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5 min read

Targeted media for auto dealers

3/20/19 1:01 PM

Driving conversions (service visit, car sale) in your local market requires a complete understanding of how consumers shop for cars and how they are influenced by automotive advertising. Recent research from Nielsen shows that car shoppers start their path to purchase with two to three brands on average1. But, when car shoppers are ready to buy, they typically consider five brands - nearly twice as many cars as they did at the beginning of their journey2. This fact is HUGE for dealerships. Why? It’s simple – this means dealers have the unique opportunity to influence buying decisions very late in the game and that consumers are open to considering other brands3.

Blog - BrandsConsidered-02

Creating a channel mix that drives car sales
The automotive purchase funnel can best be broken down into three categories of auto shoppers: future-market, near-market, and end-market. Your marketing mix needs to strike a healthy balance of advertising for each stage of the purchase journey. GSM is here to show you how different media channels impact brand awareness and purchase consideration, so you can optimize your marketing strategy to build deeper connections with consumers.

Broad reach or targeted media – which is better for increasing your dealership’s purchase consideration?
In terms of message reach, broad-reach channels like TV and radio are the best channels for building ‘upper-funnel’ awareness4. TV drives the highest level of ad recall (memory of an advertisement) of all channels5, however, broad reach channels often come with a much higher price tag. These channels also need to be reinforced across other touchpoints to ensure your dealership is a consideration when prospects are ready to visit a dealership.

At GSM, we suggest leveraging a mix of broad reach and targeted channels but with an important caveat - decrease budget allocation to broad reach channels. Leaving broad-reach channels for OEM (manufacturer) marketing efforts can help your dealership save important ad dollars for targeted media that drive conversions. OEM’s have the large budgets needed for these high-funnel tactics that help drive consideration for your dealership’s brand(s). For individual dealerships, there are less expensive techniques for driving awareness, and more importantly, purchase consideration at a local or individual dealership level.


The Nielsen CMO Report 2018

Tactics for driving purchase consideration
Purchase consideration among consumers who remember an ad is higher across targeted media including mobile, direct mail, and digital. Research shows that as consumers near the time to purchase a new car, their memory for TV ads drops by (-18%), while their sensitivity to ads on digital (+99%), direct mail (+135%), and mobile (+217%) increase dramatically6.

Step aside TV! Direct mail is the second highest channel in terms of recall (memory) and it has the highest impact on purchase consideration of any other channel7. Meanwhile, digital channels are effective at generating mid- and lower-funnel engagement and conversions. For direct mail and digital channels, personalization is a must for cutting through the masses and being seen.

Now, let’s talk mobile. Mobile has quickly become an important channel in dealership marketing. It is the second-highest driver of purchase consideration, behind direct mail of course8. The development of location-based advertising combined with mobile’s targeting and dynamic creative capabilities, has helped mobile become drastically more convenient for purchase behaviors.

Crafting your dealerships marketing strategy
The latest research proves automotive brands should use a mix of broad reach and targeted media, with careful consideration of where and when each channel comes into play. This means using TV and/or radio for brand building throughout the path to purchase, and combining these channels with targeted channels including digital (don’t forget social!), mobile, and direct mail to encourage purchase consideration at your dealership.

A successful automotive marketing campaign must deliver and develop two things:
1. Long-term brand equity
2. Capture shoppers’ attention when they are weighing their options for purchase (or service!).

This approach requires an understanding of how different media channels should be used throughout the path to purchase: leveraging broad reach media (radio and TV) for brand building and shifting to more targeted and  ‘personalizable’ channels such as mobile, digital, social, and direct mail to increase purchase consideration and dealership foot traffic. Purchasing a car is a long process that involves more media and brands than previously thought. However, marketers understanding of auto buying behavior has drastically changed thanks to technology.

This all may seem a bit complicated, but the good news is that there are more channels than ever before for effectively reaching car shoppers. Today’s technology also provides tons more high-quality consumer data to guide audience segmentation, targeting, and creative decisions. Marketers now have access to consumer data that is more predictive of purchase intent for three main reasons:


Higher quality



More accurate representation of recent behavior



Provides more details and insights

This level of consumer insight, combined with the right channels and data technology, helps deliver more timely advertising, a better customer experience, and ultimately more dealership visits.

Concluding facts:

  • Broad reach media: is more expensive, does not drive immediate conversions, great for driving awareness, less effective at targeting the ‘right’ consumers
  • Targeted media: these channels are remembered closer to time of purchase, smaller price tag, sophisticated targeting and audience segmentation, less waste of ad-spend, better for driving purchase consideration and car sales
  • Go omnichannel to get the best results: a combination of broad reach and targeted media is the best way to build brand awareness and purchase intent. While you may not have the budget needed for TV advertising, there are less pricey broad reach media tactics you can add to your marketing mix.

1-8 The Nielsen Company, The Nielsen Auto Marketing Report; 2018

Written by GSM

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