The Ultimate Guide to the Gen Z Car Shopper

Nov 28, 2022

Hit the gas on your Gen Z car shopper ad strategy.

If you’re a millennial, Gen Xer, or part of the baby boomer generation, you likely think of today’s youth when considering Gen Z. But Gen Z is increasingly aging into the 18+ population, which means there are new car buyers on the scene, and their presence is just as unique as the generation to which they belong.

Known for prioritizing diversity and individuality, being pragmatic, and identifying as digital natives, Gen Z truly is a generation unlike any other.1 And with these qualifiers, it’s not surprising that the way in which they’re approaching car shopping has its differences too.

So what does this mean for advertisers? It’s time for a three-point turn on their retail strategy—both in messaging and channel distribution. One big secret we’ll let you in on early: if you want to connect with this audience in a fast, impactful, and effective way, audio needs to be a part of your media mix. But more on that in a sec.

Here’s everything you need to know to ride shotgun with these first time car-buyers.

Headphones in, Audio Up

When it comes to Gen Z’s media consumption, audio takes first place every time. In the past, you were more likely to catch older generations via television ads (but let’s be clear—this has since changed for these groups, as well).

From the start, though, Gen Z has been primed for connection anywhere you find audio. If you don’t believe us, just check these stats on who's tuning in where.

Gen Z's Infinite Audio Landscape image

Even more impressive is that one of our recent studies found that 51% are listening to more audio today than they were a year ago—and those numbers weren’t small to begin with.2

The reason why? Accessibility. The same study found that 76% attribute this increase in listening to the fact that they can access their favorite forms of audio anywhere and everywhere. 

With so many avenues of music-listening available, what makes Pandora and SoundCloud the best options for your advertising needs? It’s simple—scale. On SoundCloud and Pandora, respectively, a staggering 86% and 93% of Gen Z listeners choose to listen to advertisements. With numbers like that, the possibilities for reach are limitless.

Building Trust, Influencing Behavior

When it comes to the Gen Z car shopper, it’s a slow burn. These consumers are all about taking their time and doing thorough research before they’re ready to even consider signing on the dotted line. For 81% of Gen Zers, a combination of online education and informative, in-person conversations with dealership representatives were the winning ticket to feeling fully informed, empowered, and ready to make a purchase.3

But why is that? Simply put, for most of the generation, the experience is very new; 56% of respondents in a survey said they were first-time car buyers.4 As a result, Gen Z likely needs a bit of hand-holding as they navigate everything from comparing vehicles to dissecting financing terms.

And who better to guide them than their favorite podcast, a medium known for placing listeners in an education mindset? Get this: 42% of Gen Z listens to podcasts. That’s a huge margin of earshare of your new car buyer audience. The value of this media opportunity is evident when you consider that 64% of Gen Z podcast listeners find podcast hosts to be the most authentic media figures around nowadays.

Regardless of the content type you place your ads in, for advertisers, a full-funnel, storied ad approach is key here. Developing creative that guides buyers through every step of the journey and meets them wherever they are in the process will help create trust and increase the likelihood of purchase.

Guide them to the Dealership

When it comes to purchasing desires (such as affordable prices and attractive features), Gen Z doesn’t stray that far from the path set before them by millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers. The real difference is in the buying experience itself.

Though they’re known for possessing the most innate understanding of digital landscapes of all the generations, Gen Z prioritizes an in-person shopping and purchasing process. This trend disrupts the pattern we previously saw forming of consumers leaning into online shopping by way of sites like Carvana.

If you want to entice younger buyers, once you have used audio to educate and inform as mentioned above, consider driving them to stores, not websites. To capture their attention, reinforce how you provide a simple, convenient experience with knowledgeable staff.

Hear the Sound of Gen Z

So what does all this mean for your advertising strategy? If you want to engage Gen Z buyers, you need to prioritize audio. Not only are more of these consumers tuning in, but they’re active participants in the listening experience—unlike what we know about the dual engagement trends we see when consumers watch TV (think scrolling on your phone or chatting with a friend while a show is on in the background).

A winning combination of impactful messaging and purposeful ad placement is key to get the Gen Z car buyer on your side. Partnering with SXM Media to develop a campaign strategy that does just that is all it takes to get those wheels spinning.

Ready to see what we can do to help you? Let’s chat.


1. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, What Are the Core Characteristics of Generation Z?

2. 2022 Pandora User Study, A18-24, March 2022

3. CDK Global, Understanding the Gen Z Car Shopper survey

4. Autoweek, "Gen Z Car Buyers Aren't That Different from You and Me"

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