MobileAutomotive Mobile Ad Strategies Must Consider Varied Purchase Drivers & Timing

Automotive Mobile Ad Strategies Must Consider Varied Purchase Drivers & Timing

The mobile auto category presents a major opportunity for marketers to capitalize on a wide array of conversions. An effective mobile ad strategy must align with mobile auto searchers’ buying needs and ultimately help steer them toward a purchase.


The automotive industry is experiencing a boom in mobile ad spending. Expenditures have increased nearly 375 percent from Q2 2011 to Q2 2012.

Combined with a 51 percent conversion rate among mobile auto searchers per the recent xAd-Telmetrics Mobile Path to Purchase Study (disclosure: I’m President of Telmetrics), this is an encouraging trend. It reflects auto merchants’ expanded investment from online to mobile as well as a marked shift in prioritizing this ready-to-buy audience.

Further, there is immense untapped opportunity to capture mobile auto buyers. Only one out of three searchers knows exactly what they are looking for.

However, as the study results revealed, mobile ad strategies in the auto category can be tricky. The segment is comprised of distinct purchase motivations and preferences due to the nearly even split between buyers searching for auto parts and services (likely for near-term purchases) and those conducting new and used vehicle research (likely a longer purchase cycle).

To capitalize on effective mobile ad strategies that reach consumers at the right stages of the purchase cycle, marketers must understand the nuances of mobile Auto user preferences and behaviors and tailor their campaigns to meet their diverse needs.

Smartphone Users More Interested in Immediate Auto Purchase

While half of mobile auto users have made a purchase after interacting with a mobile app or mobile website on either a smartphone or tablet, there are variances in device usages and purchase timing.

Smartphone users tend to complete their auto-related searches while on the go, while tablet users more frequently search at home. Also smartphone users in this category are looking to make more immediate buying decisions with 36 percent of them – as opposed to 25 percent of tablet users – looking to make a purchase immediately or within the hour.

By understanding device usage nuances and purchase timing behavior, marketers can more effectively tailor their mobile ad strategies to yield conversions at the right time of the purchase cycle.

Mobile Auto Category Utilized on As-Needed Basis Mostly via Websites

Mobile consumers tend to search for auto needs on an “as needed“ basis, with 15 percent of users searching for auto related information. Due to this occasional use, mobile auto users overwhelmingly prefer to engage with websites rather than mobile apps – with mobile auto users spending 92 percent of their time on mobile websites.

Also, since mobile searchers spend less time interacting with direct auto content than “everyday” categories like restaurants, auto marketers should proactively insert themselves into key mobile feeder categories like financial services, news, and entertainment. This approach ensures more frequent exposure to mobile auto searchers on an ongoing basis.

Price, Relevancy and Proximity Key Drivers for Ad Engagement

As in other categories, mobile auto users are focused on price, offers, and relevance when it comes to mobile ads, as 63 percent of mobile auto searchers click on ads that include coupons or promotions and 55 percent respond to mobile ads that are relevant to their search.

Additionally, location plays a significant role. Nearly half of mobile auto users look up a location or driving directions. Also 49 percent look up an auto-related location within driving distance and 42 percent of smartphone users conduct searches from their car.

By incorporating these key drivers into mobile ad campaigns, marketers can better capture mobile auto buyers by prominently including relevant information and competitive deals, as well as local business information such as phone number and driving directions, within mobile ads.

Mobile Auto Searchers Split into Four Profiles

The mobile auto category includes a wide array of demographics and purchase intentions. While the vertical’s mobile user base is largely Caucasian males between 25-44 years of age with an annual income between $50,000 to $100,000, four primary user profiles emerged from the study:

  • Auto Researchers
  • Deal Hunters
  • Circumstantial or Emergency Users
  • Gear Heads (hobbyists)

Each of these sub-segments reflect varying purchase motivations and timing needs. Marketers must acknowledge and treat buyer types separately when tailoring mobile ad programs.


The mobile auto category presents a major opportunity for marketers to capitalize on a wide array of conversions. However, understanding device usage nuances, as well as the implications of how the category is utilized and key ad engagement factors, are integral for developing an effective mobile ad strategy that effectively aligns with mobile auto searchers’ buying needs and ultimately helps drive them toward a purchase.


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