How to Build Your Automotive Digital Marketing Strategy

graphic of a vehicle to illustrate How to Build Your Automotive Digital Marketing Strategy

Building an automotive digital marketing strategy that stands out from the crowd can be challenging. There’s various factors unique to today’s auto industry, like the growth of online car buying, and the long, competitive sales cycle.  

To help you get started, we’re mapping out the basics. Read on to learn auto advertising trends, and the essential steps in building your digital auto campaign. 

Keeping up with the latest industry trends is an important part of building an automotive digital marketing strategy that drives results.

Electric vehicles are on the rise.

The shift to electrified vehicles (EVs) is happening globally, but at different speeds depending on the individual market. For example, a Deloitte consumer report found that in China, the preference for EV or hybrid vehicles is higher than in the US. 

Deloitte also found that despite growing messaging around the need to address climate change, the shift to EVs is mostly based on the consumer perception that driving an EV will significantly reduce vehicle operating costs.

graph illustration global trends in Preferences for Type of Engine in Next Vehicle

Product quality is top of mind for consumers.

The Deloitte report found that except for Japan, where vehicle features are the driving force behind choosing a brand, consumers around the world mainly rely on a perception of product quality when making a purchase decision. 

Consumers are opting for build-to-order.

The pandemic led to an inventory crisis in the auto industry, which resulted in more consumers turning to alternative options, like purchasing their vehicle online or via build-to-order

Lead times to get a build-to-order car can range from 4 weeks to 12 weeks. Even with the wait, a new study finds, 4 in 10 car shoppers plan to pre-order their next new vehicle. 

Online car buying is becoming increasingly popular.

The global online car buying market had a revenue holding of USD $256 billion in 2021. It is expected to reach USD $722 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 12.21% during the forecast period (2022-2030). North America will command the market while growing at a CAGR of 10.51%.

Steps for Building Your Automotive Digital Marketing Strategy

You’re up to date with the latest trends in the automotive industry. Now, it’s time to build your digital strategy. Here are 4 key steps to creating a strategy for your auto campaigns. 

1. Understand the Automotive Buying Journey

Before the pandemic, most Americans were interested in buying cars online, but few actually did so. A 2017 Washington Post story reported that 53% of US consumers would be either extremely likely or very likely to buy a car entirely online. At the time, most dealers didn’t offer online purchasing. 

Today, online car buying has become an increasingly available option that more and more consumers are embracing. This means that the automotive buying journey has evolved. This long, competitive sales cycle now has to account for two types of purchasing: offline and online. 

In many cases, auto campaigns have softer conversions—requesting a test drive or selecting custom features—with the goal of building brand awareness and keeping users engaged throughout the buying journey. These softer conversions often bring a consumer into a store or dealership, raising the likelihood of an in-person purchase. 

2. Choose the Right Channels for Automotive Industry Advertising

Let’s explore some of the programmatic channels that auto advertisers can leverage for their automotive digital marketing strategy. 

Reach auto consumers with programmatic audio.

Digital audio consumption is becoming mainstream. In 2022, 67% of Americans listened to digital audio, a 5% increase year-over-year. With programmatic audio, automotive advertisers can reach this audience as they tune into playlists, podcasts, audiobooks, and music. 

The audience tuning into digital audio is affluent: Buzzsprout found that over 66% of podcast listeners have university level education, are employed, and earn a household income above $75,000 USD per year. The employment status and financial stability of these listeners make them well-positioned for automotive prospecting through audio ads. 

Targeting on programmatic audio is very similar to channels that advertisers may already be familiar with. With programmatic audio, you can use the same audience targeting parameters from your native or display campaigns. 

Use video to convey lots of information, fast.

Video advertising allows you to reach potential automotive consumers wherever they may be watching video content online. Audiences may see a video ad ahead of streaming a TV series, or while scrolling through a blog. Video advertising uses data to reach fine-tuned, relevant audiences, and a video campaign also means you’ll have access to video marketing metrics that inform measurement and attribution. 

For an automotive digital marketing strategy, the real strength of video is how it combines visual and audio elements. With video, you can convey tons of information in a short period of time. You’re able to do more than just introduce a product or service. You can educate and engage the viewer, to start building trust between them and your brand. 

The engaging nature of video means it’s a channel where auto brands can express their identity and build brand awareness. Brands have also found that viewers have stronger brand recall after watching video ads that tell compelling and engaging stories.

Capture attention in public spaces with digital out-of-home advertising.

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) ads are found in public spaces like an airport, on a highway, or in a mall. DOOH campaigns can be run on a variety of formats and sizes, and in various public environments. 

DOOH ads automate the buying and delivery of ads, so campaigns can be managed through your programmatic platform. One of this channel’s most exciting benefits is that it can engage audiences in new ways. For example, DOOH ads can include interactive elements. An ad can entertain audiences with games or share helpful information. 

This is particularly effective in public spaces where audiences may be bored, such as at an airport, or at the gas station pump. As a result, DOOH ads have the potential to build brand relationships with audiences in moments when they’re looking for entertainment.

