With close to 200 million tablets sold in 2013 and smartphone ownership at 58% nationwide, the lines of the mobile web are quickly fading. Cross-platform browsing – moving freely between desktop, tablet and smartphone – is now the norm for many consumers, and it’s drastically reshaped the way businesses need to tailor their online presence.

On Cars.com, we’re seeing this shift firsthand. With more than 30 million visits to our site in February, nearly 50% of which came from either a smartphone or tablet, car shoppers are showing us that mobile is not only a massive part of the overall online experience, but that it’s multi-faceted; shoppers can obtain the information they need using a mobile device in a variety of different ways.

Changing consumer preferences

Large-format smartphones and palm-sized tablets have made differentiating between the two types of devices difficult, but a good rule of thumb is this: If an activity can be done on a smartphone, it likely will be.


Our recent study shows that 25% of car shoppers will conduct research using only a smartphone, prior to visiting a dealership. That means the way your store shows up on an iPhone or Android device is the only way that a quarter of your potential customers are exposed to it. Not having mobile-optimized advertising channels means you’re likely missing out on incremental audience of tech-savvy car shoppers.

Location, Location, Location

Consumers are rarely without their smartphones and frequently rely on them to access information while on the go. Conversely, tablets are typically used while at home or work. “Lean back” activities, such as comparison shopping while sitting on the couch watching TV, are commonly associated with the latter.

Within automotive, smartphone activities are more likely to be contact-based, such as sending a text message or activating a click-to-call button, whereas tablet activities are often research-intensive. Though it’s common for shoppers to look up information on a specific vehicle, check the reviews of a dealership and compare pricing offers using a smartphone while on a dealership lot, they’re likely to turn to a tablet or PC if they need to do extensive research.

Overlapping experiences

Access to high-speed data and improved mobile design has increased the functionality of both smartphone and tablet platforms; mobile devices are becoming more valuable yet costing less. Because of this, consumers expect consistent quality throughout their entire online and mobile experience, not just when using an app or browsing a mobile website. More than one-third of consumers use multiple devices when shopping for a car, so connecting your dealership’s message and presenting relevant content that’s platform-specific can make a world of difference in satisfying the needs of would-be mobile customers.

How has mobile changed the way you approach marketing at your dealership? Let us know in the comments below our by sharing on the DealerADvantage Facebook page.