With more than half of searches on Google from mobile devices this year, smartphones and tablets have become a vital part of the car-buying journey. This isn’t surprising – the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) predicts that by the end of 2014, three in four Britons will own a smartphone and half will own a tablet.

Across the automotive industry, we are seeing manufacturers embrace this trend, with most having a mobile site. This is a good first step, but consumers are not searching only for brands – they are looking for locally relevant content such as used car inventories, service booking, showroom directions and phone numbers. It is therefore imperative that dealers have a strong mobile presence.

The subject of mobile often throws up many technical questions, but don’t be put off by the jargon. The first question you may ask is whether you should have an app or mobile site. Investing all of your resources in an app and neglecting your mobile website creates a gap in your offering and risks jeopardising your mobile strategy. So I would advocate concentrating on developing your mobile site first. You have a couple of options:

  • Create a separate mobile site. While often cheaper to build, you’ll have to maintain content on both your desktop and mobile sites.
  • Create a responsive site that adapts to each device’s screen size. It’s more expensive, but all your metrics are combined and you only have one site to maintain.

Whether you choose a separate mobile site or a responsive site, here are some top tips to ensure it delivers the best experience to today’s mobile customer.

Tip 1: Mobile web users have little patience, high demands and expect to be accommodated

Car buyers want to do everything on mobile that they can on your desktop site, but in less time, while watching TV or walking to work and controlling it with just a thumb or finger. If they feel they’re wasting their time, they’ll leave.

Designing for a mobile audience takes a fresh approach, more discipline and tougher decisions. You have to work harder to engage them and they have to clearly understand the value for the time they’re spending on your site. With this in mind, remember:

  • Re-evaluate key tasks for your users and design for them.
  • The primary purpose of your mobile homepage should be to identify users’ needs and guide them to the right place.
  • Typing can be time-consuming on mobiles, so use drop-down menus to filter options.
  • Menus and lists need to be short and have few overlaps.


Tip 2: Taking shortcuts with your mobile website design will disappoint your users

Users will take delight in the small things you do for them on a great mobile site and will reward you with loyalty:

  • Make sure mobile users can easily find your site.
  • Guide your prospects through your site and don’t confuse with multiple calls to action on the same page. Users should never have to pinch-&-zoom on mobile-optimised sites.
  • Add “click to call” to search results to allow customers to get in contact as easily as possible and ensure all phone numbers on your mobile site are tappable. ]


Tip 3: Make every tap and swipe count

Each unnecessary tap or swipe increases the probability that the user makes an error, encounters an issue, or simply leaves your site. Minimise that risk and create a better, more direct user experience by analysing even the most mundane actions and identify ways to streamline them for your users:

  • Use existing user information to streamline forms and processes. Consider what are the minimum fields required on your test-drive or brochure forms. Are those fields intelligent, i.e. when a user selects a phone number field, does the keyboard switch to numerals?
  • Reduce submission errors through communication and real-time validation. This is especially important when asking for emails, for example – you can check if they haven’t used an @ symbol, and before they hit submit, ask them to correct the field.
  • Optimise the size and sensitivity of your calls to action. If your main goal is to search for directions for your dealership or make a call, which should be the first thing they see on the site?

As almost half of the online traffic for automotive is coming from mobile devices, I would now suggest taking your mobile from your pocket and quickly assessing how easy your site is to find and how it performs against these top tips. If you don’t yet have a mobile site, make getting one a priority, as without one your dealership is effectively closed to prospects three days a week.

Invest in mobile to ensure you have your best sales executive in your prospect’s pocket.


Article by Hugh Dickerson for AM Online

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