LAS VEGAS – It’s time for automobile dealers to get mobile, Google executives say.

Speaking here to the DrivingSales Executive Summit presented with WardsAuto, Google’s Jonika Hoomes and Tae Kim say consumers have made the shift to smartphones and dealers need to clamber on board.

In fourth-quarter 2010, smartphone sales surpassed personal-computer sales, the Google executives say, and by mid-2012 Web surfers will access as much or more data via their phones as they do with their PCs.

That means if a dealership’s Web page isn’t optimized for mobile, potential customers could lose patience when the site loads too slowly or lacks features that allow them to connect with a salesperson with a click of their computer’s mouse.

Optimizing for mobile “will be most important in reaching customers and having them interact meaningfully,” declares Kim, who heads search-engine management platform partnerships for Google.

When car shopping, 35% use their smartphone to locate a dealership, but only 27% of the top dealer websites “come up on mobile,” he adds.

The Google executives advise dealers not only to make sure their websites are compatible with many devices now available, including iPads and other tablets, but also to maintain a strong presence on the multitude of social-media services consumers are using.

Car buyers now seek information and opinion across 18 different platforms, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, says Hoomes, who heads North American automotive-channel sales partnerships for the search firm.

“Repetition doesn’t hurt the prayer,” she says, advising dealers to provide as many “touch-points” to their showrooms as possible.

“Online search drives calls and store traffic,” Hoomes says, pointing to Google data indicating 46% of local online searches result in phone calls to the dealer and 37% lead to a visit to the showroom.

Nearly a third of the searches are performed when dealerships are closed, she points out. “You need to have a virtual showroom that is open 24/7.”

Dealers not actively optimizing their search results could be missing out big time when it comes to luring new buyers, the Google executives say.

The firm’s data show 74% of car shoppers spend about a month researching their purchase, and 24% change their mind during that process about which vehicle to buy.

Although 60% of the Google searches involve vehicle comparisons of content and price, 47% of consumers are looking to find a local dealer. More than half of new- and used-car buyers say the Internet led them to the dealership.

“That tells you your information needs to be out there,” Hoomes says.

Like other consultants and analysts here, the Google executives emphasize the importance of including video and other compelling content on a dealership’s website.

“Video is huge,” Hoomes says. “Sixty-one percent of people who see a video visit the dealership’s website.

“Search is giving consumers a lot of choice. It’s difficult to get their attention.”

dzoia@wardsauto.com