Wharton MBAs Aim to Revolutionize Auto Retailing

Wharton MBAs Aim to Revolutionize Auto Retailing

Dealers rarely use geo-targeting and geo-fencing marketing. That may change soon.

I remember Maryann Keller, the noted automotive industry analyst, speaking two decades ago to a group of Wharton School MBAs. She suggested tremendous career opportunities for them in automotive retailing.

They looked at her like she had three heads. Automotive retailing? Car dealerships? Hardly the territory newly minted Ivy League MBAs were looking at to blaze new ground.

Nitish Aitharaju and Sedrick Dongmo Nguela of Deckspire at Wharton in Philadelphia.

Well, an awful lot has changed in this business since then. The consolidators, large dealer groups and a wider recognition of the financial opportunities of our dynamic space have moved the industry forward and helped attract and retain top talent. This is not only on the direct front lines of retail dealer groups, but in the peripheral service industries as well.

Big data, or sophisticated retail data analysis, may not be new to auto makers or even some dealer advertising groups. But few individual dealers practice the newest state of the art in their digital promotion.

Rarer still are those that use the latest geo-targeted, geo-fenced mobile advertising methods, apart from some reliance on places such as Google or Facebook that are eager to sell their wares, mostly if you are a large business.

At Deckspire, two industry-experienced Wharton MBAs have been intrigued by the opportunity of focusing specifically on the needs of frontline car dealers.

They have set a goal of no less than revolutionizing the efficiency of dealer-retail-focused mobile advertising and dramatically increasing performance, maximizing units sold per advertising dollars spent.

Nitish Aitharaju was already a successful entrepreneur in the emerging mobile advertising industry before he started his tenure at Wharton. He co-founded and led Mobspire, a mobile advertising company. (Aarki acquired Mobspire in 2012). 

Before Wharton, Sedrick Dongmo Nguela worked as a high-frequency quantitative developer and financial engineer at Five Rings Capital and Citadel Investment Group, two global financial institutions known for proprietary trading and sophisticated hedge-fund strategies.

In reviewing the structure of the auto industry, and working on mobile advertising strategies for auto retailers, Aitharaju and Dongmo Nguela realized the retail sector of the auto industry has the most to gain from this technology. Mobile advertising has enjoyed limited benefit from big data analysis in the auto dealership space. 

“We saw a need,” says Aitharaju. “The sector of the car business that has the highest potential benefit from the sales and awareness generated from highly targeted, geo-fenced mobile advertising and promotion is, without a doubt, retail. “Retail is also getting the least benefit from the real-time data analysis necessary to fine tune and consistently produce the best results.” 

Dongmo Nguela adds, “More than the technology problem, the business opportunity here is tremendous.”

Mobile, as a medium, is able to capture customers and move them down the purchase funnel, he says. Adding brains to the brawn will increase auto retailing ROI.

“Using sophisticated strategies in geo-targeted, geo-fenced mobile advertising is new to most car dealers, but we see tremendous growth in usage by retailers in years to come,” he says.

As its effectiveness is demonstrated, he foresees analytics-enabled mobile as a vital part of the Tier 3 promotion mix.

There will no doubt be a learning curve. “Revolutionary” results leading to reduced marketing costs will take time.

The great part of the story is that this type of advanced work, “big data” analysis on mobile advertising technology, is available to car dealers, simultaneous with the innovations going on at the manufacturer level. 

Instead of Tier 3 retailers waiting for trickle-down analytics, it’s all happening together. That’s different from a few decades ago when I was a dealer. Back then, most of the high-powered talent innovation came from the top down. Now, innovation seems to come more from the showroom floor where cars are sold one customer at a time. Seems like that’s the best place.

Mobile marketing expert and Wharton grad John F. Possumato is an attorney and the founder of Automotive Mobile Solutions. He can be reached at [email protected]

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