The Road to Purchase in a Mobile-First World

There are many moments that take place before a vehicle shopper becomes a new vehicle owner, from conducting research and asking friends and family for advice to narrowing down options and taking a test drive. No matter how much research one does and how many sources one consults, purchasing a new car is and always has been a complex process. To help auto brands better understand and connect with the people who matter to them, Facebook commissioned Ipsos Media CT to conduct a study of US auto intenders ages 18+ on how the car-purchasing process has changed for them and what it means for marketers.

A complicated purchase cycle

The average American consumer considers 2.5 types of vehicles, such as a compact SUV or mid-sized sedan, and 5 brands before making their car-purchasing decision. 60% of people are “in market” for a car for at least 6 months, gathering research and seeking advice to help guide their decision making. Besides price range, which most people decide on at the beginning of the purchase research cycle, consumers refine their choice of vehicle elements—such as vehicle type, size, fuel type, brand and other features—as the actual purchase approaches and they become more educated.

FBIQ Auto study_Certainty of vehicle elements

Opportunity gap on digital

By the last month before purchase, most people have narrowed down the type, size, fuel source, brand and other vehicle features for their car-purchasing decision. In fact, 59% of average car buyers1 have narrowed down their choice of vehicle to 1–2 cars by the last month before purchase. But this last month is when people say they are exposed to the most car ads on digital. This signals an opportunity for marketers to reach and influence car buyers on digital earlier in the purchase cycle, when they are still trying to decide on their choice of vehicle and features.

FBIQ Auto study_Opportunity gap on digital_reported ad exposure

The shift to mobile-first auto consumers

People are increasingly doing their vehicle research on mobile, and this shift is only going to increase as mobile grows in the future. 27% of people report doing most of their vehicle research on a mobile device. For key consumer segments, this number is even higher: 45% of Millennials (ages 18–34), 48% of Hispanics2 and 41% of people with household incomes greater than $200K report doing most of their research on a mobile device.

These mobile-first consumers are struggling. More than 7 in 10 mobile-first consumers report feeling overwhelmed by all the information that is available. They are 3X more likely to find it difficult to get the information they need to make their car-purchasing decisions versus consumers who do most of their research on other devices. Furthermore, 65% of these mobile-first consumers worry that they’re going to make the wrong decision. Brands have an opportunity to provide helpful information to these consumers with a mobile-first experience in mind.

What it means for marketers

Reach people on digital earlier in the purchase process: By the last month before purchase, the average buyer has narrowed down their vehicle choices significantly. But the last month is when people are exposed to the most digital ads. Brands can use the power of digital to drive awareness, consideration and intent before buyers make up their minds.

Make it mobile: Mobile is where key audiences are doing their vehicle research. But these mobile-first buyers are struggling to find the right information they need to make their car purchase decisions. Brands can design experiences with mobile-first buyers in mind, providing information in bite-sized, easy-to-digest, highly visual formats. This is especially relevant for attracting key audiences like Millennials, Hispanics, people with high household incomes and also future consumers, as mobile use for auto purchase intenders will only increase.


Source: “The Road to Purchase in a Mobile-first World” by Ipsos Media CT (study commissioned by Facebook), Mar–Apr 2015. This was an online study of adults ages 18–64 in the US conducted with 1,501 respondents intending to buy or lease a new vehicle in the next year. Quotas were set for intended purchase date (1/3 each for 0 to less than 3 months, 3 to less than 6 months and 6 to less than 12 months).
1. Respondents who report not being asked advice about cars by others. Average car buyers represent 87% of survey respondents.
2. Based on self-identification in survey response