Why Mobile-First Marketing Matters To Automotive Dealers

Auto dealers can succeed at mobile-first marketing by following these best practices.

By Troy Smith


Mobile has never been more important to the automotive industry. Recent research shows that 63 percent of car shoppers engage in “showrooming” – examining merchandise online via mobile while physically shopping an auto lot. Of the mobile content sought out by these shoppers, 51 percent pertains to price, payments and offers, and 29 percent is inventory information. These numbers indicate that large numbers of customers are relying on mobile not just for preliminary research, but also as they make final decisions about what to purchase and where.

It is imperative that auto dealers reach potential buyers during the critical final stages of the shopping process. But with so many customers using mobile devices to cross-shop right from the dealer showroom, getting and keeping their attention is more challenging than ever.

Customers need a simple, reliable way to access inventory and pricing information from their mobile devices. If a buyer lands on a dealer’s mobile website and it’s missing key features and functionality that help make their buying experience easy, that dealer will likely lose the customer to a competitor.

In this environment, standard mobile-friendly website design isn’t enough. Traditionally, dealers have taken an adaptive approach, which uses a predefined layout set for popular devices. It strips out key features of a regular desktop website to make it fit onto smaller screens, resulting in websites that do not provide a consistent experience across all devices – and that may not function at all for some mobile users.

The Impact of Mobile-First Web Design

To stay competitive, automotive dealers must deliver information about their inventory and offerings in a format that’s mobile-first, not just mobile-friendly.

A key component of a mobile-first approach is responsive web design, which brings customers a fully relevant, viewable, and searchable experience. Because a responsive design doesn’t compromise the integrity of the existing website, it delivers the best possible user experience on any device, any time.

Additionally, a responsive website provides a vastly greater degree of functionality for the consumer, creating a major competitive advantage for dealers who are willing to embrace a mobile-first mentality. When users can more easily find the information they need, engagement increases, which is why responsive web design has been proven to generate better leads and improve dealership calls and visits.

The 5 Keys to a Mobile-First Approach

Dealers can succeed at mobile-first marketing by following these best practices for responsive web design:

  • Form begets function: Mobile-first web design means thinking about the needs of mobile users before anything else. When building an inventory search tool, for example, it’s critical that the interface is fully functional and easy for customers to use on mobile. Then back into the desktop version, which will only be richer and fuller in functionality.
  • It’s all about the results: Regardless of how website designers think a mobile site should look and function, the key is testing to make sure the users are getting what they want. The functionality of a mobile site should be the first priority, not an afterthought as it often is with traditional “mobile-friendly” sites.
  • Know what they’re looking for: A mobile-first website provides users with easy access to content they’re looking for. While it may not be feasible to deliver all the content users would see on a larger screen, it’s still possible to give them access to the most important information.
  • Keep them engaged: In order to keep customers engaged, it’s critical to design mobile-first websites with the user’s perspective in mind. This means taking into consideration what they’re looking for and how they’ll find it. For example, it’s important to direct them to a vehicle of choice, a phone number, a CTA, or other relevant information.
  • Prioritize content: Mobile-first website designers need to prioritize content, since not every piece of content can be viewed on a small screen. Thoughtful prioritization of content means users are always seeing the most important message. It’s also critical that CTAs are logical for mobile users; for example, users are unlikely to fill out a form on a mobile device while on the go.

Mobile Is Critical For Auto Dealers

In nearly every industry, shoppers have come to expect a fully immersive mobile experience that offers easy access to product information on any device. And just as important as the user experience is Google’s recent announcement of its plans to add a mobile rankings factor to its algorithm.

Google already gives mobile-friendly sites an advantage by tagging them for users. Soon, sites that haven’t been designed for mobile might not show up in search at all. These developments mean mobile-first marketing using a responsive approach to website design will only become more critical — for most any retail business.

Are you delivering information to consumers about inventory and offerings in a format that’s mobile-first?