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Larry Bruce

Larry Bruce Founder / President / CEO

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#AutoMarketing? Mobile Is Last


For almost 10 years now, we have all heard “This is the year for mobile!”…REALLY?!?

We see posts on all over Twitter about the growth in mobile use and web traffic. Ironically, most are coming from people using a desktop.

So, as we always do, we decided to gather the data, set up the experiment and test it!

First, we had to define “What is a mobile device?” This is a real problem because too many people want to define a tablet as a mobile device. In my opinion, it’s not. We needed something more than my “opinion”, however, so we looked to Google.

The Google Adwords platform now combines tablet and desktop use as the same thing.

“The device doesn’t matter as much as the user context does”, said Google’s Group Product Manager Surojit Chatterjee on context, “User context drives what people search for, and the actions they take. So for example, say I am at home in the evening, and I’m doing a search. The actions that I will take will be largely the same if I’m using a smartphone, tablet or notebook, because the context is the same. Particularly between notebook and tablet, the query patterns are very similar.”

There you have it. A tablet is more like a desktop to a user than a mobile device is. A tablet is not a mobile device!


First, we started with the data. Here are the facts:

• Less than 12% of all retail automotive website traffic is from a mobile device. – (Source: OnlineDrive user base)

• In 2013, mobile traffic rose to 15% of all search traffic and tablet traffic made up another 15%. When you hear that mobile traffic is 30% of all web traffic, keep in mind that true mobile traffic is only 15%. The greatest increase in mobile traffic has come from defining a tablet as a mobile device. – (Source: ShopVisible)

• While mobile traffic rose, TRUE mobile conversion was the lowest of all of the devices at .05%. Traffic from tablets came in a 1.6% and desktop traffic came in at 2.5%. - (Source: ShopVisible)


This data would seem to support the notion that context does trump device.


Next, we looked at user intent. Here are the facts:

• 91% of mobile phone users go online to socialize. – (Source: Ruder Finn)

• 1 in 8 users compare prices on their phone while shopping. – (Source: comScore) When you do the math, that is 12.5% OF 15% of all web traffic. In addition, less that .05% of those shoppers said they would leave the dealership they are at to go to another store. – (Source: OnlineDrive Marketing Mix Study)

• 70% of all mobile searches result in an action within 1 hour, yet the average auto shopper take 59 days to make a decision. – (Source: Mobile Marketer and OnlineDrive Marketing Mix Study)

• The average mobile user spends 25 minutes per day checking email. – (Source: Return Path) That IS NOT mobile marketing.

These facts would support that very little auto shopping or influence is gained from mobile. Auto shopping and research is not the user’s intent when they get on their mobile device.

So here was the question that needed we sought to answer:

“Which device will produce the highest conversion rate: mobile, tablet or desktop?

We set up an experiment with 20 of our accounts. We set up a control group of 5 accounts and tracked conversion over 380,000 in-market visitors on our platform in a responsive-design format.

Our hypothesis (and really most people’s hypothesis) is that a responsive design would reduce friction on a page and help increase conversion. In this case, you would be correct. There are many other factors, however, that affect conversion: the two largest factors being the context of the search & the intent of the visitor.

Here were the results.


There was a 61% lift in conversion in aggregate over the control group from mobile and using responsive design.

HOWEVER, when we individually examined results by device, here is what we found:

• Desktop – We had to change the desktop design slightly to meet the responsive design requirements. The result of that change: + 111% relative increase in conversion!
I am sure at this point you are starting to realize that one of the other two device types OR both had a significant negative result on the conversion rate.

• Tablet – + 31% relative increase over the control group. Basically, no statistically significant difference.

• Mobile – -17.7% relative DECREASE over the control group. Again, no statistically significant difference.

Based on both the behavioral data and test data, here is the bottom line. After reducing friction using responsive design and even making the user experience better, we could not change the visitor’s context or intent. Those drive conversion far more than design.

In the end, mobile customers are NOT in the mindset to convert. They are not in a true influential research mode where your marketing will have a significant impact on their buying decision – whether that decision is to buy or simply who to buy from.


So what is mobile good for?

1. On average, it takes 26 hours for a person to report a lost wallet and 68 minutes to report a lost phone. – (Source: Unisys) Have a VALUABLE mobile app for your store. Allow for mobile service scheduling BUT (most importantly) use it to monitor service wait times throughout the day.

2. It takes the average person 90 minutes to respond to an email and 90 seconds to respond to a SMS text message. Make sure both your Marketing Automation System and CRM has SMS text capabilities.

3. The iPhone 5 and later versions give the user the ability to block ad tracking and SMS ads that they consider intrusive. If you are using SMS, make sure your message is relevant.

4. Over 40% of clicks on mobile ads are fraudulent or accidental and conversion rates are the lowest by far of all devices. Make it easy for mobile users to contact you and integrate easy to use maps to help them find your store. Those are the top interactions between businesses and mobile devices.

As always we hope this helps and enjoy your feedback.


Big Tom LaPointe
great stats here. my colleagues and I are in agreement that the biggest use of mobile phone to shop for a car is when they are on the COMPETITOR LOT! lol. so yes, having a means to communicate your message is critical.
Larry Bruce
Thanks Tom, the biggest problem is that any communication with the customer using mobile to price shop is basically just lowering the gross for the dealership they are at. The "Marketing" is over they have made decision now they are just trying to get the best deal and the best you will be able to do is lower the gross for the other guy.

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