The answer? No, one isn’t better than the other as they are both important to the larger car shopper audience and help drive that walk-in traffic. We’ve been discussing the role smartphones play in the car shopping process for a while now, but we haven’t specifically addressed the use of mobile apps and mobile websites. We found that 93% of consumers use mobile apps on their smartphones and of those consumers, 46% use apps that help with their car shopping journey¹ (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Mobile Influence on Car Shopping, White Paper. Cars.com, February 2017.
It could be personal preference to use a mobile app over a mobile website, but our research suggests that car shoppers continue to use their smartphones on the lot to further cross-shop inventory or reinforce their decisions to purchase¹. When it comes to reporting on traffic via mobile, both mobile apps and mobile website usage allows us to track engagement with inventory on Cars.com – as long as they turn on location services in their phone settings.
Which is why it’s interesting that a majority of car shoppers only use location services if the app requests or requires its use (Figure 2). It’s a good rule of thumb that when reviewing reporting that highlights geo-locating metrics like our Lot Insights report, that these numbers likely underreport the total number of consumers who are using their smartphones in their car shopping journey while on the lot.
Figure 2. Mobile Influence on Car Shopping, White Paper. Cars.com, February 2017.
This is great information to better understand the role of apps in helping to drive a purchase, but what role do mobile websites play in the car shopping process? A large one. Usage of a mobile website in the car shopping process leads the way in requesting a vehicle quote, viewing vehicle options and features, and reading vehicle reviews when compared to app usage¹ (Figure 3). Usage of mobile websites could be related to familiarity in seeing a browser and typing in a URL versus not knowing if an app is available – but, again, it can come down to personal preference on how best to search, research, and compare vehicles.
Figure 3. Mobile Influence on Car Shopping, White Paper. Cars.com, February 2017.
Those dealers that are optimized for mobile are going to win out in the car shoppers mind and win more market share from competitors.
 Mobile Influence on Car Shopping, White Paper. Cars.com, February 2017.