Does Age Matter in Automotive Digital Marketing?

Does Age Matter in Automotive Digital Marketing?

When dealership managers talk about marketing, they often start with the age of their ideal audience. But is age the most important factor in targeting digital ads?

Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and others are “young” media, but in fact, millions of “olds” are still partaking. For example, more than 1.8 million Snapchat users are aged 50+. So, when you’re tailoring your content toward a young audience, you might be overlooking a significant portion of your market.

The average new car buyer in the U.S. is 53 years old. This is hardly who you’d envision dancing on TikTok, but they still comprise a sizeable audience on digital media. A whopping 11.5% of Facebook users are aged 65+. While they might not be your primary target, they’re still clicking away out there.

In this post, we’ll show you how to integrate and consider age in your marketing strategy.

Why We Market Toward Young People

Instead of pouring thousands of dollars into that local TV spot, dealers are incentivized by their OEMs to sprinkle hundreds into thoughtful digital ads in order to reach a generalized “young” demographic. After all, Gen Z and Millennials have a little more time left to buy vehicles. It’s simple math.

So when we look at social media demographics, it’s not necessarily that we want to single out and talk only to young people — we just want to accommodate them as they develop their buying preferences.

Social Media Platforms By Size January 2021
Source: Hootsuite

This doesn’t mean radio-listening Baby Boomers aren’t worth your marketing spend. As we mentioned a bit ago, millions of them are scrolling through Facebook as we speak.

But with all this talk about which generation buys new, buys used, uses TikTok, or watches primetime, how do auto marketers nurture everyone else in the margins?

What Does the Data Say?

We charted the annual sales for one single-point Honda dealer in the upper midwest by the age of the customer. I was expecting to see at least one clear leader, but the chart’s surprisingly boring.

Data from one dealership in 2020. Notice how Millennials are not, in fact, everything.

Marketers love to split hairs over who is going to be the best audience for Facebook ads, TikTok videos, or marketing emails. We have demographics, maps, interests, pixels, and other data to help us tailor our targeting. So why do we care so much about age?

The majority of your automotive market (including a wide swath of ages) is scrolling through Facebook or Instagram today, and basically everyone with a drivers license also uses Google. Age in digital marketing is just a number.

Insights from a recent Facebook campaign
This screenshot from Facebook Ads Manager shows the distribution of impressions and results from each age group in a recent ads campaign for a single-point dealership.

There are 209 million adults in the U.S., and at least 65% of them are using a Facebook app today.

Should my dealership be on platforms like TikTok if we want to connect with younger car buyers?

Contrary to conventional assumptions, younger people who actually make car-buying decisions aren’t all cleanly tucked away into apps like TikTok and Snapchat. They also use “older” apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.

That said, TikTok is growing quickly, and the user base will also age. (Rest assured that marketers will find a way to “ruin” TikTok videos like we “ruined” Facebook videos.)

Chevy is already paying music stars to make catchy tunes, and Tier 3 solutions are likely right around the corner for this small sliver of youth.

Your audience will age along with your company. If your dealership has the time and resources to make some organic TikTok videos, go for it!

How do I know that my digital ads are reaching the right age groups?

With the Special Ad Category for businesses that offer credit-related solutions (which includes all dealerships), Facebook has more control over who your ads reach. Age in digital marketing isn’t even a number here — you can’t even control it! In fact, Facebook’s Special Ads Categories now restrict dealerships from choosing any specific ages to target, defaulting to everyone 18+.

This lack of control can be frustrating in this world of skewed newsfeed algorithms which control what posts we see on our newsfeeds. These algorithms have basically ruined U.S. politics and any sense of unbiased news.

However, this same algorithm also chooses how many people (of all ages) see your ads on Facebook.

This may seem complicated, but your Facebook pixel can do the heavy thinking. The SAC also comes with Special Ads Audiences, which are lookalikes based on your current website shoppers. You can even tailor these SAAs to specific model lines or segments in your campaigns.

All of this is to say that even though you can’t control age targeting on Facebook, the platform is still pretty good at determining who should see your ads.

What about age targeting with Google Ads?

When we look at the various digital advertising platforms, targeting is only as granular as the data that the platform provides.

Facebook demographics are readily available for marketers because, well, Facebook asks its users to share that data for marketing purposes. But what about search ads?

Search ads on Bing and Google are intent-based, so the audience self-qualifies despite their age. If you’re a Ford dealer, and someone is searching for a new F-150 in your market, you’ll want to show up no matter how old Google thinks they are.

Like Facebook, Google and Bing ads both offer dynamic retargeting options to further nurture and qualify your web visitors over time, without any need to restrict the age in the targeting.

It’s Still Okay To Write For a Younger Audience

Every dealer wants to stick with teens and young adults as they grow up and have careers. But how can you relate the experience of buying a car — a very adult experience — to a young generation?

The key to connecting with young adults as they make car buying decisions is to show the experience:

  • What does working with your dealership look like?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What makes it unique?

This is all great messaging that resonates with an audience who is less experienced at buying cars.

When it comes to connecting with young people, think about the memories they’ll have with your dealership. Every great piece of content your dealership puts into the world should make or support a memory, regardless of which app it’s on.

Memories created during this time can carry onward as we get older.

Engage with the 66 percent of social media users under 30 and let them know that when they are ready to shop for a car, you will be the right dealer in the area to visit.

Where Should My Dealership Advertise?

When it comes to digital advertising strategy, we encourage marketing professionals to focus on the bigger picture. For each platform, how many users are in your market? How many people will see your ads? How many people will visit your website?

Also, when your dealership is trying to publish content on any platform, try to focus more on the features and benefits of your dealership and less on the age of your audience.

Whether it’s from Gen Z, Millennials, Boomers, or anything in between, traffic is all measured and qualified in the same way.

After all, if they’re ready to buy your new or used inventory, does it matter how old they are?

If you’re going to conserve your ad budget and reserve it for the best platforms, choose the ones with quantity. Quality visitors will find you through any avenue, no matter how old they are — and it’s up to you to be ready to serve them.

Need Help With the Dynamics of Your Audience?

Age is just the tip of the data iceberg.

9 Clouds put together a valuable guide to show you how to use the data in your CRM and on your website to understand and target key audiences for your dealership.

Download this guide today and — if you’re ready — request a free digital assessment.