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Car buyers turning to mobile as the device of choice for pre-purchase research

David Murphy
The VW ID3 has fuelled interest in electric vehicles

Overall traffic to car manufacturer websites in the UK dropped by 5 per cent year-on-year to a total of 63.5m visits during Q3 2019. But the use of mobiles to browse manufacturer websites is on the rise in the UK, a trend which has been on-going for the past 18 months. For Q3 2019, 52 per cent of traffic (33.1m visits) came from a smartphone, a jump of 5 per cent year-on-year, while PC browsing is down to 32 per cent (20.3m visits), a fall of 4 per cent, and tablet browsing is down 1.7 per cent from last year to 10.1 million.

The figures come from Sophus3, which analyses all volume and premium car brands’ web traffic in Europe, and are based on an analysis of over 1bn online engagements from car buyers.

“Economic and political uncertainty is affecting the car market, but the continued rise in use of smartphones shows consumers are actually becoming more engaged with the process of buying a car, browsing on the go,” said Sophus3 managing director, Scott Gairns. “The car dealership is in your pocket, accessed any time of day or night, rather than somewhere to visit at the weekend, which is time consuming and not always a positive experience.”

Sophus3’s data also shows that interest in electric vehicles rocketed during the first half of 2019, and this trend showed no sign of stalling in Q3. From July to September, visits to electric car pages rose by 36 per cent year-on-year in the UK, while in France interest swelled by 50 per cent. Across the ‘Big 5’ European markets – Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the UK – traffic to EV (Electric Vehicle) sites grew collectively by 22 per cent.

A host of EV releases across the third quarter of the year has stimulated interest. The most popular EV in terms of web traffic across the Big 5 was the Volkswagen ID.3, with the ‘affordable Tesla’, the Model 3, second most popular. The third most popular EV was the MINI Electric, while the closely related Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe were fourth and fifth respectively. The Tesla Model S was sixth most popular.

Sophus3’s data exposes a wide disconnect between potential customers who land on a test drive booking page online, and how many of them actually complete one.Of the 1.4m hits on booking pages across all manufacturers, only 69,000 (4.9 per cent), carried out the test drive: 4.9 per cent.

There was an upturn in the number of interactions – measured as ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘comments’ – on Facebook across all manufacturers. Total interactions rose by 14 per cent from Q2 to Q3, with a total of 658,502 interactions.

Toyota enjoyed the most interactions, with 19 per cent of the total, but the big winner was BMW, which has seen an increase in Facebook interactions of 778 per cent, giving it 17 per cent of the overall share.
In a reverse trend to Facebook, YouTube has seen a 44 per cent decline in the number of views of official manufacturer marketing videos, dropping from 59 million to 33 million.

But it was BMW-owned MINI who topped the list in terms of views, with 13.7 per cent of the total, a leap of 188 per cent. The other success story is Peugeot, which grew by 385 per cent to claim 10.9 per cent of all YouTube views.

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