Keep Up With Cross-Shopping Customers by Using Mobile Location Data

Location data helps dealers stay in step with in-market auto buyers, who are savvier than ever

It’s no secret that auto buyers shop around. In fact, they’re savvier than ever.


They come to the dealership armed with research they conducted online or with their phones and tablets. They rattle off comparison data about torque and cargo space (even if they can’t tell you what torque actually does), and they’ve got numbers on lease deals from your competitors down the street or in the next town over.

But just as in-market auto buyers have gotten smarter, so have automotive brands and dealers, and mobile location data is helping them get there. For instance, it’s showing them that mass-market brands elicit the most comparison or cross-shopping, while there’s far less dealership-visit crossover when people evaluate luxury vehicles.

This sophisticated information can show not only that buyers who went to a dealership also visited a different dealership, but specifically which competitor locations they visited, and whether they went there before or after.

It can also show when people stopped at a dealership after visiting a home goods or grocery store nearby, or have come directly from a residential location in a nearby city.

It can be combined with other data to indicate the customers’ approximate age ranges, income levels, and other demographic data, such as whether they are likely to have children.

All of this is good news for today’s dealers. It means they have the opportunity to be as data-driven in their roles in the auto-selling process as their customers are on the buy side.

Foot traffic analysis

When our company analyzed foot traffic to dealerships, we looked at visits to more than 18,000 auto dealerships across the U.S. over a two-year period, accounting for every major automotive manufacturer.

When car shoppers travel from dealership to dealership proverbially kicking tires, their mobile devices leave behind anonymous trails, revealing their path from one spot to another.

Mobile location data providers can complement this information with demographic and other data from third parties, providing a richer picture of who is visiting dealer lots than ever before.

Our analysis uncovered a great deal of information about comparison shopping that dealers can use as leverage to boost business.

We found that when people shop for mass-market auto brands, they really get around. Dodge, Jeep, Toyota, Ford, and Chrysler topped the rankings when it came to cross-shopping, meaning that when people visited the dealerships that sell these brands, they also looked at many other brands.

Meanwhile, people compared multiple brands in person far less often when checking out high-end luxury automobiles. Lincoln, Infiniti, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Acura were lowest in our rankings, indicating greater loyalty to these brands.

So mobile location data can reveal many specifics about how people mix and match visits to dealerships. For example, we discovered that when it comes to brand match-ups, shoppers directly compared Chrysler and Ford vehicles more than any other on-the-lot comparisons.

Maybe that seems obvious to seasoned dealers. Yet, long-term observations of dealership foot traffic data can also spotlight less-likely cross-shopping pair-ups.


Among the less obvious, most cross-shopped brand combinations we found was Ford vs. Mazda, possibly the result of people comparing the Ford Focus to the Mazda3 or the Ford Escape to Mazda’s CX-5.

How dealers can use the data

What does this all mean for dealers? Well, knowing that customers are also visiting Mazda dealerships, a Ford dealer might have comparison data on hand, highlighting Ford’s benefits.

Or, if the dealer knows potential customers also shopped at a nearby grocery store or came from a specific town, they may consider targeted advertising reaching people near the store or in their hometowns.

Although our mobile location data showed that brand preferences seem to have a direct connection to the volume of cross-shopping, there appeared to be little distinction in terms of demographics between people who visited one dealership and those who showed up in several.

Indeed, when it came to gender and age, people who dropped by many dealer lots didn’t look much different from those who visited just one dealership.

Individual dealerships, however, might look at mobile location data specific to their area to find useful demographic clues about their shoppers.

So, at the same time our digital world has helped car buyers make more well-informed purchase decisions through online research—not to mention mapped their routes to dealerships on consumers’ smartphones—mobile location data is giving dealers relevant information that improves the sales side of the process.

Gladys Kong is the CEO of UberMedia, a mobile location data and technology firm in Pasadena, California. An expert in mobile technology and data solutions, she has been recognized for her work in digital mobile innovation by Business Insider and Mobile Marketer.

Gladys Kong

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