WESTLAKE VILLAGE, California — More than half of new-vehicle shoppers on the Internet use a mobile device to help them gather information before making a purchase, according to the new J.D. Power 2015 New Autoshopper Study.
The report, based on a survey of 18,900 buyers and lessees of new vehicles who used the Internet for research, found that 51 percent of respondents said they used a smartphone or tablet to help find the make, model, price and dealership that best suited their needs.
According to the study, the increase in digital information accessible through mobile devices has resulted in an 83-percent boost in tablet use for car shopping since 2012, while the use of smartphones has jumped by 70 percent in the same time frame.
Now, 34 percent of new-vehicle Internet shoppers use a smartphone for automotive research, and 33 percent use a tablet.
Edmunds data confirms that the use of mobile devices is a growing trend among car shoppers.
On Edmunds.com, mobile site users and traffic have more than doubled since 2012. Today, mobile accounts for about 35 percent of the site's unique visitors.
In addition to analyzing which devices are being used and how often shoppers use them, the J.D. Power study also records exactly how smartphones and tablets are used, where they're being used and which Web sites are visited most often.
For example, researchers found that, outside of the home, new-vehicle shoppers most often use their devices at auto dealerships.
"Nearly half (48 percent) of new-vehicle buyers that shop on a mobile device use their smartphone and 13 percent use a tablet for information gathering while at the dealership, primarily to access vehicle pricing as well as model information, inventory searches and special offers and incentives," said Arianne Walker, senior director of automotive media and marketing at J.D. Power, in a statement.
And those shoppers are frequently making initial contact with dealers digitally.
While most of them still visit dealerships in person, J.D. Power found that 24 percent of survey respondents said they first make contact by email, text or through the dealership's own Web site or Facebook page.
Interestingly, 49 percent of new-vehicle Internet shoppers already know the make and model they want before they reach out to a dealer, and they go on to purchase that vehicle. According to the study, "this has increased dramatically from 2013 when just 43 percent bought the exact make or model they had in mind."
As a result, the number of models digital shoppers will consider when they first begin visiting dealerships has decreased to an industry average of 2.4 vehicles in 2015 from 2.6 in 2013.
And what sites are Internet shoppers using for their vehicle research?
The study found that more than 90 percent of survey respondents said they visited at least one manufacturer's Web site when shopping for a vehicle. And they noted those sites were most useful for their model information and vehicle configurators.
Dealership Web sites also rated highly in the study, with 83 percent of those surveyed telling J.D. Power that they visited at least one and 75 percent saying they made use of their selling dealership's site.
Fully 80 percent of new-vehicle Internet shoppers visit a third-party website, such as Edmunds.com, for their automotive research. In fact Edmunds has consistently remained among the top-three most frequently visited third-party sites among the 35 such sites measured by the J.D. Power study since 2012.