Ford is test-driving a new concept designed to appeal to female buyers this month: The automaker is selling its vehicles at a preset price through the Home Shopping Network, a move that removes negotiations from the car-shopping equation.
“Research shows that women enjoy the negotiation process less than men,” says Kathleen Kross, experiential marketing manager for Ford. “They prefer to have the confidence that they’re getting a good value. When they have that confidence, they enjoy the shopping process.” The Ford Preferred Price Event launched in early October with three hours of programming on HSN—the first time the network has tried marketing cars.
Of course, the process of actually buying a car through the HSN deal is far more complex than ordering a watch or a scarf. When viewers spot a vehicle they like on the air, they have to contact the network (online or via phone) in order to receive a free code. Shoppers must then take that code to their local dealer, who will tell them the preset price for that particular model, including local taxes. There’s no obligation to buy, but that price is only guaranteed until Jan. 4, 2016. The preset prices are “hundreds or thousands of dollars off” the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, Kross said.
The automaker is hoping that the alliance with HSN, a multi-platform retail conglomerate that reaches 95 million households and has a 90% female viewership, will help it reach more women. Generating buzz is key: Ford’s research shows that women are likelier than men to rely on word-of-mouth recommendations.
“Our customer is the leader of her social group,” says HSN President Bill Brand. “She’s the first to be on trend. Her friends look to her for advice and guidance.” Brand said the partnership builds a story around the vehicles, a strategy that he believes will resonate with women. “It really comes down to storytelling,” he said. “You have to bring it to life in a demonstrative way.”
The program generated more than 20,000 leads for Ford since its Oct. 1 launch, according to HSN.
However, while some shoppers may not enjoy haggling, it’s often the key to getting the best price. Indeed, the preset prices included in the Ford/HSN program may not be as good as other deals a customer could get at her local dealership, said Karl Brauer, senior editor at Kelley Blue Book. “I always assume preset prices aren’t as low as a negotiated price because a dealer, and manufacturer, wouldn’t agree to a price ahead of time unless both knew it allowed for sufficient profit.”