October 24, 2012, 10:13 AM

Automobile shoppers rev up smartphones

31% of vehicle shoppers have accessed mobile web sites, J.D. Power finds.

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Smartphones are quickly becoming a major research tool among shoppers in the market for a new automobile, finds the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Automotive Mobile Site Study.

In 2012, 31% of in-market vehicle shoppers visited automotive web sites via their smartphones, compared with 24% in 2011 and 17% in 2010, the study says. These same shoppers access general automotive sites and manufacturer sites at similar rates—69% and 68%, respectively. Additionally, 53% of these mobile shoppers access automotive content while at a dealership.

“As shoppers increasingly use their mobile devices to gather information during the shopping process and even at the point of purchase, the importance and value of mobile web sites to both manufacturers and shoppers alike grow exponentially,” says Arianne Walker, senior director of media and marketing solutions at J.D. Power and Associates.

The top five types of information shoppers seek on automotive mobile web sites, according to the study, are: vehicle pricing, 66%; model information, 54%; photo galleries, 53%; vehicle reviews/ratings, 52%; and vehicle comparisons, 47%.

The study examines the features and content of automotive manufacturer mobile web sites and their usefulness in engaging shoppers who use a mobile phone during vehicle shopping.

In just two years, automotive manufacturers have dramatically shifted the design, layout and navigation of their web sites in order to keep up with online shopper usage and mobile device sophistication, the study finds. Previously, many mobile web sites were text-based, with linear layouts and small text links that were designed for trackball and cursor navigation, J.D. Power says. In 2012, manufacturer sites that perform particularly well in appearance and navigation feature large, dynamic images and links that are suitable for touchscreen use, the study says.

Additionally, current mobile web sites host notably more content, replicating much of the desktop/laptop and tablet versions of web sites that make the important content readily accessible anytime and anywhere, J.D. Power says. Previous mobile web sites featured limited content as a supplement to desktop web sites, the study says.

When it comes to manufacturer mobile web sites and their usefulness, Acura and Kia rank highest in the study in a tie, each with a score of 794 out of 1,000. Acura performs particularly well in information/content, while Kia performs particularly well in speed and appearance, the study says.

The 2012 Automotive Mobile Site Study includes 9,131 evaluations of automotive mobile web sites from vehicle shoppers who intend to purchase or lease a vehicle within the next two years. Following, according to the study, are the top10 automotive mobile web sites and their study scores:

  • Acura , 794
  • Kia, 794
  • Mazda, 789
  • GMC, 787
  • Jaguar, 785
  • Ram, 785
  • Toyota, 779
  • Chevrolet, 775
  • Hyundai, 774
  • Mercedes-Benz, 772
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