Blog / December 6, 2016

3 Ways Consumers and Businesses Are Changing Automotive Marketing

By Matt Liengang

The world of automotive marketing is vastly different today than it was 10 years ago (or even 5 years ago).  With the amount of information available online and auto shoppers’ ability to educate themselves prior to stepping on a showroom floor, content and advertising has taken an increasingly influential role in the automotive path to purchase.

Without the dealership’s salespeople making the initial introduction, dealership marketing strategies and programs are left to do the heavy lifting. But is that possible? Not all marketing is created equal, and if auto marketers are going to survive in this new world, they need to understand three important trends shaping automotive marketing and advertising today.

1. The Role of the Marketer Is Changing

The marketing department was always perceived as a cost center for businesses. A necessary method to ensure that people were aware of the brand and to generate demand for the product. It wasn’t necessarily a place where marketers had to track direct revenue and ROAS from those efforts.

With the advent of the internet, and later digital advertising, businesses can actually measure and track the actions of their target customers online and prove the effects of marketing and advertising campaigns. Knowing that this is possible puts pressure on public corporations to show the impact in all of their marketing campaigns–even when the industry at large hasn’t shifted to those means quite yet.

According to a study from Gartner, marketing leaders say that 12 percent of company revenue is allocated to marketing expenses, on average. This is a fundamental shift away from marketing as a cost center and towards marketing as an investment to drive sales. Yes, marketers have higher budgets, but it also means that a return is expected from that spend, and not just the parts that are easily tracked.

2. Consumer Media Consumption Is Evolving

Every statistic and media outlet has been telling us for the past decade about the decline in radio and print consumption–that’s not news anymore. But what is interesting is that those channels have gone from bad to even worse in terms of consumer consumption.

Print Consumption Decline

In 2012, consumers were spending as little as 92 and 40 minutes each day with radio and print, respectively. Projections for 2017 show those numbers dipping to a paltry 84 and 27 minutes each day.

So where does that leave auto marketers? There are other, more impactful, digital options that are increasing in consumption year-over-year. According to an eMarketer report, adults in the US are spending 5.5 hours each day watching video in some form. Additionally, online video is taking up a larger share of the market with each passing year.

Marketing activities need to take place where consumers are and in a way that is relevant and interesting to them. However, most outcome-oriented marketers are poorly prepared for this shift.

3. Auto Buyers Are More Empowered and Savvy

The internet has created a totally different auto industry than the one we saw just 10 years ago. According to DME Automotive, more than 68 percent of car buyers visit two or fewer dealerships before making a purchase. Automotive marketing used to be about getting prospective buyers to the dealership and the salesperson would work their magic to sell them a car. Now, dealerships are little more than test-drive centers for consumers to cross-check their online research with how they feel about the car in-person.

Automotive video marketing has also taken showrooms to a new level. Potential customers have the option to get a full run-down of a vehicle without ever stepping foot on the showroom floor. Their primary purpose when visiting a showroom is just to actually drive the vehicle; they already have all of the information about it from online research.

Final Thoughts

What does this all mean for automotive marketing? The goal is still to get people into the dealership, but the reason that the consumer comes now is much different. They are coming to purchase, not learn about what the dealership has to offer.

To truly capitalize on the changing trends, localized, dynamic ad messaging is crucial for dealerships today. While the standard national ad is good to make consumers aware of models, there are still three crucial questions that the ad needs to answer for the viewer:

  1. Where can you buy the car?
  2. What features and benefits separate the vehicle from others in the same segment?
  3. What offers and incentives are available locally and what colors are available on the lot?

Consumers need all of this information before going in to make a purchase, and it needs to be accurate. The key for automotive marketers is giving this information to the right customer, at the right time and in the right place.


Learn more about how auto brands are making ads more relevant to today’s consumers.

Matt Liengang

More about the author

Matt Liengang VP of Sales - West

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