The new rule of mobile — Buying a car in a connected world

Auto shoppers are doing more research than ever, starting with the initial interest phase and purchase all the way through ownership while also influencing repurchase decisions.

On the lead up to purchase, auto-shoppers will access information on vehicles and manufacturers across multiple touchpoints. In fact, the average shopper will take two and a half months to decide on a new vehicle and research will span over 24 different touch-points, including dealer and manufacturer sites, mobile applications search, social and many more.

With such a broad research phase, it is key that automotive brands offer consumers relevant experiences at each step in the path to purchase and beyond.

Mobile has a crucial role to play; with a significant portion of research and comparison is now taking place on portable devices and the YOY growth suggests that this is just the beginning.

With that in mind, we know we can take a look at how automotive brands can make the most of mobile from research on to the path to purchase and through to ownership and repurchase each step involved.

Path to purchase:

1. Interest → 2. Purchase → 3. Ownership → 4. Repurchase

1. Interest phase:

Throughout the interest phase shoppers are more likely apt to be open to a range of automotive brands, in fact, according to Think Google, 72% of searches involve ‘cross-shopping’ e.g, shoppers are researching across brand, segment, etc. Ultimately brands have an opportunity to win over consumers at this point.

For potential customers one of the most important factors while buying, or even short-listing a car, is the experience they receive from the auto company and whether this aligns with their expectations.

This will come down to ease and simplicity of interactions between the buyer and the auto company; right from initial research, e.g finding clear and compelling info on the touch point of choice, through to booking a test-drive and on to re-purchase, finally purchasing the car.

In 2013, 35% of those that purchased a new car used their mobile during the research and purchase phase, this figure is a 460% increase from 2011 and continues to grow. Finding dealers, viewing images, reading reviews, comparing vehicles and contacting dealers are all the most popular actions amongst mobile users.

2. Purchase phase:

Even though vehicle purchase is one of the few reasons to visit a dealership in person, it’s not the only way. In fact, 49% of consumers between 18 and 34 would purchase a vehicle online and 29% of people over the age of 50 would do the same (Capgemini Source, 2014).

Can we see a future that enables people to complete the entire path to purchase without having to enter a dealership? It doesn’t seem too far-fetched considering that the technologies car clubs like Zipcar have adopted, could easily facilitate the test drive process. E.g. test drive candidates find test vehicles nearby, book a slot, turn up and gain entry with their smartphone. Easy.

This future scenario would not only make for greatly enhanced convenience between manufacturer and buyer, it’d be highly cost effective, the tech exists and it would enable a broader reach for manufacturers.

For here and now, shoppers are looking to mobile to find dealers nearby, facilitate test-drive booking and enable follow ups.

3. Ownership & Repurchase Phase:

After the purchase phase mobile takes the lead in fostering loyalty and long-term consumer relationships by enabling the consumer to get diagnostics and notifications of any services the vehicle may need; real-time technical statuses, service reminders, navigation and directions, geo-location and parking assistance (whether it’s parking ones’ car or finding it).

Mobile can act as glue bringing ownership and experience together.

When it comes to an integrated experience, over 75% of people in both mature and growth markets want connection to safety features and updates, roadside assistance, emergency assistance and real-time navigation. More than 50% want service reminders, service appointment scheduling and the ability to contact the nearest dealership for personal assistance. Mobile makes for the most convenient touch point to do so, efficiently catering for customer care and post-sales service.

Full speed ahead with mobile

Beyond the purchase and re-purchase process. Mobile has a major role to play inside the vehicle itself. Companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft have already begun working with major auto industries so that mobile tech can enhance the driver’s experience. This could mean controlling navigation, managing calls, reading text or controlling the radio…

In sum, a relevant mobile experience at each step in the process is crucial for ensuring buyers chose your brand initially and repurchase.

Do you have thoughts on how the auto industry is integrating with mobile? Tweet us@HiMumSaidDad or email me directly. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Watch this space — My next post will focus on the connected car and how manufacturers can integrate mobile to improve functionality and usability.

Read more on auto commerce trends and stats here:

Digital Drives Auto Shopping (Google Think)

Cars Online 2014, Generation Connected (Capgemini)

Battle for the car: will Google, Apple or Microsoft dominate? (The Guardian)

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