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Mobile Web Growth in the Auto Industry

I’m sure I’m not the only one working in digital marketing in the auto industry who has heard “this is the year of mobile”, every single year for the past 5 years.
Most people saying that in the past few years have been wrong, and right at the same time. When most people say that, they are referring to the shift in advertising budgets. The shift they are referring to is a shift from spending on traditional advertising mediums to spending more in the digital space, specifically in mobile. This is the part they have been wrong about. Overall, manufactures and dealers in the Auto industry have not increased their mobile advertising budgets at the rate that digital advertisers have suggested they do so. However, consumer internet device usage, while researching or shopping for a car, has changed drastically over the past 3+ years. This is the part those people have been right about. Consumers are now using their mobile phone to shop for a car, more often than they use a desktop/laptop. When you dig deeper into the data, you will find that this trend has been forming and growing since 2013.

Taking the conversation a step further

The Marketing Intelligence team at Search Optics has been watching this trend closely throughout the years. We’ve seen several other members in the digital marketing world perform studies and write articles talking about this trend. So, as we analyzed our automotive industry data, we decided to take things a step further, and look at each internet traffic medium individually. This approach has helped us uncover some interesting insights. The below infographic was developed after analyzing web traffic (Sessions) from 94 automotive dealership websites across the United States, from various auto brands, over 3+ years. The infographic timeline tells the story of the growth in automotive mobile web traffic, by showing when each traffic medium saw the volume of mobile Sessions surpass that of desktop/laptop. As you can see, total automotive web traffic (all mediums combined) saw mobile surpass desktop/laptop in March 2014. However, it's the individual mediums that tell a more interesting story.

 Insights gathered from the Automotive Mobile Web Infographic:

*When I say mobile, I’m only referring to smartphones, excluding tablets. When I say desktop, I’m referring to desktop and laptop

  • Consumers in the auto industry are adapting to mobile faster than the marketing budgets are
  • We saw mobile surpass desktop in the auto industry in Mar. 2014, and as many of you know, the industry spend in mobile has lagged behind
  • There is still time to adapt, and its now more important than ever, as comScorereported more internet users exclusively using mobile than desktop in Mar. 2015, and Google reported seeing more mobile searches than desktop in May 2015
  • Mobile auto shoppers are embracing Paid Search at a quicker rate than they are Organic Search
  • Automotive Paid Search mobile traffic surpassed desktop in Aug. 2015, while Organic mobile traffic has yet to surpass desktop
  • A predictive analysis, done by the Search Optics Marketing Intelligence team, tells us that Automotive Organic mobile traffic will surpass desktop in Dec. 2016
  • Back in Mar. 2013, Referral traffic became the first medium in the auto industry to see more mobile than desktop traffic, followed by Display traffic in Jan. 2014, and Direct traffic in Feb. 2014
  • Social Media mobile traffic surpassed desktop in Sep. 2014, and has far exceeded desktop throughout 2015 and thus far 2016

Organic Search vs Paid Search

As discussed above in the infographic timeline, we are seeing the auto industry, specifically its mobile consumers, embracing mobile Paid Search at a faster rate than Organic Search. This could be due to the smaller screen size, when compared to a desktop. With less real-estate on the mobile screen, mobile web consumers are seeing Paid Search ads at the top of their screen, and do not see as much of the Organic Search listings on a mobile device. The willingness of mobile consumers to engage with Paid Search, over scrolling down the Organic listings, proves the value of mobile Paid Search advertising in the automotive industry. Owning the mobile Paid Search ad space will be crucial for auto advertisers throughout 2016.

An exclusive look at tablet usage of auto shoppers

As Seen in the bar graphs above, tablet traffic, across Paid Search & Organic Search, peaked in 2014 and has been trending downward ever since. This trend has also been seen across the other traffic mediums as well. The thought here is that the initial buzz of owning a tablet started to wear off in 2015, and thus far in 2016. While at the same time, we are seeing smartphone screen sizes increase, as phone manufacturers are coming out with phabletsFinally, we have noticed that auto shoppers are using their smartphones more-and-more while on vehicle lots. These 3 factors combined have helped to further increase smartphone traffic, while decreasing tablet traffic.


Thanks for reading. For more auto data and info, please see my other content on LinkedIn.

Views: 172

Tags: Auto, Growth, Industry, Mobile, Web, in, the


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