WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Automotive shoppers are increasingly using mobile devices to access information to shape their buying decisions, but are automotive manufacturers and dealers ready? J.D. Power and Associates reveals insights on what makes for a customer-grabbing mobile site.

“Currently, fewer than 20 percent of in-market automotive shoppers visit an automotive Website from their mobile device, but this figure is expected to increase accordingly as the proliferation of smartphones continues,” said Arianne Walker, director of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Having a mobile site isn’t enough; mobile sites with satisfying usability help increase the likelihood of shoppers to test drive, thus driving traffic to the dealership — which is the ultimate goal of a website.”

Both manufacturer and third-party mobile Websites have ample room for improvement, although satisfaction for third-party sites tends to be particularly low. The presentation identified the following best practices for automotive mobile website design:

• The homepage of a mobile site should offer access to all the same features that are available from the brand’s traditional Website and limit the number of screens the user must navigate to access detailed model-level information.

• Despite the limited screen space available on a mobile device, vehicle images on a mobile website should be large and of high quality. Large images allow shoppers to see details of a model’s design and features. In addition, navigation through photo galleries should be simple.

• Successful mobile Websites establish a visual focal area using a large image that doesn’t distract from navigation elements. This makes a site more visually attractive while still keeping navigation intuitive.

• Reduce the number of clicks and amount of scrolling it takes to get to relevant information is critical. Requiring an excessive number of clicks may discourage shoppers from researching further.

• Text on a mobile site should be thorough, yet concise, and formatted in either bulleted lists or very short paragraphs for easy reading.

• Make the most of limited screen space by devoting space to product information rather than marketing messages. Limited model information does not help the shopper with their shopping research.

“When designing mobile sites, marketers should focus on the same basic principles that drive satisfaction with traditional websites — information and content, navigation, appearance and speed,” said Walker. “Fortunately for marketers, this means they don’t have to start from ground zero — they can take what they’ve learned from designing their traditional site and implement those best practices on their mobile site.”

Here are some other insights from J.D. Power:

• Among shoppers who have visited at least one mobile automotive Website, manufacturer sites and third-party sites are accessed more frequently than dealership sites or auto enthusiast sites.

• These shoppers are equally interested in obtaining both upper-funnel (vehicle reviews, images and comparisons) and lower-funnel information (vehicle pricing and dealer locations) through their mobile devices.

• Approximately 20 percent of vehicle shoppers who use mobile devices during the shopping process indicate they have downloaded an auto-related mobile application. A majority of these mobile app users indicate they prefer to obtain shopping information through mobile Websites rather than apps.