Automotive Advertising Update: How to Engage Consumers as Auto Sales Recover

06.25.2020 Cox Media

After a dramatic decline at the onset of the recent public health crisis, automotive sales are showing a quick recovery. U.S. sales in May demonstrated a 57 percent increase over total sales from April, beating expert forecasts and setting the stage for continued sales momentum that could carry into the summer.

While total auto sales are down roughly 33 percent from May 2019, consumers are showing steady purchasing interest through auto dealership interactions and activity on popular vehicle shopping sites. As auto businesses across the country start to reopen to on-site customers, those businesses are in need of a revised advertising strategy that accounts for shifting shopper behaviors.

As the auto sales chart a course for continued recovery, here are five ideas to keep your brand top-of-mind with potential buyers.


Many automotive brands have rolled out excellent incentive programs to encourage potential buyers to sign on the dotted line during this public health crisis. Zero-percent financing, deferred payments, cash back programs and other incentives can help dealerships win back consumers who are waiting for the right time to buy a new vehicle.

Even as the market recovers, these incentives programs could play a significant role in helping persuade potential buyers who are researching their options, but remain resistant to commit to a purchase. About 37 percent of U.S. consumers say they expect to delay a planned vehicle purchase due to a number of economic factors. Incentives can help your automotive business convince would-be buyers to seize these excellent promotional offers before they’re gone.


Regardless of your success in using incentives to drive sales among your customer base, automotive brands should stay active with lead generation strategies that can strengthen relationships with potential buyers over time, and position your brand as their buying destination once they’re ready to make a purchase.

Consumers may be taking a wait-and-see approach to make sure a new vehicle purchase doesn’t put them in a precarious financial situation. But your business should keep in touch with those individuals through periodic emails to your subscriber base, as well as social media content that maintains visibility and offers an easy point of interaction with those users.

Search, display and other ad campaigns can also be targeted to an audience of consumers likely to make a vehicle purchase within the next six months. Sign-up forms can exchange their contact information for valuable insights into the best time to buy a vehicle, current incentives and promotions, tools to conduct vehicle research, and other information relevant to their impending search for a new vehicle.


As auto dealerships reopen and see increased activity among consumers, make sure you haven’t abandoned awareness-level campaigns. In addition to letting consumers know that you’re currently open for business, these campaigns can be used to promote new inventory, highlight limited-time offers, and direct consumers to your business location. Cable TV, display, search, audio, and mobile ads are all effective channels to build your brand’s familiarity among a local, relevant audience.

The more the auto industry is able to resume normal operations, the more you can revert back to traditional auto advertising strategies that use tried-and-true tactics to drum up consumer interest.


During a period of widespread economic disruption, consumers show a preference for local businesses that give back to their community. Like any other business, automotive businesses can build good favor among their community members by highlighting the contributions they’re making to try and help other residents get through this difficult period.

Donations to food shelves, drives for essential supplies, and other local efforts should be highlighted in your owned media channels, such as email and social media. A slow sales season is an opportunity to allocate more of your resources toward charitable acts—and these contributions could lead to additional sales opportunities as the market continues to recover.


As you plan out your reopening strategy and shift your messaging to local customers, seek out the support of a trusted partner that can help you adapt your campaigns to respond to evolving customer preferences. By working with a comprehensive advertising agency, auto businesses can build multi-channel ad campaigns that maximize customer engagement and strengthen your brand’s local reputation.

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