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 kbb.com

    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 Cars.com 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?