The auto industry often talks about the idea of being "better" in the market, but in truth there still is a lot of work to do to before automotive can catch up with other verticals. Time and again, "better" is a marathon and not a sprint — it’s a continual, ongoing drive to fix what is broken, an unrelenting desire to push and to optimize.

It’s not easy to unwind the nuances of digital marketing in the automotive industry, and no one-size-fits-all playbook exists to address the myriad challenges across all tiers of the marketplace. We are seeing an industry-wide common goal to create advertising programs that spend less and sell more, and ultimately move closer toward a trusted digital experience across the board.

To accomplish this, it is imperative for both OEMs and dealerships to have the best consumer data at their disposal, and arguably it is even more important to know what to do with it. By harnessing the right data into the right insights, OEMs and dealers can work more efficiently to eradicate overmarketing and instead target their advertising to go directly where there is demand.

Leading with first-party and audience data, maximized through strategic partnerships, results in improved connectivity that dives deeper and provides a crisper, clearer view of consumers to help automotive companies cut through the noise and propel the entire industry forward.

Advertising strategy is complex and the market is ever-changing. Traditional advertising is not as effective as it used to be, and infinite other channels are competing for consumer attention. Failing to utilize a data-driven, multichannel strategy, dealers decrease the leads they generate by an astounding 164%, according to the Advertising Product Summary.

The most successful dealers utilize a multichannel marketing strategy and approach digital advertising based on their unique goals. They can identify and target qualified audiences at the right time with the right message, to sell more cars profitably and deliver a superior dealership experience. At a time when inventory is tighter than ever, having an automated platform can help dealers instantly recommend the best match for their customers from current inventory without any manual input.

That real-time targeting can only be fueled by first-party data across different channels. The right advertising maximizes return on investment by connecting real-time data across channels, and increasing website traffic, quality visits, engagement and conversions.

In this changing landscape of consumer demand, industry players will discover the solutions lie in working together toward a common goal to sell more cars and make more profits. To help get there, we should continually align the necessary jobs, prioritize them, and check them off one by one. We are going to have to adapt and change the way we do business to combat industry challenges using our best and brightest resources.

Once the industry understands that the best solutions focus on activating based on behaviors and audiences first, and then matching channels, tactics and messages to that secondly — that is when the auto industry will be firmly on its path to "better," finally starting to catch up with other verticals slaying the marketing game.

There is an accelerated need in the auto industry for innovation and focus on the total consumer experience, a practice that is now commonplace in other industries — including first-visit personalization and first-party data application. OEMs and dealerships will celebrate success and collectively win when there is a common focus on the end consumer, and collective work to solve their problems.

Ultimately, we all want an experience that’s efficient, productive, and complete, so it’s imperative to find the right partner offering the advertising solutions that deliver that level of flexibility and transparency.

Heather Ellis is AVP of dealer marketing for