Ohio Car Dealership Sees Early Success with Location-Targeted Mobile Ads

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Merchant: Kia of Bedford
Location: Bedford, Ohio
Platforms: Waze, PureCars
Bottom Line: Location-targeted mobile ads help businesses get out in front of both local customers and travelers who might be driving through defined areas.

Years of ingrained assumptions about the way cars are marketed and sold have made the automotive industry a challenge for hyperlocal vendors. But at Kia of Bedford, Director of Operations David Gruhin is finding unexpected success with location-based marketing tactics.

“The industry has been very slow to adapt to the change in consumer behavior and the demand for transparency,” Gruhin says. “My background is software development and digital marketing, which gives me a fairly unique perspective on the automotive industry.”

Since being promoted to the role of general manager and director of operations, Gruhin has modernized his dealership’s marketing practices and started investing more heavily in location-targeted mobile ads.

One of the most effective tactics Gruhin has tried involves running location-targeted ads on Waze’s mobile platform as a way to promote his dealership’s service department. While it’s still early days—Kia of Bedford has been running ads on Waze, as well as search engine marketing, display, and social advertising, on and off since 2017, but the dealership only started running its mobile ads continuously in January of this year—the dealership has already seen tremendous growth, with a 57% increase in service and repair leads in the first quarter.

“Waze is an attractive advertising platform for us because it allows me to easily get out in front of not only our customers but anyone who may be in the area driving by, that may otherwise defer routine maintenance of their vehicle,” Gruhin says. “It triggers an ‘oh yeah’ moment for that person who may need an oil change or a tire rotation, and because the ads allow us to also promote some type of an offer, user engagement and ultimately navigation and conversion at the dealership is a real win.”

Although Waze’s advertising platform allows businesses to drill down and target consumers based on a number of factors, Gruhin says he hasn’t felt the need to dig in that far just yet. Currently, Kia of Bedford is targeting anyone using the Waze app in the immediate area.

In addition to tracking the usual metrics for his campaigns on Waze—including impressions, clicks, and click-through rates—Gruhin is also tracking call conversions and actual navigations to the store. He says the Waze ads, in combination with a “major process overhaul internally,” have led to a monthly increase in gross of around $100,000.

Although Gruhin says he could be managing his dealership’s Waze campaign on his own, he isn’t. Gruhin works with a digital provider called PureCars and counts on his account manager to identify new strategies and areas for investment. He says it’s “substantially” more cost effective for his dealership to use PureCars than it would be to hire an internal team, since PureCars charges a flat management fee that isn’t based on a percentage of his dealership’s ad budget.

Having now found success with location-targeted marketing, along with SEM, display, and social advertising, Gruhin says the next step for Kia of Bedford is to implement new Agile software development strategies and an offline attribution program that the dealership can use to cut down on wasted ad spend.

“Kia of Bedford is no longer a static entity churning out vehicles. We are working to be more adaptive,” Gruhin says. “One thing that I am working toward implementing is offline attribution by analyzing opt-in device location data to see where we can optimize our advertising strategies, as we previously just threw more money at advertising to see what stuck. I am working toward even more optimizations of our ad spend to further reduce waste.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.