Car Shopping: Getting Social, Going Mobile

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 10.45.26 PMAnyone out there in the market for a new car? How about a used one? Either way, if my guess is right (and the statistics don’t lie) you’re getting the word out (and getting lots of advice) via social media. According to New York-based social media marketing firm Crowdtap, 87% of consumers do their car shopping research on social media.

Digging deeper, I found a few more interesting stats from a survey of over 1,500 car shoppers by RadiumOne: 64% of car shoppers rely on smartphones for research, 62 percent stay up to speed on the auto market by tracking related content on Facebook, and 75 percent share photos of cars they like on Facebook.

Top Picks of the Car Shopping Apps

It all adds up to the latest trend in car shopping: mobile apps loaded with research features, plus a healthy dose of social media just to keep things real. Based on RadiumOne’s research, here’s a rundown of the most popular mobile social media apps for car shopping:

  • 4zmocaMZOZ_CsbuZNX8DNDeZlFkB0-IERiZoWVoF-6wTBQfUEneVmRVY-qT4cwrfDA=h900
    Kelley Blue Book for iPhone. Image courtesy of

    Kelley Blue Book. The Trusted Resource® for automotive research was the top choice, with 55 percent of car shoppers using it.

  • True Car. About 30 percent of car shoppers use this free service, which connects them with over 10,000 new car dealers nationwide.
  • eBay Motors. This app, favored by 24 percent of car shoppers, puts eBay’s automative marketplace at your fingertips.
  • Edmunds. The expert resource for all things automotive attracts 21 percent of car shoppers.

Besides these automotive industry mobile apps, car shoppers are turning to all the usual social media suspects. Facebook is, not surprisingly, the main destination for talking with friends and family about brands and owner experiences. Twitter is the top choice for auto advertising based on brand affinity. LinkedIn ranks high among luxury brand advertisers thanks to its ability to reach high net worth consumers. And then, let’s not forget Craigslist.

But whether car shoppers use auto industry mobile apps or traditional social media apps, the best all have one thing in common: ratings and reviews. A case study of confirmed this by showing that when ratings and reviews were added, the site saw a 16% higher rate of conversion and 100% more click-throughs to dealer sites.

Does moving the needle move product?

Of course, “social media does not sell cars,” as Isabelle Helms, VP of Research & Marketing for AutoTrader reminds us. “It builds relationships.” This is especially true for millenials, who favor smaller cars and “enjoy living big on small,” Helms adds. Despite that trend, a recent AutoTrader survey revealed that 50 percent of millennials use smartphones to research and purchase their vehicles.

Neosperience, the “digital customer experience blog,” expands on Ms. Helms’ point of view with this point: “From the perspective of digital marketing, a well-designed app is a unique opportunity to add value to your strategy and instill the idea of a cutting-edge brand.”

Whether it’s building relationships or moving products, it all comes down to one all-important question: How do you know if these well-designed mobile social media apps are actually doing their job? You can start by applying the Top 10 KPIs (key performance indicators) for measuring mobile app success:

  1. Active users
  2. Visit frequency
  3. Session time
  4. Depth of visit
  5. Conversions
  6. Revenue per user
  7. Social shares
  8. Retention rate
  9. Acquisition cost
  10. User experience

In the end, says Helms, it’s all about designing sophisticated, easy-to-use smartphone apps that users want to engage with. Have you used any mobile car shopping apps that fit that description? And if not, how do you shop for cars?

6 thoughts on “Car Shopping: Getting Social, Going Mobile

  1. When checking out any website about cars, I personally like to see “pros” and “cons” listed on the reviews. I think those are easy to read quickly and provide good feedback that I would not have thought about before. Also, while Instagram does not provide customer reviews and expert opinions, it does provide an auto company with another way to market their vehicles and new technology they are adding to them. Really well done article, I’ll be sure to check out those apps next time I’m purchasing a car!


  2. This was an informative and interesting post. I can see how it would be useful to research vehicles and get former owners opinions on a model before making the purchase yourself, however to order a car online and make the purchase prior to test driving it does not sound wise at all. I hope millennials would not go that far with their hard earned money.


  3. Great post. I found it interesting that 87% of car shoppers do their research via social media. I think the most popular car website i use is Kelly Blue Book. That site is very useful when it comes to valuing your car or to look an see how much a car is worth before you purchase.


  4. Great post! I found it to be very informational being that I too an in the process of car shopping online. But it really surprised me that although I am considered a part of the millennial generation, I have never used social media to car shop nor I have used a mobile device to do so. Shocking right? The only time I use my cell to search is if I am on the move & see a nice car in passing that I want to learn a few quick details about right at that moment! Your post has just provided me with great reasons to explore the social media avenue to find what I’m looking for. Also, your post had great use of headings and lists/bullet points! Thanks for your post! 🙂


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