NEW YORK: Location-based marketing could be an especially powerful tool for automakers in the not-too- distant future, according to a leading executive from Mercedes-Benz USA.

Scott Martino, marketing analytics lead at the company, discussed this theme at Advertising Week 2014 in New York. And he suggested location-based communications via smartphones held particular promise.

One reason for this optimism, he told the conference audience, is that most customers still visit dealerships on their purchase journey, whether researching a car or buying one.

"The mobile phenomenon, I think, is interesting for us because of the location context that it gives us," said Martino. (For more, including details of a campaign with Instagram promoting the CLA coupe, read Warc's exclusive report: How Mercedes learned to master cross-screen marketing.)

"Because the vast majority of people have to physically walk onto a dealership, the location element, I think, is really important to look at and see how that might progress."

The chance to serve targeted content to consumers on a forecourt provides a hint as to the power of location-based communications. But this activity also presents opportunities in the measurement arena.

"That can become a really powerful measurement tool for us, of course, in a responsible way," said Martino.

He drilled down further into this subject, arguing: "The ability to … understand if the location of that phone – and thus the location of our potential customer – is within a dealer: that can show us that there's success.

"If we understand that advertising drove them to physically walk onto a dealership, that's a win for us. Whereas, otherwise, we would have just said, 'Well, they didn't submit a lead form, then that didn't work. So we have to walk away from that tactic'."

Beyond the dealership, this approach offers various other possibilities – such as enhancing sponsorship programs at sporting and cultural events.

"We can also understand if they've passed through a certain event that we've done," said Martino, who gave the hypothetical example of the Masters, an important fixture on the annual golf calendar which Mercedes sponsors.

"We're a big sponsor of the Masters, so was there a group of people that passed through that may have seen us that we can utilise that kind of data with?

"So, there's so much potential there, I think, on the location-side of things."

Data sourced from Warc