on mobile.” In addition, searches for dealership reviews spike on mobile devices during weekends. In fact, car shopping activity increases and 56% of those searches are from mobile devices.

Once customers move into the “am I getting a deal?” moment they again rely on their phones. Now, they increasingly do that right from dealership lots. In fact, there is an increase of 46% in mobile search from dealer locations. The majority of searches are transaction-oriented, the top actions being pricing and trade-in evaluations. This is known as “showrooming.”

Google’s advice to dealers and manufacturers boils down to three things: be there, be useful and be quick. It’s hard to believe that there are dealers that don’t understand the importance of being there. Where there are perhaps more issues is in the area of being useful. Dealers would be wise to do more to make pricing and trade evaluation tools more accessible from mobile devices, as third parties are increasingly doing. Which leads us to the largest pain point in the dealer to consumer mobile experience - being quick. If a consumer turns to their smartphone for information, they’re not scrolling through multiple pages of Google results to find their answer. If your dealership doesn’t rank high in search results, you better cross your fingers and hope it’s not a competitor’s website that ranks above you with a better offer.

Develop a strategy of consumer containment and conquest. If you are transparent and provide all of the information on your website, consumers will find it less necessary to stray. Offer consumers easy access to information. Include the pricing tools they need and they’ll be less likely to leave and buy elsewhere. Use your competitor’s weak points to conquest their customers right off their lots and onto yours due to an excellent mobile presence and by providing easy access to information.