Google's Swipeable Car Ads Are Turning Search Into a Mobile Showroom

Toyota's happy with early results

Google's Model Automotive Ads let users swipe through images of car interiors and exteriors.

Google is continuing to drive home the idea of micromoments by turning auto ads into beautiful, swipeable, searchable image showrooms.

The Mountain View, Calif., company today unveiled what it's calling Model Automotive Ads, the first search ad format that lets users swipe through images of cars they're curious about. According to Google, one in two auto searches related to make or model are now happening on smartphones. Images in the updated ad format include additional info about each model such as miles per gallon and advanced features.

"The way people shop for cars has changed," Google said in a blog post today. "The days of going from dealership to dealership are over. People now turn to their smartphones in critical auto shopping moments to research models, find deals, and get real-time advice."

That makes sense, considering more than half of all Google searches happen on mobile devices. According to Google's research, undecided new-car shoppers rely on images to narrow their choices. In fact, searches for images of specific auto brands are up 37 percent compared with last year. Of those image searches, 80 percent are now done on mobile.

The photos, which include interior and exterior shots, have given the brands testing the format in beta on average a 30 percent increase in engagement rate. One of those brands, Toyota, has seen visitors to its website from intent-based queries increase by 40 percent.

"We've already seen increased engagement via swipes and clicks, and Toyota will absolutely continue to partner with companies like Google to invest in platform-specific ad formats that make the customer experience the priority," said Lisa McQueen, media planner for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, which has been testing the new ads over the past year.

McQueen said that as the mobile migration continues to change how consumers research and shop for vehicles, the new ads let Toyota anticipate customer needs by leveraging search queries. She said the "visually rich" ads deliver stronger conversions to than text-based mobile ads.

To go along with the latest auto ads, Google released data about how a single car consumer's buying process typically plays out over a three-month period:

  • 900 digital interactions to find info about leasing or buying a car
  • 71 percent of all interactions happened on mobile devices
  • 139 Google searches conducted
  • 14 auto-related YouTube videos watched
  • 14 car brands explored before deciding on two
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