With DOOH, auto advertisers can reach audiences out in the real world. These ads are an effective channel for engaging people in public spaces, and driving brand awareness in contextual moments. For example, a person at the gas pump may be particularly receptive to auto ads. 

Tap into influential audiences with in-game advertising.

In-game advertising is a programmatic channel that enables ads to appear in mobile, computer, and console video games. In-game ads are typically display and video ads, which are seamlessly integrated, so they don’t interrupt gameplay. 

A 2021 study showed that 55% of US gamers identified as male and 45% identified as female, and while gamers are found across most generations the bulk of them are ages 18 to 34. Another study found that those who game several hours a week have two times more disposable income than non-gamers, which shows the impactful spending power of this audience. The income level of gamers makes them a valuable audience to advertise auto to.  

The in-game audience is broad and made up of a diverse set of demographics. Marketers can leverage this growing channel to reach engaged, focused users to build brand awareness and loyalty.  

3. Select Targeting Tactics for Your Auto Campaign

Now that you have what you need for setting up your auto campaign, you need to make sure your targeting is on point—especially given the long sales cycle of the auto market. The majority of auto campaigns are geared toward the upper funnel, followed by middle then lower, with conversion rates growing lower down in the funnel. This aligns with the idea that the majority of upper funnel tactics are creating brand awareness.

When allocating budget to your campaign, keep in mind that the higher in the funnel you are targeting, the more competition you’ll have, and it’s less likely to get a conversion from those awareness campaigns—so it’s important you allocate budget to all stages of the cycle.

Some of the targeting tactics to consider for your automotive digital marketing strategy include contextual targeting, geotargeting, and weather targeting.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual advertising targets ads based on the environment in which the ad appears. This targeting method uses algorithms to target ad placements based on keywords, website content, and other metadata. This way, ads are shown to users based on the content they are consuming at that moment in time. 

A parent or caregiver looking to buy a new vehicle may start browsing articles that cover “best cars for kids” or “most reliable vehicles.” With contextual advertising, automotive advertisers can place ads for vehicles on those pages, so they reach an audience that is in a receptive frame of mind.


Geotargeting is a tactic that enables you to deliver ads based on a user’s location. With geotargeting, you can target by country, state, province, county, city, or zip code. You also have the option to leverage a list of addresses or latitude and longitude coordinates to reach your desired automotive audiences. 

Using geotargeting makes it possible to target and retarget consumers who pass through specific locations. To reach prospects, you might set the radius around gas stations, dealerships, or auto repair garages. 

Weather Targeting

Weather targeting is a targeting tactic that enables you to align your campaigns with fluctuations in weather. It’s a key marketing strategy because studies show that weather has a direct influence on consumer behaviour and intent. Car dealerships and manufacturers can use weather targeting to reach receptive audiences at the right moment. 

For example, weather targeting can be used to reach audiences that are looking to upgrade their vehicle for winter weather, or buy winter tires. Start by reviewing historical weather data against sales metrics to uncover the trends. 

Then, leverage that historical data to predict when the demand for all-wheel drive or winter tires will peak in winter regions. By setting parameters that run an all-wheel drive campaign during or following the worst winter weather, marketers can capture the interest of a consumer when car safety in winter conditions is top of mind. 

4. Choose the Right Programmatic Partner

The first step to building your automotive digital market strategy? Find the right programmatic platform to partner with. The right partner will have features and support that will help you go from the campaign planning stage, to launch and optimization smoothly, and quickly. A programmatic partner is a key part of your strategy! 

Automotive Digital Marketing Strategy F.A.Q.s

How can digital marketing be used in the automobile industry?

Digital marketing can be leveraged in the automobile industry to help dealerships and manufacturers reach their target audience and promote their vehicles, automotive products, and services. With digital marketing, automotive marketers can target a more specific or niche audience.

What are examples of automotive brand marketing strategies?

Brands can implement these automotive advertising strategies for campaign success: 

1. Leverage weather targeting to reach consumers at the right moment.
2. Use video to capture attention and convey information.
3. Connect with local consumers through geotargeting.
4. Reach an engaged, broad audience through in-game ads.
5. Align with consumers using contextual advertising.
6. Re-engage users in the funnel with retargeting.

What are the latest trends in the automotive industry?

The automotive industry is seeing a growing adoption of electric vehicles and build-to-order vehicles. This is in part because consumers are growing increasingly comfortable with online car buying. Recent studies have also found that consumers around the world mainly rely on a perception of product quality when making a vehicle purchase decision. 

Get Started With Digital Marketing for the Automotive Industry

There is a lot to keep in mind when creating and executing an automotive digital marketing strategy. We hope these tips, tricks and best practices will help you to create a stand-out, well-rounded, multimedia campaign that drives great results through every stage.

Want to run exceptional programmatic campaigns? Request a demo to learn more about StackAdapt.

Erin Hynes
Erin Hynes

Content Marketing Manager


Erin is a content marketer with experience crafting thought-provoking content that drives awareness and supports customer acquisition. She is also a travel writer and podcaster in the tourism space.