How to market cars to Generation Z

Let’s start with the good news.

Generation Z wants to buy cars. When the time comes, 92% of them want to own one.

Now, for the slightly-more-difficult news: in general, they expect a shopping experience different from anything that has come before.

Gen Z, that technology-ensconced group born between 1995 and 2009, is its own beast. They’ve never had to use a dial-up modem to download music on Napster. They don’t really remember a time when Instagram didn’t exist. 50 percent of them use social media while they shop. Reaching their eyeballs is key, but it’s not easy: they’re on lots of screens, consuming lots of different types of content.

Start by segmenting the audience.

Gen Z is wildly diverse in its interests, so you can’t market to them as one blanket group. Start by segmenting your audience. Use signals and data enrichment to give yourself a full picture of who you’re going after, then, when you find success, build lookalike audiences for the ones that work.

Make sure you’re only targeting Gen Z’ers who are actually in the market.

Reaching Gen Z is great. But reaching members of Gen Z who aren’t actively looking to buy cars? Not so great. Make sure you have the right data sets to distinguish between the two.

Are they currently shopping for cars online? Have they downloaded car-buying apps like TrueCar? Are they Googling quotes for car insurance?

Find a data partner who knows these things, as well as:

  • What’s already in their garage
  • Location-based data (so you know if they’re near your dealership or dealership group)
  • Knowing what they’re likely to buy based on demographic trends
  • Other core demographic data, like if they live in a crowded city (this makes them less likely to buy an SUV)

Your ability to reach customers is only as good as your data.

Reach them where they are.

There has never been a time when there were this many options for consuming media across a wide array of screens. It’s not enough to just target desktop with a standard display campaign: once you’re targeting a lead, you need to hit them on mobile, social, email… in short, everywhere.

This is especially true for Gen Z, which grew up watching Netflix on iPad, chatting with friends on WhatsApp, streaming sports through connected TV, and shopping on their smartphones. To make sure you’re hitting the same lead on multiple devices, use identity resolution. Your ads will hit your Gen Z leads on all their devices at the times they’re most likely to buy. This generation wants to be told a story, in bits and pieces. Make sure your messaging is hitting across devices.

Social matters. Be strategic in its use, and track your digital leads who become in-person buyers.

We know Gen Z is on social media (like, a lot). Make sure you’re getting your messages on the Facebook and Instagrams of the world, and can manage the ads for you if they need to.

Be aware, however, that some metal is easier to move on social than others. Luxury vehicles (whose buyers tend to be older and wealthier) don’t track as well on social media platforms. Gen Z, by and large, is more budget-conscious than previous generations, including millennials.

All of the digital traffic in the world will mean very little if it doesn’t lead to sales, however. Make sure you work with a partner who can properly attribute their efforts to in-store sales. When we worked with an auto manufacturer to increase foot traffic and drive sales to one of their dealerships, we were able to track 252 dealership visits and 32 cars sold thanks to the campaign. Without attribution, you’re just putting money into a black box and don’t know what’s working.

The dealership floor is still where the magic happens.

Here’s some more good news: more than half of Gen Z wants to test drive a car at least twice before buying it. 68 percent value in-person reactions. Once customers are in the door, good dealers will still be able to sell cars to this group.

Once they’re in the door, radical transparency is key. Remember, this generation grew up with an abundance of information. It’s highly likely they’ve done their share of research, and price comparisons are one or two smartphone taps away. Be honest with your leads, and they’ll love you for it.

If you build your audience, reach them where they are, utilize social in a smart way, and are radically transparent when they come in the door, you’re on your way to building a lasting relationship with the next generation of car dealers.

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