Massive changes are taking place in both the automotive and the marketing industries, and automotive marketers are caught right in the middle.

On the automotive side, both the unprecedented supply chain disruptions and semiconductor shortages that began during COVID-19 continue on to today, with many industry analysts predicting that inventory levels will never return to what they were pre-pandemic. In 2024, EIU forecasts that the sector will also be weighed down by slow consumer spending, high interest rates driven by stubborn inflation, and big bets on electric vehicles. On top of all that, in the longer-term, the resolution of the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike will likely result in UAW brands raising their prices to account for increasing employee salaries—and other auto brands may follow suit as part of a trickle-down effect.

Image that reads "global passenger car sales will rise by 3% in 2024," with the"3%" statistic emphasized. The image also reads, "Source: EIU, 2023," and includes Basis Technologies' logo.

And on the marketing side? Nothing major: just signal loss driven by the continued deprecation of third-party cookies, an uptick in digital advertising regulation and scrutiny, and  massive technological advances that stand to redefine the landscape... you know, nothing much.

Amidst all these challenges, automotive marketers must prioritize strategies and tools that allow them to make the absolute most of their advertising dollars and their people. To that end, here are three trends that will be top of mind for future-forward auto marketers in 2024:

Trend #1: Coordinating First-Party Data Between Brands and Dealers

We all know that prioritizing the collection and extension of first-party data is a must as we move towards a privacy-friendly future. As marketers in the automotive industry move in that direction, leading brands and dealers will begin to consolidate their databases and execute a coordinated first-party data strategy to reduce the duplication of efforts and to make the most of all the data available to them.

Most automotive brands have had CDPs and data lakes in place for a long time. Now, those tools are being adopted within the dealership ecosystem, and with more sophisticated audience segmentation capabilities, dealers will be able to share more relevant audiences with brands and to deploy those segments on their own. Most dealerships have significantly more data than brands just by virtue of the nature of their business, so there’s a huge opportunity to share that with brands. This consolidation and coordination of data between brands and dealers will reduce duplication of tactics and strategies and allow both parties to make the most of all the first-party data available to them.

Trend #2: Adopting Automation

Automation is key for digital marketers who want to make the most of first-party data for personalization at scale. After all: If first-party data constitutes the wheels that enable marketers to connect with consumers, then automation is the engine that allows marketers to use that data effectively. (Sound familiar?)

But that isn’t the only use case for advertising automation. Automation can help automotive marketers build and deploy omnichannel campaigns more quickly, automatically optimizing pace and spend across all channels and moving budget from low performing channels to high performing channels—saving advertisers both time and money. For automotive marketers, the efficiency offered by these tools will be a game-changer for overcoming challenges like slow consumer spending, high interest rates, and signal loss. These technologies are developing quickly, and there’s a benefit to getting your foot in the door early so that you're primed for taking advantage of all the innovations coming down the line.

Trend #3: Embracing Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is another area that’s innovating quickly, and savvy automotive marketers will be keeping an eye on the space to ensure they’re tapping into all the ways AI can work for them. There are a host of ways marketers can leverage AI, such as using generative AI tools and DCO to produce marketing content and deploy targeted one-to-one email communications at scale. AI can also assist in personalizing and automating parts of customer communication via websites and call centers. Like automation, artificial intelligence tools can provide both time savings and cost-efficiencies, giving automotive marketers a competitive edge in a particularly competitive moment for the industry.

Wrapping Up: 2024 Trends for Automotive Marketers

2024 is a year for automotive marketers to step on the gas. Marketing teams can get ahead by prioritizing the collection and extension of first-party data and coordinating that data with their brand/dealer counterparts; and embracing automation and AI tools that can reduce manual labor and save time as well as money. The road to automotive marketing success is clear—why wait?

Hungry for more 2024 trends? Check out our 2024 Trends Report for everything digital marketers need to know for next year.

The American auto market has always been driven by emotional purchases: you see a car that you love; you drive it off the lot the same day. Cars have long held an intimate place in the American imagination, aided by a media industry that loves auto—just think of iconic cars like the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, James Bond’s 1964 Aston Martin DB5, or the 1966 Ford Thunderbird from Thelma & Louise.

Consumers aren’t used to waiting to bring home their new wheels—but that’s exactly what they must do these days, thanks to a global semiconductor shortage that’s upended not just the supply chain, but also the auto retail model that’s existed for over 50 years in the US.

