Stage 2 in the online marketing battle is making sites look good on mobiles
When the smartphone and tablet revolution washed over auto retailing, Dana McFall had the 21-store Chapman Automotive Group of Tempe, Ariz., ready.
Two years ago, Chapman's in-house Web site staff built mobile-friendly Web sites for each of Chapman's stores in the Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas markets.
Mobile-friendly Web sites are important because Web sites that look good on the large screens of laptops and desktop computers often are hard to read on the tiny screen of a smartphone.
Eight months ago, Chapman updated its mobile Web sites again to speed loading and improve site navigation and appearance on mobile devices, said McFall, Chapman's Internet development director.
The effort is paying off, he said. Of 33,000 visitors to Chapman BMW on Camelback's Web site last month, for instance, 9,000, or 27 percent, used a smartphone or tablet to get there, McFall said.
That's above the 20 percent average that dealerships today experience across the country. The J.D. Power and Associates 2012 New Autoshopper Study found that smartphones or tablets were used by 1 in 5 new-vehicle buyers.
"We saw the big increase in mobile traffic coming," McFall said.
Use of mobile devices for vehicle shopping is growing rapidly, said Michelle Morris, Google's industry director for automotive.
Through August 2011, mobile devices accounted for just 9 percent of vehicle shopping queries, Morris said. Over the same period this year, that number shot up to 26 percent.
Google predicts it will rise to 47 percent next year, she said.
And smartphones are expected to dominate. Google projects that next year 29 percent of queries will be by smartphone and 18 percent by tablet.
Dealers intent on providing Internet shoppers with a good experience must make sure their Web sites are mobile-friendly so they can be viewed and navigated easily, Morris said.
Failure to do so will have consequences, she said. Sixty-one percent of respondents to a Google survey said that if they failed to find what they were looking for immediately on a mobile site, they would quickly move to another site. And half of respondents said that even if they liked a busines, they would use it less often if its Web site wasn't mobile-friendly.
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