Two years ago sophus3 undertook a first audit of car brand websites to test how well they performed when viewed through a mobile device. A follow up audit conducted over the summer found that many automotive sites have still not come to terms with the fact that the majority of visits now take place on what were thought as ‘non-standard’ devices. Here is a summary of the audit’s findings.
DEVICE USE ON CAR BRAND SITES
Using data through the eDataXchange project the audit revealed the following.
- Since the first quarter of 2017 the majority of site visits to UK car brand sites now take place on a mobile device, either a phone (31%) or tablet (20%). Visits on conventional PCs are now in the minority (49%)
- The visitor on a tablet spends over three times as long viewing content as a visitor using either a smartphone or PC. Users of tablets are perhaps more predisposed for an ‘immersive’ experience – yet many sites continue to serve truncated content and low resolution images to these popular devices.
- The audit found the number of people who are ‘coming back for more’ is relatively higher amongst mobile and tablet users with a greater percentage of return visits from these devices.
SITES UNDER SCRUTINY
Using a range of devices to test 21 different car brand sites across the European ‘Big 5 markets’, many shortcomings were identified.
- Model pages, the prime destination for site visitors, often work poorly on devices other than PCs giving a ‘second rate’ experience on tablet devices.
- Key functionality such as the vehicle configurator is often unavailable or fails on mobile and tablet devices. Only one brand had a vehicle configurator that worked robustly across all devices.
- Dealer locator pages on the whole worked effectively, but no brand is using geolocation technology to proactively approach site visitors according to where they are.
- Contact forms for brochures and test drive requests were in many cases needlessly lengthy and difficult to complete on devices without keyboards.
- Many sites still offer downloadable brochures in ‘print format’ presenting the user of a 5cm wide cell phone screen with a facsimile of a document designed to be over half a metre wide when printed.
SOME THINGS FOR CAR BRANDS TO CONSIDER
Amongst the recommendations made at the end of the audit were:
- ‘Device shift’ will continue: ensuring a brand’s digital assets work across any and all devices is a growing imperative in the highly competitive automotive market.
- The variation in the split of devices across different sites suggests some brands may be losing disproportionate numbers of visitors on mobile devices. Benchmarking activity needs to be device sensitive.
- Those managing car brand websites should monitor their sites through a range of real world devices. Likewise those building and maintaining sites should not rely on ‘agent switchers’ to review usability.
- If they are not already using ‘responsive’ design, automotive OEMs should be considering it urgently. The audit found more problems and shortcomings where brands were trying to maintain separate content for different devices.
- The content served specifically to tablet users should be reviewed. Many sites are delivering a cellphone experience to an audience that want a far more ‘immersive’ interaction with the brand.
- Many of the sites surveyed were hampered by house styles developed in the era of the printed brochure that do not translate to the small screen: brands need to review their visual identities to fit the digital age.
A FINAL WORD
Car brands need to move from a mindset of ‘accommodating’ mobile devices to affording them primacy. The audit suggests that while things have improved since our 2013 audit, many brands fail to escape a ‘PC centric’ mindset.
Many sites are still not ‘fit for purpose’ in critical areas – most notably in allowing a consumer to simply configure their vehicle choice, speedily access a readable brochure, or quickly initiate a request to a dealer.
There is much work still to be done to meet these challenges, but what is clear is that brands who are first in meeting consumers’ expectations on their preferred devices will enjoy a considerable competitive advantage.
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The eDataXchange project
eDataXchange (eDX) is a sector and country collaborative project that monitors consumer behaviour across websites. It enables participants to set targets, benchmark their performance against others and understand the effect of both their own and competitors’ marketing campaigns on traffic to their websites.
Auto Market Intelligence
AMI is sophus3’s quarterly journal of ideas and analysis aimed at e-business professionals working in, or supporting, the automotive sector. The journal focuses on innovation and developments that are impacting the sector, as well as providing a detailed review of on-going brand performance.