Smart TVs, mobile and social the future for desktop-dominated car research

Online car research is still predominantly done at home on desktops, with three-quarters of car buyers using the internet in the path to purchase, but mobile touch points are growing in popularity.

Australian car buyers utilise online resources at all stages of the buyer journey, according to Nielsen, with laptops and desktops used in over 60% of research interactions, while smartphones and tablets are only used in 29% and 26% of searches respectively.

However, the researcher’s ‘Australian Automotive Report 2012′ found mobile devices were growing quickly as an access medium for car-related information, with smartphones up 14% over the past year and tablets up 21%.

Opportunities to  fulfil car buyers’ information needs and move them through the decision-making process online are abundant, research director, Nielsen Media Division, APMEA, Melanie Ingrey comments. “Online sources are unquestionably important in the car buying decision-making process, and their influence is growing,” Ingrey says.

Automotive research process – resources and devises used

Online sources are second only to visiting car dealerships among new car buyers, and are used even more prolifically among buyers of used cars. Auto manufacturers’ websites are the most common destinations among online researchers.

As people becoming even more connected, smart TVs and social media are expected to become important components of the decision making resource structure.

“Internet connected TVs have the potential to be used as a shared online device for group viewing and browsing in the living room,” Ingrey points out. “This new connected screen (once penetration increases) holds opportunities for marketers and content providers to support ‘family’ or group experiences to move car buyers through their decision making process, particularly as many car purchase decisions are made with the recommendation and input of friends and family.”

One in four use social media as part of the automotive decision-making process, and 28% of those who use social media to interact with brands having engaged with a car brand on a social network.

“These findings signal a real interest in peer reviews and feedback from like-minded consumers. They also highlight the continued opportunities for brands to utilise social platforms and spaces as a means of connecting with, and communicating with customers,” Ingrey says.

Among used car buyers, Car Sales is by far the most popular site called upon, with three-quarters (73%) using the site. Cars Guide is the most popular site among used car buyers with one in two (49%) accessing the resource.

However, despite the increase of online and mobile sources, traditional sources of research remain popular tools, the study also found. Print media as an awareness and discovery mechanism is particularly popular among new car buyers with two-thirds (65%) using print resources at the awareness stage.

“It is clear that consumers are looking to varied sources for information; whether it is websites, forums, Facebook pages or classified sites like Car Sales, in addition to the traditional sources such as print media and visiting car dealerships,” Ingrey concludes.