Many dealers are using mobile devices to keep customers at their store, rather than go elsewhere to do online shopping research, says Alex Vetter, Cars.com’s senior vice president-advertising.

More dealers are arming their staffers with devices such as iPad computer tablets in an effort to enhance the selling process – and encourage the customer to stay put.

Before mobile became such a big part of the car-buying process, consumers often left the dealership to get more information they wanted, typically online at home.

“Now, dealers are keeping customers on their lots by using their mobile devices and incorporating mobile into the in-store experience through QR codes and other activation methods,” Vetter says.

Many dealers cite the benefit of keeping customers on the lot. If they stay, showroom staffers are better positioned to sell against objections and help the shopper gain confidence leading to a purchase.

Today’s car buyers undergo two distinctly different shopping experiences, says dealer Ash Zaki, who thinks he has found a way to bridge the two.

The first experience is digital, where people go online to research car models, check out dealer inventory and seek answers to preliminary questions.

“It's an early experience, but when they ultimately come to the dealership the process is different,” says Zaki, chief operating officer at Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco. “They are asking different questions.”

At the dealership, Zaki uses an iPad to help answer those queries, provide additional information on models and show visuals on how particular automotive systems work.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com