How auto marketers can use mobile to drive traffic


Marketers are using mobile’s targeting capabilities to more adeptly find their prospects and customers. Although certain best practices are universal, sometimes you need a unique approach to best navigate industry-specific challenges. The auto purchase journey is more fragmented than ever before, and people are doing more research online before visiting a dealership. Marketers need to keep up with these changes.

Advertisers can harness the targeting powers of mobile not only to find the right person, but also to deliver a custom message to them at a precise place and time. These three mobile marketing strategies can help you increase foot traffic to your dealerships, poach customers from competitors and reimagine the test drive. Most importantly, they will empower you to get more from every dollar you spend.

1. Get Specific with Targeting

The use of mobile devices in the car shopping process is growing at a rapid pace. The numbers doubled from 2014 to 2015, according to research from, which found that 39 percent of people used a mobile phone and 35 percent of people used a tablet as part of their car-buying process in 2015. According to research from J.D. Power, 51 percent of new-vehicle internet shoppers use their mobile devices to conduct research.

Mobile targeting technology allows advertisers to target with precision and to serve their message to people in a specific geographic location. For example, dealerships can serve their ads to prospects who are nearby and encourage them to come in for a test drive. When creating mobile ads, marketers should be sure to remember the nuances of the mobile format. Keep the creative simple, use a strong call-to-action and include a promotion or incentive whenever possible.

In addition to targeting a location, marketers can overlay additional factors, such as demographic info, time of day, behavioral profiles and even intent, to more precisely reach their target audience and eliminate wasted spend. For example, you can serve your ad to people who have searched for a particular brand or previously visited your website. You can also target based on demographic information such as income and age to help you not only find the person most likely to make a purchase, but to craft the message that is most likely to resonate.

2. Try Digital Poaching

The auto industry is fiercely competitive, and it is a common practice for auto-intenders to compare models, brands and dealerships before making their decision. Mobile technology allows you to target people who have shown interest in your competition. Let’s say you are a marketing manager for Toyota. You can serve your ad to people who are visiting Honda dealerships. Or, if you are running a used car dealership, you can target people who have visited your competitor’s lot. Consider offering a promotion to make your ad especially enticing. You can even serve your mobile ad to a consumer while he or she is at your competitor’s dealership with an invitation to “come next door for a better deal.”

3. Rethink the Test Drive

It’s no secret that people dread the dealership experience. According to research from Accenture, 75 percent of people would consider conducting their entire car-buying process online. Yet the overwhelming majority of consumers want to test drive a car before pulling the trigger. A study from Autotrader revealed that 88 percent of shoppers will not buy a car without test driving it first. So what is a marketer to do? Get creative.

Hyundai partnered with Amazon Prime earlier this year to offer on-demand test drives to its Los Angeles customers. It was a limited-time program, but it is indicative of what modern customers have come to expect, especially millennials, who also happen to be particularly distrustful of the dealership experience. According to a survey by Beepi Inc., an online marketplace for buying and selling cars, millennials would rather clean their homes, wait in line at the DMV or do their taxes than go to the dealership.

But millennials are buying cars. In fact, they bought 4 million cars and trucks in the U.S. in 2015 alone. Innovative businesses can create their own version of the Amazon Prime program to make it easier for millennials, and all potential customers, to experience their vehicles. Consider developing an app to help customers manage the process. To increase downloads, include other features, such as tools for searching inventory, comparing models and scheduling appointments.

By embracing mobile solutions, auto marketers can find prospects more effectively, connect with them in a more personalized way and demonstrate that they’re forward-thinking and committed to prioritizing the customer experience.

Ted Dhanik is the chief execitve officer of engage:BDR

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