SYDNEY: Car buyers in Australia are increasingly using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to research purchases, according to a new report.

The Australian Automotive Report, from Nielsen, the researcher, found the use of smartphones had doubled during 2012 to account for 29% of devices used in the decision-making process, while that of tablets had risen fivefold to 26%.

The main digital touchpoints, however, continue to be laptops and desktops, at 64% and 62% respectively of research interactions.

Almost three quarters of potential buyers use online sources, with manufacturers' websites a typical destination.

The picture is set to change further as more households buy smart TVs, suggested Melanie Ingrey, research director, Nielsen Media Division, APMEA, as reported in Marketing.

"Internet connected TVs have the potential to be used as a shared online device for group viewing and browsing in the living room," she said.

"This new connected screen (once penetration increases) holds opportunities for marketers and content providers to support 'family' or group experiences to move car buyers through their decision making process, particularly as many car purchase decisions are made with the recommendation and input of friends and family."

Social media also has a role to play, with a quarter of people using this channel as part of the decision-making process when buying a car.

"These findings signal a real interest in peer reviews and feedback from like-minded consumers," said Grey. "They also highlight the continued opportunities for brands to utilise social platforms and spaces as a means of connecting with, and communicating with customers."

Traditional sources of information remain important, although the emphasis may change depending on whether a new or used car is sought.

Thus, 76% of new-car buyers visit a dealer, but only 59% of used-car buyers do so. Similarly more new-car buyers than used-car buyers will consult print publications (61% v 51%) or television (35% v 21%).

Word of mouth, however, is more important for the used-car buyer than the new-car buyer (61% v 55%).

Data sourced from Marketing; additional content by Warc staff