The good news? Auto consumers aren’t going away. According to J.D. Power, as many as five million consumers may be sitting on the sidelines waiting to buy a vehicle when demand constraints ease up. As such, the current auto landscape is characterized by pent-up demand: consumers are waiting for just the right moment to make their next big purchase.

These circumstances raise two big questions for auto marketers: First, how do you advertise products that are in dwindling supply? And second, how can dealers and brands prepare to meet pent-up consumer demand once the supply chain returns to pre-pandemic levels—which at least one major automaker doesn’t think will happen anytime soon.

The way automotive brands approach these questions will define their business for years to come. To that end, let’s dig into what auto advertisers can do to best situate their brands right now, and how they can prepare to meet pent-up consumer demand once the landscape stabilizes.

Automotive Marketing in the Current Landscape

First things first: even though dealers and brands may not have the product supply they’re used to, cutting back on advertising is a short-term solution that will likely hurt you in the long run. When the supply chain finally does get back to something resembling “normal”, consumers will want to spend, and brands that have cultivated brand recognition and loyalty throughout the disruption will reap the benefits.

The next question, then, is how to market in the current automotive retail climate. Business as usual won’t cut it, because today’s consumer looks a lot different than the consumer of yesteryear.

1. Market for Brand Loyalty

Since 2020, global crises including the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and record inflation have piled up, leading to an increasingly stressed consumer base. According to a recent study from the American Psychological Association, almost three-fourths of U.S. adults report feeling overwhelmed by the number of crises facing the world today.

The psychological impact of chronic stress means many consumers don’t have the same cognitive resources for decision-making. Stressed consumers tend to prefer consistency over novelty and want simple answers to complex questions. In a crowded marketplace where consumers have a huge array of options, dealers and brands must ask themselves how they can cut through the noise and foster brand loyalty. One surefire tactic? Lead with brand values. Today’s consumers want to know what causes and core beliefs they’re supporting when they buy from a certain company. Gen Z and millennials in particular want to support brands who do more than just sell goods and services—they want to build relationships with companies that are making a difference in the world.

Be wary, however, of coming across as inauthentic. Consumers today have sensitive B.S. radars—if you choose to focus on brand values in your marketing, it’s essential your messaging aligns with your actions behind the scenes.

2. Prepare for the Era of Electric Vehicles

Consumer demand for hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) is rising, and automakers and dealers are responding in kind. Many of the industry’s major players have already started making EVs en masse, and they’re putting some serious dollars behind marketing their green credentials: Ford tapped Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao for their spot during the 2020 (2021) Tokyo Olympics, General Motors ran an ad during Super Bowl LVI that reunited the Austin Powers cast, and Mercedes-Benz is involved in a major partnership with Avatar 2.

The clamor around EVs essentially comes against a backdrop of ballooning gas prices and growing consideration and sentiment around sustainability themes. And from an automaker’s perspective, tightened fuel economy rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and laws in both California and New York requiring all new car and light truck sales to be EV or emissions-free by 2035 are providing additional incentive. Throw in better, “next-generation” battery technology and the future of auto really does look electric.

As interest evolves around EVs, marketers will need to focus on creating greater awareness around these products, educating consumers about the benefits of electric mobility, and emphasizing their commitment to sustainability. Both brands and dealers must also find ways to usher EVs into their marketing strategy without cannibalizing or alienating the (still critical) traditional gas-powered vehicle buyer.

3. Embrace Digital Marketing

The third thing dealers and brands can do to better advertise in the current auto retail market is leverage digital marketing to its fullest potential. The stats speak for themselves here:

Of course, while digital interaction is increasingly important for auto consumers, that doesn’t mean dealers and brands should leave the physical world behind. Research shows consumers want the convenience of a digital-first experience, but they don’t want to let go of the personal touch that comes with working with a dealer in-store. Enter the next challenge for auto advertisers: bridging the digital-physical divide and making the hybrid consumer journey as seamless as possible.

Fortunately, there are existing resources and solutions that can help automotive advertisers achieve that seamless consumer experience...

Preparing to Market to Pent-Up Consumer Demand

Now that we’ve covered how dealers and brands can market to consumers while disruption in the auto space endures, let’s look ahead to the fun stuff: meeting pent-up consumer demand once the supply chain stabilizes. The winning strategy here? Personalization and scale.

