Smartphone a car shopping tool

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For the first time, this year’s Manufacturer Website Evaluation study asked shoppers a few questions about smartphone and tablet use when it comes to car shopping. J.D. Power’s own stats say it’s about time.

J.D. Ney, J.D. Power’s automotive account analyst, says that smartphone use in Canada is up to 65 per cent from 58 per cent last year. And 31 per cent of those the company surveyed this year say they own iPads, Blackberrys and PlayBooks.

But do they use them to shop for cars and how?

The survey found 77 per cent of smartphone users go to an OEM’s website. Then 57 per cent says they went on to a dealer’s site.

(J.D. Power staffers interview only those who say they were in the market for a new car within the next 12 months.)

Ney says J.D. Power’s stats 68 per cent of women use their smartphones to go to a dealer’s site.

“So it’s a really big part of the woman’s shopping process.”

Dealers needn’t worry whether their sites are too “rich” for the smartphones to navigate, so access is not a problem.

He says that the first thing shoppers look for when they land on the dealer’s site is the store’s location. They’ve done their price and accessories shopping at the automaker’s regular site.  

“It sounds almost too simple, but dealers should make sure that their website tells people where they are as easily as they can make it.”

But he warns against site refreshes that ignore the basics.

“Huge site refreshes are great, but only insofar as the customer can find what they’re looking for. If the refresh accomplishes that, the score increases as does the likelihood the customer shows up for a test drive.”

But he warns against refreshes that are just cosmetic.

“If content is buried, that helps no one.”

While the survey didn’t evaluate dealer websites, there is some data that show 47 per cent found the dealer’s location easily and 55 per cent found the information they were looking for. But it looks as if many don’t always get what they are after.

“If 47 per cent found it, 53 per cent may not have,” Ney says.

On the new side, there’s less interest in whether the dealer has the model their after.

“My guess is that most consumers assume the dealer has it in stock.”

But he says that’s not the case when it comes to used-car shopping by smartphone or desktop, for that matter.

“They want to see the inventory.”

Ney says J.D. Power will be taking a much more detailed look at smartphone and tablet use.

“The new tablets are so powerful, they are the personal computing future.”