On the Fast Track with Cars.com

By the Editors

An estimated 80 million people in the United States used their mobile device to shop last year. When we think of mobile shopping, a few things probably come to mind. We may picture mobile users comparison shopping online while making a purchase in a retail store, or a consumer browsing products on amazon.com using their smartphone. We don’t necessarily think about customers turning to their mobile devices to make large purchases like cars. But at a recent industry event, cars.com revealed that 36% of their potential customers access their mobile site and apps on their smartphones and tablets. Here’s how cars.com is engaging with their customers through the mobile channel, and here’s what you can learn from their case study.

Cars.com launched during the height of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. The website went live in 1998, providing customers with a unique way to research vehicles from nearby dealerships that sold new and used cars, independent sellers, and direct vehicle manufacturers. The site managed to pull through unscathed when the dot-com bubble finally burst in March of 2000. And today over 23 million people access the site as a resource monthly to help them make informed purchases of new and used vehicles.

Cars.com launched their mobile website back in 2010, and their first mobile app for iPhone shortly thereafter. Initially, the iPhone app was met with some serious criticism from customers who downloaded it to help them research vehicles. Users complained about the lack of inventory and visual content on the mobile app. The cars.com mobile team quickly responded by featuring more cars on its app and engaging users with additional visual content. The goal was to arm mobile users with all the information they needed to do their homework before purchasing a vehicle. Cars.com expanded their reach with an Android and iPad app in 2011.

The cars.com apps allow mobile customers to find their perfect vehicle locally. Smartphone and tablet users can search available inventory using a variety of features such as make and model, car color, age, price, and more. Mobile users can also use the app to compare and contrast different attributes, search the car’s history to find out if it has ever been in an accident or had any major problems related to the automatic transmission or engine issues, and read numerous reviews of cars that interest them. Once a potential customer has found their ideal car, they can choose to map out local dealerships or find independent sellers nearby. The apps create serious value for customers by providing them with a outlet to comprehensively research vehicles and make an informed purchasing decision.

Cars.com has experienced significant success with mobile because they have developed an app that truly creates value for their on-the-go customers. They did their homework before jumping feet first into mobile to determine how an app would be helpful for their customers and their business. And they responded to concerns by making adjustments to the app after their initial launch to effectively meet the needs of mobile customers.