Imagine you send and receive as many as 3,000 text messages a month, but make and receive fewer than 150 phone calls. Imagine you read reviews on blogs and other social media platforms before a purchase instead of asking the opinions of friends or family. Imagine you share virtually everything that happens in your life on Facebook, Snapchat or Tumblr.
Can’t picture it? That’s probably because you’re not a Millennial or part of the iGeneration. Yet, these generations present an enormous and exciting opportunity for your dealership. Their numbers make the Baby Boomer generation look tiny, and their spending power is huge: more than $200 billion a year by 2017 according to Forbes.
Surprisingly, the auto retail industry lags behind in appealing to these multi-billion dollar demographics, perhaps because many dealers run family-owned generational businesses and have little reason to question previous decisions, or maybe because they just don’t know where to start. That’s a problem, because these generations are changing the face of vehicle buying and servicing.
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Who Are These Buyers? To win the business of Millennials and the iGeneration, you first have to understand them. Millennials are commonly defined as those born between 1980 and 2000. They’re often referred to as “digital natives” because technology has always been at hand for them. They’ve seen it all when it comes to marketing, and consequently, only 1 percent say a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more, according to Forbes.
They’ve grown up on social media and trust it, to the point where Forbes found that 33 percent rely on blogs before they make a purchase, and 62 percent are more likely to become a loyal customer if a brand engages them on social networks.
Research also shows that their values have been influenced by events like 9/11 and the Great Recession, which perhaps accounts for why up to 75 percent say it’s either “fairly” or “very” important that a company give back to society instead of just making a profit.
The iGeneration (also known as Generation Z) is commonly defined as those born between 1994 and 2004. Like Millennials, they’re digital natives, constantly connected and defined by their love of electronic communication (no wonder their name is derived from Apple’s popular products).
A 2015 study conducted by Worldcom Public Relations Group partners, Schneider Associates and The Pollack PR Marketing Group, found that this generation, more than any other, requires information on demand and is inclined to trust the advice and opinions shared freely on social media platforms.
Both generations are progressive with technology, prefer to research and shop online, and come to your dealership armed with pricing information, ready to buy on the first visit. That presents two challenges: How do you get these lucrative generations in your store, and then, how do you keep profits up when you don’t have a lot of room to negotiate on price anymore?
How Do I Win Their Business? Adjusting to these preferences and habits, you can win your share of this lucrative market and gain a steady revenue stream for years to come. Companies marketing successfully to these generations incorporate some or all of the following tactics:
Personalize everything — Many call these generations the “me” generations, partly because they are so intent on feeling unique. That’s why a hyper-personalized customer experience is important. A marketing platform that segments your customers and draws on data you already have will help you know your customers and what they need, so you can send timely, relevant communications.
Connect through social media — These generations live on social media, so your dealership should be there, too. They expect a Facebook page, Google reviews, a Twitter stream, and maybe even a Tumblr account. Social media offers real-time engagement and is a huge opportunity for your dealership to communicate and connect with these buyers.
Excite with content — Content is a mainstay of the Millennial and iGeneration lifestyle. They are constantly scrolling through news feeds and watching videos on YouTube. In fact, a 2014 Most Memorable New Product Launch survey conducted by Schneider Associates marketing group found that almost 50 percent of iGens turn to YouTube to learn about new products, compared to only 25 percent who read emails from brands. Videos, photos and social media posts go a long way towards bringing them to your dealership.
Use mobile — It’s no surprise that these digital natives prefer a technology-based dealer experience. According to a 2015 J.D. Power study, dealerships that used tablets as part of their sales and F&I process achieved greater customer satisfaction than their old-school competitors. You can incorporate mobile technology throughout the buying experience, from configuring a vehicle, to payment options, paperless contracting, menu selling and after-purchase service appointments. Incorporating technology is a huge plus for your dealership.
Focus on selling an experience — It’s difficult, if not impossible, to sell purely on price these days when all the information on the Internet limits your negotiating power. Instead, sell the experience of your store — whether that’s a completely mobile buying process, a service center that uses license plate scanners to greet customers by name and instantly access service records, or a waiting area with virtual reality vehicle simulators. Whatever you do to surprise and delight your customers should be prominent across your marketing channels.
Conclusion Millennials and members of the iGeneration are a whole new type of buyer — digital natives schooled in constant connectivity, who expect from companies the instant information, convenience and real-time engagement they’ve become used to from the Internet. Dealerships that take the time to understand what motivates these generations and create an experience that appeals to how they prefer to communicate, shop and buy will rise to the top and earn business from this lucrative demographic.
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