ResearchApr 7th, 2014

How Mobile and Millennials Are Transforming the Vehicle Purchase Process


Millennials, consumers under 35 years old, are changing the landscape of the automotive industry, but new DMEautomotive research reveals that these younger consumers invest more time, particularly on mobile devices, while consumers over the age of 35 are more demanding when it comes to a mobile-friendly experience. Mobile devices also continue to make vehicle sales more elusive for dealers since both young and older consumers continue to shop competing dealers, even while they are in a dealer’s showroom.

Compared to consumers over 35, millennials are more likely to be value shoppers and delay their brand or model decision until the last possible moment. They are even more likely to take longer when making a purchase decision, with half taking four or more months to decide versus a little over a third of those over 35. But it’s the millennials’ search for the best value that influences this prolonged decision-making process. One of the most significant tools used in this search for the best value is none other than the consumer’s mobile device. Fifty-three percent of younger customers used their mobile phone for research, almost double the rate of older customers who only used their mobile phone 28% of the time.

So what are millennials searching on their mobile devices?

Over 75% of them spend time checking prices, reading reviews, viewing photos, and over 50% of them check for trade-in values and incentives. And almost half of these younger customers stated that they were likely to schedule a test drive via their phone, compared to only 16% of customers over 35. While the millennial consumer may be more tech-savvy and fluent in mobile research, it’s actually the over 35 consumer that requires a more mobile-friendly experience with 75% reporting that they would stop their online search if a website was not mobile optimized, compared to only 53% of millennials.

The difference in overall usage of mobile phones, however, primarily applies to pre-dealership behavior, because 48% of consumers, regardless of age, use their mobile device to search for vehicles while they are on the lot. While the likelihood of using mobile devices on the lot is high for both groups, millennials are almost twice as likely to look up vehicle information (44%) or search inventory (35%). But what’s even more alarming is that 30% of millennials and 19% of customers over 35 are actually searching inventory of competing dealers on the lot. In other words, mobile is creating greater transparency in the final purchase decision and making it more difficult to win over millennials and older customers alike.

Today’s dealers should expect a longer purchase process from millennials, but it’s important to understand the critical role that mobile plays from start to finish. If dealers aren’t mobile optimizing every digital asset of the dealership, then they’re going lose in today’s ultra-competitive market.

Doug Van Sach is Vice President, Strategy & Analytics for DMEautomotive (DMEa), the industry leader in science-based, results-driven automotive marketing. To learn more please visit

Authored by

Steven Couture

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