Personalization is quickly becoming the norm across the digital ecosystem, with 56% of consumers expecting offers to always be personalized. In order to earn those post-economic disruption dollars, auto marketers will need to be able to:

Dealers and brands who prepare their tech and partnerships now will be able to meet pent-up consumer demand once the marketplace stabilizes. A data-driven approach to digital marketing will be critical for building and reaching high-quality automotive audiences. When evaluating where to invest, two solutions should be top-of-mind: first-party data and automation.

Solution 1: First-Party Data

To create a personalized, stress-free car buying experience, you have to know your audience. And with third-party cookies on their way out, marketers will need to set up new systems for gathering information about their customers and meeting them in their moment.

For auto dealers and brands, first-party data offers an avenue for providing personalization at scale. Advanced customer data infrastructure, for example, can collect and unify first-party data from multiple sources—including CRM, website, and ads—to build a single, coherent, and complete view of each customer. Marketers can then use the collective data to create targeted and personalized marketing campaigns that enable one-to-one communication with consumers.

Solution 2: Automation

If first-party data is the wheels that enable marketers to connect with consumers, advertising automation tools are the engines that allow marketers to use that data effectively.

Personalization strategies are inherently nuanced and achieving them at scale requires a level of flexibility and efficiency that is nearly impossible to achieve manually. The fragmented and complex marketing media landscape means advertisers are often slowed down at several stages of the campaign, including planning, performance optimization, and measurement. Recent research from Advertiser Perceptions reveals that the majority of advertising professionals use an average of nine platforms for a typical ad campaign (and touch seven of those platforms in a day), highlighting the need for technology that removes silos and simplifies campaign management across the board. By adopting advertising automation solutions, auto marketers can find the agility required to align and shift ad spending in a turbulent market, while ensuring ads are reaching high-value targets to drive measurable outcomes.

Meeting Pent-Up Consumer Demand for Auto—In Summary

Whew! That’s a lot for automotive marketers to think about and prepare for. The good news is that despite economic disruption—or perhaps even because of it—the time is now for auto dealers and brands to chart lucrative new paths for themselves.

Those who take this opportunity to further define and promote their brand values and forge genuine relationships with their audiences will find themselves well-positioned to earn their business—whether those audiences decide to purchase now or wait until the supply chain stabilizes. And investing in digital, first-party data, and automation-driven technology will put dealers and brands at the forefront of advertising innovation, pushing the boundaries of what personalization can look like at scale.

All in all? Vin Diesel said it best in the Fast and the Furious 9: “I choose to make my own fate.” In the face of supply chain disruption, macroeconomic crises, and a stressed consumer base, brands who choose to take the wheel now—pun very much intended—will be frontrunners in the years to come.

Basis is ushering in a new vision of automation and intelligence for the automotive industry. Connect with us to learn more!

With supply chain issues delaying delivery of key parts and curbing new car manufacturing, the automotive industry slammed the metaphorical brakes on at the beginning of the pandemic. But its engines never ceased running, and now we find ourselves entering arguably the most dynamic and expansive period the vertical has ever seen, with electric mobility, new direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, and evolving consumer behavior joining forces to make major impacts.

And so, despite near-term challenges (less affordability, rising interest rates, and tight supply), there are myriad reasons to be optimistic in 2023, all of which should trigger more advertising investment:

The question, then, is how will these industry trends shape advertising trends moving forward?

First and foremost, brands will need to make their electric cars the stars. Fifty-two percent of car buyers say they would prefer an EV for their next purchase, so advertisers will need to prioritize creating awareness for these products and educating consumers about the benefits of electric mobility as they communicate their EV story. Both brands and dealers will also need to find ways to usher in EVs without cannibalizing the traditional gas-powered vehicle buyer.

Second, robust retargeting strategies will be key. Consumer behavior is shifting rapidly in this space, with more choices leading to more cross-shopping between models and ultimately less brand loyalty. To take advantage of these movements and accelerate into a position of strength, advertisers should focus on implementing powerful, future-proof audience segmentation strategies that will empower them to target engaged consumers effectively.

And one final thought as you consider media planning for 2023: Traditional automotive in-market segments will look different than in years past—mainly due to inventory and cost factors that are extending buying cycles. The path to purchase will likely be much longer than at any time previously, and to find the right consumer, automotive brands and dealers would do well to build a first-party data stockpile that can drive better results.


Want to learn about some of the macro trends affecting digital marketing more generally? Check out our 2023 Trends Report to stay ahead of the curve as you plan for the year ahead.