Nearly 60 Percent Of Car Buyers Do Mobile Research While At Home

Just 10 percent of auto intenders turn to their smartphones to find dealerships while at work, while 17 percent conduct mobile research during a dealer visit, says GroundTruth's Stephanie Sollers.

Mobile provides more opportunity for marketers seeking to reach on-the-go consumers with location-based targeted ads, it’s simply the go-to vehicle even when consumers are on the couch.

When looking at the location where consumers conducted research for car buying, location marketplace GroundTruth’s Auto: From The Smartphone to The Dealership report shows that 59 percent of consumers were searching at home.

In comparison, 17 percent of consumers did auto research while at a dealer, suggesting that geo-conquesting is viable, if limited option to capture auto intenders’ attention. Rounding up the places where consumers are likely to use their phone to find a car to buy shows 10 percent doing so at either work or school, with 13 percent checking out models and dealers during a commute.

GroundTruth looked at over 64K visits to auto dealers throughout the month of January 2017. Mobile Path to Purchase results were collected from 566 consumers who used their smartphone to make an auto purchase decision in the past 30 days. The survey was conducted in partnership with Millward Brown in March 2016.

Driving Dealer Visits, Not Click

The primary conclusion GroundTruth came to is that the focus on online conversions forces auto marketers to be more reliant on less strategic tactics like proximity targeting, reaching people as they are at or around businesses.

Location data from GroundTruth has shown that car shoppers make just 2.2 visits to a dealership before making a purchase. As a result, by the time a consumer “clicks” an online ad, they’ve likely already completed their comparative research and made their purchase decision.

In GroundTruth’s view, which has long advocated for less reliance on clicks as as an online-to-offline performance metric, So while online performance may appear to be positive, it isn’t having a positive impact on converting dealership visits—the metric that matters most to a brand’s bottom line.

Earlier this year, GroundTruth (formerly xAd) was the first to introduce cost-per-visit for mobile marketers, arguing it offered search-like purchase intent. Placed is providing third-party verification of actual visits.

That move was followed by Retale, which debuted a similar “guaranteed visits” model for retail advertisers (with attribution specialist Placed providing validation for both Retale and GroundTruth). In the case of these ad formats, the company doesn’t charge on a per-visit basis, but “guarantees” a pre-determined number of visitors for a price. Other location platform providers like Blis and Empyr also provide a similar visit-based ad format to their respective clients.

While some industry veterans like Ubermedia’s Michael Hayes has questioned the possibility of “grading one’s homework” and scalability of guaranteed visits, GroundTruth, in its look at the auto dealership space, is positing that predictive location products like audience targeting and retargeting, which are built from a person’s past visitation behavior, drove 11.3 percent more total visits with less ad spend compared to proximity targeting. As such, it considers such stats as validating the use of these kinds of performance-based formats.

“Cost Per Action and Click-Through Rates have been the go-to metrics for automotive marketers,” said Stephanie Sollers, Vice President of Auto at GroundTruth. But driving visits to a website, isn’t the most effective way to generate in-store sales. Our research shows that more sophisticated location targeting leads to more dealership visits overall. And with the auto industry facing a year of sluggish sales, it’s time for marketers to look to location-based marketing to turn this trend around.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.