Blog / November 1, 2016

What Drives Auto Buyers to the Showroom?

By Melanie Franke

What’s the primary goal of every auto marketing campaign?

It doesn’t matter if it’s TV, print, radio or digital, the objective is always the same: Entice car buyers into the showroom. Once there, sales representatives can close the sale.

Although the goal from the dealership’s perspective remains the same, the consumer behavior prior to visiting the showroom has drastically changed. Car shoppers can find the majority of the information they’re looking for online, and they basically come to the showroom with their mind made up on the make, model and color—all they need to do is test-drive the vehicle.

According to DME Automotive, more than 68 percent of car buyers visit just two or fewer dealerships prior to making a purchase. If a consumer is basically showing up to the showroom just to purchase, then it becomes that much more important for auto dealers to make sure that consumer is visiting one of their locations.

How do you ensure that happens?

Well, your advertising needs to make an impact and incentivize action. According to a recent Sequent Partners study, Digital Video at the Inflection Point, the majority of auto marketers see digital video as the best tool to drive consumers into the showroom. Perhaps it’s the combination of sight, sound and motion that entices people to actually visit, but a video ad can (and should) do more than branding for your dealership. The video needs to be memorable and relevant to the individual consumer, making personalization and targeted messaging a key component for every auto marketing campaign.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of how auto brands are bringing that personalization into their video advertising.

Make Your Message Relevant

Advertising content should be based on the person who is actually seeing that message. For instance (and it’s really hard not to leverage stereotypes here, but just go with me for a minute), men and women can share an interest in a particular car but for very different reasons. Men can like its performance features and technical innovation while women may be primarily impressed with the safety features and storage space. Having an ad that resonates on that level with each demographic is important for auto brands today.


Tone is another thing to take into consideration. Recently, Subaru released two ads, both emphasizing the brand’s safety features for parents of teenage drivers. One dealt with kids calling home to tell their parents they got into a major accident and wrecked the Subaru—however, they were unscathed. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but it appeals in a very somber way to the audience. The other version of the ad takes a comic approach to the issue of safety by showing how parents keep their kids away from dangerous situations throughout their lives, and their car choice is just another item on that list. This version is light-hearted and fun but conveys the same safety message. Two wildly different—but equally effective—videos.

Show Them the Comparison

We know that consumers are likely to visit two dealerships, which likely means that they’re considering two competing models from different manufacturers. So the question becomes: How do you eliminate your competition while the buyer is still in the researching phase?

An auto dealer’s best strategy is to go head-to-head with the competitor by comparing specific features, costs and options. For instance, the TriHonda dealer group, a regional auto group located in the New York City tri-state area, used this marketing tactic to win over customers considering a competitor model. Across 8,800 personalized video versions they were able to infuse their national Honda ad with specific features about their CR-V compared to the Ford Escape.

This approach was incredibly successful for TriHonda as it drove a 7X return on ad spend for their dealerships across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Location, Location, Location

Although national ads are great for branding and awareness, they typically don’t have specifics on where the viewer’s local dealership is located. However, one national brand campaign showed that it is possible to direct viewers to their nearest dealership.

Honda’s “Other Side” campaign started with a two-sided story on YouTube that featured the manufacturer’s Civic and Civic Type R models. Viewers could click between the two worlds of each vehicle to see which one they preferred. At the end of the video, they reached a landing page with two strong calls-to-action: schedule a test drive or find a local dealership–both of which directed them to their nearest Honda location. This is a great example of using a national ad to actually bring car shoppers to a dealership.

Get Mobile Right

According to a report from Google, one in four auto intenders rely on their mobile devices every day to research vehicles, and an Ipsos study found that 27 percent of people do most of their vehicle research on their mobile devices. Clearly, advertising on mobile devices and platforms is an important component of any auto marketing campaign.

However, just running a video ad, once again, won’t cut it. The ad needs to be personalized and relevant to that consumer for it to resonate–even on a mobile device. Fortunately, there have been some recent innovative, personalized and mobile-specific campaigns to emulate.

Toyota launched a hyper-targeted, mobile-friendly Facebook campaign to highlight its new RAV4 hybrid model. To ensure their message was relevant to each viewer, they created more than 100,000 unique versions of their national ad with specifics that would resonate with different consumers, and the ads were then served to users based on their Facebook habits.

Now, creating so many versions sounds like quite a feat. However, with the right partner and technology, it can be relatively simple to multiply a national ad into thousands of different versions and deliver a unique experience to each viewer.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, video personalization is possible in the auto industry. Auto dealerships need the right tools to take their branded national ad, infuse it with personalized, 1-to-1 creative and serve it up to their target audiences. It’s not exactly simple, but it is effective and needed with today’s car shoppers..

See how Tier II auto dealerships saw real ROI through digital video.

More about the author

Melanie Franke Content Marketing Manager

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