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Smartphone use skyrocketing among car shoppers

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Don't look at your phone.  Look at me.  Vito is gonna hook you up nice.

Don’t look at your phone. Look at me. Vito is gonna hook you up nice.

Usually we talk about smartphone integration within the vehicle, not while purchasing a vehicle! One thing is certain: Consumers are wising up to the typical pitfalls of predatory dealerships thanks to smartphones — and predatory dealerships are becoming a dying breed.

In a study through Placed, Inc. comissioned by Cars.com, the company learned some cool takeaways. The study examined survey response and location data from more than 500 participants following visits to automotive dealerships, through the Placed smartphone app. Here are some of the findings:

  • Eighty-one percent of auto shoppers used smartphones to do research when purchasing a vehicle, including 63% who used their smartphone while physically at an automotive dealership. One-quarter (25%) of auto shoppers conducted research using a smartphone only prior to visiting a dealership.
  • The study found smartphone-using auto shoppers were 72% more likely to visit an additional dealership than shoppers who did not use a smartphone. Top on-lot activities included calculating price and payment information, confirming vehicle availability, and comparing local competitors. Of shoppers who visited more than one dealership, more than half (52%) did so because of information gathered on their mobile device.
  • Advertising played a key role in influencing decisions, as 33% of shoppers were lured to a competing dealership based on a mobile advertisement found while on a dealer lot.
  • Mobile content actions while on the dealer lot: More than half (51%) of auto shoppers used their mobile device to research information related to price, payments and special offers. Twenty-nine percent checked inventory, while 17% read vehicle and dealer reviews and 16% looked for advice.
  • Mobile is driving additional dealer visits: Nearly two-thirds (62%) of mobile on-the-lot users visited additional dealers within a day, while only 36% of those not using mobile moved on to other dealers.
  • Information that persuaded shoppers to visit additional dealers: 57% visited additional dealers when another dealer had a better price; 42% found their preferred vehicle at other dealership; 33% saw an advertisement for a nearby dealership; 24% read better reviews about another dealer or vehicle; 22% found a nearby dealership on a map; and 14% compared specs of vehicles.
  • Cross-platform marketing is key to reaching shoppers prior to dealer visit: While 59% of panelists used a smartphone for research prior to making an in-store visit, 25% used only a smartphone. Of those who used a smartphone for research, 51% also used a desktop or laptop. Overall, 37% of panelists used multiple devices for research before visiting a dealership.

The report said today, 90% of shoppers start their search online, evaluating vehicle options, getting pricing information, and making decisions well before ever stepping foot in a dealership. Furthermore, use of mobile automotive websites and apps grew by a staggering 73% between 2012 and 2013, the report said. The days of consumers haggling with their local car dealer will soon be extinct — in many places they already are. Tech-savvy shoppers are using their smartphones to check competitive offers and inventory to make sure they’re getting the best deal possible up until the moment they purchase.

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