WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Smartphones are quickly becoming a major source of information among in-market automotive shoppers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Automotive Mobile Site Study. It found that 31 percent of in-market vehicle shoppers have visited automotive websites via their smartphone, compared with 24 percent in 2011 and 17 percent in 2010.

These same shoppers access third party sites and manufacturer sites at similar rates (69 percent and 68 percent, respectively). Additionally, more than half (53 percent) of these in-market shoppers access automotive content while they are physically at the dealership.

The study also examined the features and content of automotive manufacturer mobile websites and their usefulness in engaging shoppers. “As shoppers increasingly use their mobile device to gather information during the shopping process and even at the point of purchase, the importance and value of mobile websites to both manufacturers and shoppers alike grow exponentially,” said Arianne Walker, senior director of media and marketing solutions at J.D. Power and Associates.

The Top 5 types of information shoppers seek on mobile automotive websites are:

  1. Vehicle pricing (66 percent)
  2. Model information (54 percent)
  3. Photo galleries (53 percent)
  4. Vehicle reviews/ratings (52 percent)
  5. Compare vehicles (47 percent)

In just two years, automotive manufacturers have dramatically shifted the design, layout and navigation of their website in order to keep up with online shopper usage and mobile device sophistication. Previously, many mobile websites were text-based, with linear layouts and small text links that were designed for trackball and cursor navigation, the study found.

In 2012, manufacturer sites that perform particularly well in appearance and navigation featured large, dynamic images and links that are suitable for touch-screen use. Additionally, current mobile websites host notably more content, replicating much of the desktop/laptop and tablet versions of websites. Previous mobile websites featured limited content as a supplement to desktop websites.

Although the percentage of shoppers using mobile websites to search for information during the shopping process has increased, satisfaction with mobile websites is not nearly as high as with tablet and desktop/laptop versions of manufacturers’ websites. Overall satisfaction with mobile sites is 767 (on a 1,000-point scale), compared with 818 for desktop/laptop and 824 for tablet versions of manufacturer websites.