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Technology Has Enhanced The Four Ps Of Car Dealership Marketing: How Savvy Auto Dealers Can Meet Customers Online

Technology Has Enhanced The Four Ps Of Car Dealership Marketing: How Savvy Auto Dealers Can Meet Customers Online

 Anyone familiar with marketing has likely been introduced to the concept of The Four Ps -- Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Introduced to the business world in 1960, the Four P’s have been the guiding principle for three generations of marketers.

Even after all the technical innovation in the past few decades, the Four Ps have shown remarkable staying power and are still applicable in today’s marketing world.

With innovations such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, OTT/CTV video, search engine marketing, Google Ads, digital display ads, social media, and more, The Four Ps still provide a framework for today’s automotive dealership marketing playbook.

For Dealers, the Product Remains King

Great-looking vehicles with performance and functionality still sell well. However, there is more competition in the auto marketplace than ever, and a great product is only an entry point for success. In addition, the concept of “product” has changed, focusing as much on problem-solving as sheet metal and horsepower.

For a family with three young children, for example, a three-row SUV, captain’s chairs and infotainment systems keep the kids separated and entertained. A truck with a big engine can pull a boat, and a hybrid vehicle can significantly reduce costs for folks with long commutes.

The key to efficient dealership marketing is matching the right product attribute to the right customer when they are in the market for a vehicle.

Price Transparency Key to Dealer-Customer Relationships

Car prices still matter to customers. However, in today’s inflationary environment, vehicle costs are rising rapidly. In fact, the average new car buyer in America paid a record $51,716 in July 2023. 

For manufacturers and dealers alike, winning on low price isn’t necessarily the best strategy to attract customers. Historically, manufacturers cranked out new vehicles and delivered in mass quantities to dealers’ lots. Too often, dealers had to slash prices to move cars, eroding profits for everyone.

The auto industry discovered during the pandemic that matching inventory to demand can yield more profit per vehicle. As inventory dipped from a pre-Pandemic norm of nearly 3 million units to a low of 800,000 units, vehicle scarcity kept vehicle prices—and dealer profits —high. Today, inventories hover around 2 million, providing a better match between supply and demand.

If dealers aren’t winning on low prices, how does price still play such an important role? Because price transparency is a critical factor in a positive consumer shopping experience. Consumers are armed with more vehicle and vehicle pricing information than ever before. In fact, pricing is a MUST have, not a need-to-have for dealers today. If customers can’t find pricing on a dealer’s website, they are highly likely to move on. In addition, if the pricing is in any way misleading, dealers risk poisoning a potential customer relationship right from the start.



“Place” Doesn’t Always Mean Physical Location

Place has changed more than any element in this equation. In the 1960s, place represented a physical location, convenient to customers and highly visible to many passersby. Drive through any town in the United States, and auto dealerships are often clustered together in a high-traffic area.

However, the Internet has flipped auto shopping on its head. “Place” is no longer physical but represents where customers spend most of their time —online. A dealership’s online presence is as important today as its physical presence was 25 years ago.

Every dealership has a website. It’s the central hub for all dealership marketing and provides everything a customer needs to know about vehicles and services. At a minimum, dealer websites provide detailed product background, allow customers to submit leads or set up test drives, and provide access to set up service appointments.

The key is not the website itself but rather driving people to the website.

Technology Takes Dealership Promotion to New Heights


Pre-Internet, dealership marketing was pretty simple. Buy TV, radio, print, and outdoor, and wait for people to show up. Of course, those days are long gone. Today, marketing strategies are altered by a proliferation of new media outlets and technologies providing better targeting and more efficient ad spending.


One critical strategy is the use of OTT/CTV Video. OTT (over-the-top) is the umbrella term that covers the delivery of video content via the internet with any device. CTV (connected TV) is the physical device that delivers video content. The benefits of OTT and CTV include targeting specific customers with unique ads. For example, a family of five would likely see ads for minivans or SUVs, while their single neighbor would likely see an ad for a sports car…even though both households are tuned to the same show.


Artificial intelligence and machine learning also can help better target in-market shoppers with the right message at the right time. For example, ZeroSum’s MarketAI platform finds real shoppers in a dealer’s market and delivers relevant ads built from a dealer’s current inventory. These ads adjust dynamically to provide the best ad creative for each shopper. This effectively prospects new customers and re-engages abandoned shoppers by serving vehicles that first piqued their interest.


Technology also has enabled dealers to take advantage of the proliferation of social media. More dealers show their inventory on Facebook, Instagram, and other emerging platforms. Savvy dealers are taking advantage of increased screen time and the ability to target and re-target in-market shoppers on social channels. Social media advertising helps guide customers to the dealership website and provides a channel for direct leads.


Finally, Google Ads and search engine marketing allow dealers to further take advantage of where customers hang out online. According to Google, 79% of shoppers begin their journey with a search engine. Owning the right keywords and phrases is a critical step for dealer success.


This Automotive Marketing Evolution Will Continue, and Dealers Need to Stay on top of Trends


There is no question that dealer marketing has become more complex over the past couple of decades. All these changes have brought tremendous upside, however. In the past, the typical marketer’s lament was, “I know I‘m wasting half my advertising budget. I don’t know which half.”


Today, with highly targeted advertising options, multiple online channels, and better access to consumer data, dealership marketing is becoming a more exact science every day. This will continue as the power of AI and machine learning are incorporated more extensively into dealership advertising and operations.


Dealers who are market leaders today need to continue learning, innovating, and developing relationships with marketing partners like ZeroSum who can bring new technologies and techniques to the table. At ZeroSum, we leverage the newest technology to benefit our dealer customers, moving more cars off lots, faster. Our MarketAI platform seamlessly connects real-time supply and demand data to your inventory to deliver the most efficient marketing possible.



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