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Millennials Will Soon Be Buying More Cars. Here’s How to Sell to Them.

Back in 2009, the team of Mike and Maaike, the designers behind Google’s G1 Phone among other innovations, released a concept design for the car of the future. Lost behind the futuristic glass enclosure and auto-drive capabilities were the reasons they undertook the project: “Freed from the monotony of driving, we can enjoy quality time while in transit: socializing, gaming, movies, business, videocalls, web surfing, sleeping or discovering new places with powerful voice controlled search and navigation.”

 

We’re a car culture. Our manufacturers continue to advertise power, performance, passion, heritage and sex appeal—but the next generation of buyers is less interested in that than they are in engagement, connection, impact and lifestyle. To them, driving is a distraction from their life.

 

In 2010, the millennials (the current 16-34-year-old demographic) surpassed the baby boomers as the largest generation in the United States, with more than 77 million members, or one in four Americans. Inevitably—and soon— they will buy more cars, get married, buy houses and have families. At the same time baby boomers are retiring and driving less, so understanding how to sell to millennials will be critical to your dealership’s success.

 

When you are able to identify the approximate age of an Internet lead, how do you respond to those in the 16-34 age group? Here are a few tips on how to respond to millennial Internet leads:

 

1) Price is Important….: The millennials have had a tough time establishing careers in this down economy, as evidenced by a 16% unemployment rate in their age range. Many also graduated college with student debt. Lack of finances is one big contributor to why many of them aren’t currently buying cars. If you notice their inquiry is on a “budget” car, respond by sending links to similarly priced vehicles, both used and new.

 

You may also want to bring up financing options with millennials sooner rather than later, so you don’t spend a lot of time selling them a car they can’t afford. Fortunately, credit restrictions for auto purchases have been easing lately. Offer to help them become qualified, and send links to whatever payment marketing tools are on your website. If you have a new generation shop-by-payment tool, they will be able to peruse your inventory based on what their monthly budget is.

 

2) ….But Not as Important as the “Feel Good” Factor. Although millennials may be looking for value, giving them the bottom line price is not guaranteed to get you the sale. In general, neither will selling the features of the car. Less than 15% of millennials describe themselves as “car enthusiasts,” compared to 30% of baby boomers,* making a car more of a commodity than an emotional purchase.

 

Most millennials want to “feel good” about what they’re buying. In a 2010 Pew Research Center study, more millennials said “Helping Others In Need” is more important than “Owning a Home.” So if it’s a hybrid, emphasize the benefits to the environment. If your dealership is involved in the local community, try to weave in a conversation about a charity you recently helped out, or other social benefit that your dealership has provided. Another strategy is to share YouTube ads from the brands they inquired about, to help them decide which brands they identify with.

 

3) Let Others Do the Talking. Millennials are extremely active with social media and use the Internet to do most of their research. In general, they trust the opinions of their friends and the masses before they trust recommendations from a salesperson. If possible, let your social media platforms and online review sites do as much of the “selling” as possible for you and your dealership. Send them links to the objective, third-party research sites, to your online review sites and especially to any reviews that may specifically mention you, the salesperson. If you don’t have any video testimonials from customers, get some, then send the links to those on your YouTube channel.

 

4) Don’t Pressure Too Much, but Don’t Give Up. Millennials are in a state of “constant consideration,” so if they don’t respond to your request for an appointment, or stop responding entirely, don’t give up. It may be they’ve backed off the idea of purchasing for the moment. Chances are they will still purchase in the next 90 days, and when they do it will be with someone who they have built a rapport with.

 

5) Use Your CRM For Communication Preferences. Millennials expect companies to do business with them on their terms. This means if they prefer to text, you should be texting them (or your competitor who does text them will be the one to engage with them).

 

 

The millennials now outnumber boomers, and their growing purchasing power will soon be felt. What tips do you have to market to this tech-savvy generation?

 

# # #

  

*Statistics taken from the Spring 2013 research report “A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future” by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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Tags: AutoUSA, By, Internet, Payment, PaymentPro, Shop, auto, leads, marketing, millennials, More…website

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Comment by Alexander Lau on July 18, 2013 at 6:25am

Good article on Millenials, but when did Generation X and Y fall off of the list? The purchasing power of Generation X, alone, is HUGE! The two aforementioned generations use technology just as much as Millenials, if not more, in that they have the money to purchase all of the gadgets and licenses.


Great Constant Consideration Research Study article!

Comment by Aaron Hassen on July 18, 2013 at 4:45am

Timely and important article, Josh.

There are many recent studies that back up your statements. In fact, millennials are today's and tomorrow's customers.  As you mentioned, they have come to age in a mobile society and require a different communication strategy.  This link provides more detailed statistics on these buyers and focuses (just as you have) on practical steps dealers can take now to increase sales to this important segment:

MOBILE MILLENNIAL SALES

Comment by David Ruggles on July 17, 2013 at 4:01pm

Yes, Millennials outnumber "Boomers," but NOT in purchasing power.  But "Boomers" are entering a period of their life when they don't spend money just because the happen to have it.  The "thrill" of the new model isn't what it once was.  Even though "Boomers" may self describe as "enthusiasts" doesn't mean they buy the same way they used to.

Millennials would prefer to buy direct from the factory. And they are frustrated by the process they have to go through to buy a car.  Of course, so are Boomers.  I've been in the business over 40 years, and auto buyers, in general, have NEVER liked the negotiation process.  But what do any of these buyers do at the first opportunity?  They start a negotiation.  What they REALLY want is negotiation stacked in their favor, which it is these days more than ever before.  But that doesn't even satisfy them. If you ask buyers if they want dealers to make a fair profit, they mostly answer "YES."  So where is the disconnect?  Buyers don't know what a fair profit is.  And despite their protestations, they really don't care.  They want all they can get for their monthly payment, however they can get it.  As an industry we shouldn't turn our business upside down for Millennials just yet.  Perhaps as they grow up they will realize the value dealers add and not be so anxious to eliminate the dealer body so they can buy "direct from the factory."   OR, perhaps they will all buy from Tesla, if Elon Musk can make his direct from the factory business model work.

Millennials don't have average credit scores any better than the rest of the population, and despite their access to information, they don't have the knowledge or experience to properly interpret a lot of it.  After all, the industry has managed to flood consumers with so much information it is like drinking from a fire hose to consumers.  

I think the jury is still out on Millennials.  One thing I know for sure.  We shouldn't regard them as if they all think and act the same.  In sales, we have always known that too much information can be a bad thing.  Many's the time, a green salesperson will attempt to be a fountainhead of knowledge.  And the next thing he/she hears is, "Wow!  Thanks for all the good information.  Now we have to go home and think about it."   We call that "talking past the close."  Today's sales people only possess so much information.  Their own dealerships aren't completely transparent with them, let alone the consumer.  Besides, what right does everyone have to the same information as the person who took all of the risk and invested all the money?  Possession of all of the information is NOT the same thing as being able to properly interpret that information.   

Complete and absolute transparency leads to an "efficient market," where buyers and sellers have the same information.  This renders the product a commodity and results in "disintermediation."  For those not versed in economics, "disintermediation" does not bode well for dealers and their sales people. 

Comment by Roosevelt Gist on July 17, 2013 at 3:46pm

we show all the different types of digital and electrical connections in all our detailed walk arounds. just had, today, a viewer put on hold a Toyota van purchase because she came across our video of a 2013 Dodge Caravan RT. we don't sell cars but our reviews are some of the most detailed on the web. that comes from many viewers making that comment. http://www.autonetwork.com

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