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Smartphone, tablet use in car-buying research doubles: report’s 2015 Automotive Buyer Influence Study shows 39 percent of recent car buyers used a smartphone to shop for cars, while 35 percent used a tablet, up from 19 percent in each category in 2013. With used-car buyers leading the increase in mobile device usage, the figures point to the emergence of smartphones and tablets as significant car-shopping tools.

“The power of mobile cannot be underscored enough,” said Howard Polirer, director of industry education at

“Consumers are increasingly turning to these devices, particularly for car shopping.”

Multiple devices
Overall, 42 percent of recent car buyers used multiple devices to shop for cars, compared with 24 percent a year earlier.

The results underscore the importance for all automotive advertisers to have a robust cross-platform presence, with mobile well-represented, to reach and influence car-shopping consumers.

In the 2015 study, 39 percent reported using a smartphone, compared with just 19 percent in 2013. Among those who use smartphones for car shopping, 65 percent use the device while visiting a dealership.

For tablets, 35 percent reported using a tablet in the 2015 study, compared with 19 percent in 2013. Additionally, 25 percent of tablet users reported using that device while visiting a dealership.

Along with the ascent of mobile usage in car shopping, the study also found a slight — but notable — decline in desktop/laptop usage. In 2013, 91 percent of car buyers who used the Internet to shop for cars reported using a desktop/laptop. In the 2015 study, however, that number decreased to 82 percent.

The results indicate that mobile will continue to be an important element in the future of car shopping, as it enables buyers to get the information they need whenever and wherever they need it.

Rather than just thinking with a mobile mindset, automotive advertisers need to ensure they are developing specific experiences across the spectrum of devices consumers use to shop for cars so they can deliver the right information at the right time.

The 2015 Automotive Buyer Influence Study was commissioned by through IHS Automotive. Now in its fourth year, the 2015 study was conducted among 1,300 new car buyers and 1,000 used car buyers, and ran from August through September.

To qualify for the study, participants must have purchased a light vehicle within the past 12 months and have been the primary decision maker in the vehicle purchase.

The study used a combination of online and offline survey methods, resulting in a large, representative sample of online and offline car buyers who purchased new and used vehicles.

AutoTrader has aggressively embraced mobile to drive engagement and sales. In recent years, it relaunched, introduced its first iPad app, redesigned its mobile site and apps.

??The initiatives have had positive results. Each channel has showed improvements in conversion, engagement, usability and customer/advertiser satisfaction.

Research tool
Automobile shopping differs from other fields as it can take months, even years for a consumer to reach a decision to buy.

Leveraging mobile throughout the decision-making process.

Mobile can play a role throughout the different stages of the decision-making process. The iPad is effective as a research tool in the early exploration phase while mobile applications are helpful on the lot once negotiations begin.

“The most important thing for automotive advertisers to keep in mind is to ensure that they are developing experiences that are appropriate to each device—giving consumers easy access to the information they are looking for whenever, wherever they are,” Mr. Polirer said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York