In an era when more and more customers are keeping mobile front and center during dealership visits, Cars.com has announced two new features to its mobile app.
The On The Lot VIN Scanner allows shoppers to scan a vehicle identification number to access information such as price and features. It also gives users the ability to save vehicles as favorites on the app.
Meanwhile, the Price Drop Alerts feature allows shoppers in the market for a specific vehicle to sign up for a push notification alert anytime the price is reduced on that vehicle.
“It’s second nature now for consumers to use their mobile devices while shopping for a car at the dealership,” Cars.com president and chief executive officer Alex Vetter said in a release announcing the new features.
“Shoppers want up-to-date information to compare vehicles and cost,” he continued. “That’s why we’re innovating around the clock to make sure our app serves as a convenient and reliable tool while shoppers are out making one of the biggest purchases of their lives.”
At this spring’s NADA Convention & Expo, Cars.com introduced two other products: Lot Insights, designed to give dealers a better picture of what consumers are doing on their mobile devices while they are at or near a dealership, and Sell and Trade, which gives consumers a way to sell their cars through an app called Quick Offer and gives dealers a way to stock up on used inventory.
“The whole game has changed with the advent of mobile, so we wanted to start sharing information with the dealers about what they’re doing while they’re looking at their phones on the lot,” Jeni Pecard, manager of site analytics for Cars.com, told Auto Remarketing during the expo.
“Lot Insights is a report that really helps dealers understand consumer behavior from a mobile perspective.”
So, what are consumers looking at? Inventory, for one.
In fact, Pecard said more than half are still browsing inventory while they’re on the lot. Beyond that, many also are checking out dealership information.
Often they’re checking out the competition, too, she noted.
Evolution of mobile
Launched in 2010, the Cars.com app receives about 7 million visits a month.
But how has the customer journey changed since the app was born?
“Car shopping has evolved tremendously since 2010, largely due to mobile technology and real-time information sharing,” said Chhaya Dave, senior director of product at Cars.com. “When smartphones hit the market and consumers had the world at their fingertips, shopping for everything from a TV to a car became much more involved. Consumers are more informed than ever because they have the tools and information needed to make a confident purchase decision.”
Dave noted that 56 percent of consumers shopping on the lot turn to independent research sites like Cars.com to help them make their buying decisions. And about half of total visits to Cars.com are from mobile phones.
“Over the last few years we’ve seen car shoppers mimic showrooming behavior that’s happening in the retail space. Consumers are using mobile on dealership lots to compare vehicles, look at dealership information, read reviews and use pricing tools.
“They’re also confirming that they’re getting the best deal,” Dave continued. “If they don’t find what they want, read a poor review or find a better deal down the street, they may go elsewhere to make their purchase.”
What it means for dealers
Today’s digitally connected car shopper often arrives at your dealership with mounds of research under his or her belt. Not only that, but dealers are faced with the challenge of knowing how to reach a customer who may be tied to a mobile device while perusing the lot.
Dave cited data from Placed Inc. that determined 81 percent of shoppers use a mobile device to research their vehicle purchase. And 63 percent of shoppers research and shop using a smartphone while at the dealership. This can be anything from inventory and reviews to finance.
“The shift in consumer behavior has definitely caused dealers to evolve many of their in-store processes to be better prepared for today’s well-informed car shoppers,” Dave said. “But most importantly, mobile has forced dealers to adjust how they reach and influence car shoppers — now with a greater emphasis on targeted digital marketing tactics.”
First, Dave said, and perhaps obviously: Dealers must have a presence on mobile. They need to understand what resources shoppers are using to make decisions so that they can effectively market to those customers and measure what’s working.
“Modern consumer behavior means that it’s time to depart from a sole focus on traditional metrics like email leads, phone calls and map views,” she continued. “Mobile shoppers are using a wide variety of tools while on the lot, including reviews, calculators and check availability options, and paying closer attention to these metrics will allow dealers to adjust marketing tactics and messages to better reach their target audience.
"Auto retailers should continue to look at innovative ways — such as mobile apps — to engage with well-informed consumers on the lot.”
Auto Remarketing senior editor Joe Overby contributed to this story.