The Digital Dealership: Auto Marketing in a Connected World

8 min read

When the pandemic struck, car shoppers could no longer visit dealership showrooms. Granted the traditional, in-person car buying experience was already in decline, what we still saw last year was much more of an extreme downshift. Forcing a great number of local dealers to reassess the way they operate for the future.

Namely, in the way how - and how much - they would market their inventory online.

And while the pandemic did accelerate this push to digital advertising, it was actually a trend in the making for some time now. Thanks in large part to how we buy cars and what we put in them today.

The Connected Car: new vehicles are now streaming platforms

Estimates show nearly 83MM new cars will be hitting the roads by 2023 - 98% of which will be equipped with digital infotainment systems. That means drivers and passengers of these 'connected cars' will have a whole spread of different listening options available at their fingertips.

Even though a clear favorite has already emerged. 


Despite the added accessibility to tune in with these connected cars, modern drivers are increasingly choosing to tune out from AM/FM radio. The reason for that is because on-demand streaming is now - and will likely forever be - the primary means of how we get our audio entertainment these days.

Then when you combine this growing trend with weeks and months of stay-in orders, and you'll start to see why radio ad buys were significantly slashed in favor of bigger digital audio budgets last year

Another change that will probably never go back to being the same again.

Just take it from this long-time radio advertiser who in this case study made the switch to digital audio advertising during the pandemic themselves.

The Connected Consumer: car shoppers prefer the digital, and mobile, path to purchase

From awareness to discovery, to consideration and purchase - the new auto buyer's journey really starts and ends online. 

  • 90% of all car shopping begins on the internet.
  • 2 out of 3 current car buyers plan to complete their purchases online.

But not only that, there's a huge mobile component to this digital narrative as well. Take a look at what this recent report from AdColony revealed about the influence of smartphones on car buying:

Smartphones are Essential - 53% of respondents said it’s very important or important to have their smartphone with them while shopping for a car.

Smartphones Have Many Functions - Consumers use their smartphones during the purchasing process for a variety of reasons, but the top three functions include comparing prices, researching models/specs, and finding dealerships.

Research Leads to Dealership Visits - Almost 60% of consumers are very likely or likely to visit a dealership after researching for a car online.

Auto Ads are Important - 61% will consider relevant mobile ads when shopping for a car and 41% are very likely or likely to engage with an auto ad during the overall car buying process.

Consumers Want to Interact - 70% of consumers interact with mobile devices to explore models and features.

Consumers Seek Information - More information and online reviews are the top factors that would make consumers more likely to consider one brand or model over another. Easy access to a local dealer (48%) is another crucial consideration.

Fact is, today’s car shoppers want to compare vehicles, options, features, colors, packages, dealers, and rates from the comfort of their own phones. After all, we shop for pretty much everything else by phone and online, so why should shopping for cars be any different?

Connecting to Buyers through Digital Audio

More and more auto marketers are recognizing the essential role that mobile phones play in the modern car buying process, especially now that 47% of the industry's total digital investments will be put directly towards mobile ads.

And, of course, you can't have a conversation about mobile advertising without mentioning today's #1 mobile activity, audio streaming - as well as all the ways AudioGO was made to help local dealers, specifically, with their own digital auto marketing.

The Targeting Advantage

For starters, there's the device targeting feature we have that lets our advertisers message mobile phone users exclusively. That's always proven to be helpful.

But more than just that, if you remember from that AdColony survey, 61% of its respondents said they'll consider relevant mobile ads when shopping for a car and 41% said they were very likely or likely to engage an auto ad during the overall car buying process.

Suggesting active car shoppers want dealership advertising.

So, now the question becomes, how can your dealership reach these interested car shoppers?

Enter, AudioGO's behavioral targeting feature. A tool that lists up 60 different interests and user statuses for you to choose the listener of your audio ad from. There are options like married, employed, new parents, etc. - in addition to more targeted options like car buyers, car owners, luxury car buyers, used car shoppers, and car enthusiasts.

A perfect vehicle for generating new leads.

The Location Advantage

Another key finding from that AdColony study was how important proximity to a local dealer is for interested buyers.

And for that, we recommend using our zipcode targeting feature. This way you can get in really close to the local communities and neighborhoods right there by your business.

The Cost Advantage

Research from DealerSocket found traditional forms of advertising - like radio, TV, and billboards - brought a dealership roughly $1,702 per vehicle, compared to $2,514 per vehicle with digital marketing.

Concluding that digital marketing makes dealers more money.

But here's the part of that study where it gets really interesting.

When calculating the ad costs to sell a car, that number amounts to $1,581 spent per vehicle sold with traditional ads, whereas dealerships who use digital marketing spend 10X less ($150) per vehicle sold.

Ad costs are also where AudioGO has a lot of people beat too.

With minimums as low as $250, you won't find a more affordable solution to market your dealership on some of the biggest music streaming, digital radio, live sports, news, and podcast apps around.

Not to mention, if you don't have an audio ad to get started, it'll only run you $10 to have one recorded by our team of real, professional voice actors.

The Future Advantage

According to Ernst & Young, Millennial-aged (24 to 38 year-olds) buyers are about to represent almost half (45%) of all new car sales this year.

An age group that watches very little TV, listens to less radio, and famously spends more time looking down on their phones than they do looking up at billboards.

So if dealers want to compete for their future, they're going to have to understand that the traditional marketing playbook that might've worked for generations past won’t cut it for this next crop of connected consumers.

That said, one of the biggest lessons today's dealers would be wise to learn is that Millenials love their Digital Audio.

And so long as this generation of audiophiles continue to shop for connected cars on their phones, we're confident AudioGO can help your dealership drive sales in this connected world for many, many years to come.

For more information about our ad solutions for auto dealers, please visit: