Millennials (or, if you prefer, Gen Y) are growing up, making some of their first big-ticket purchases and changing the buying game.
This is particularly true for the automotive industry. Despite recent reports suggesting Millennials are driving less and waiting longer to get their license—at Jumpstart Automotive Group, Gen Y traffic has spiked 74% in the last five years. And, when I think about the Millennials I know best—my two boys—I can vouch for their desire to get behind the wheel (and out of the house). When it came time for them to purchase their own car, I was impressed by their depth of research and surprised by how practical they were in their decisions. It almost makes me want to give their taste in music a second chance. Almost.
Why is it essential that we understand this group of consumers? Well, according to the recent “Gen Y in the Driver’s Seat” study by Deloitte, Millennials (ages 19-31) represent about 40% of the nation’s car buying population—the largest consumer segment since the Baby Boomers. There are more than 80 million American consumers approaching the age of 30, which means that millions are moving into the new vehicle buying demographic each year. * By 2025, Gen Y is expected to account for 75% of all vehicles purchased, with an annual buying power of more than $2 trillion.
Start with your site. Millennials grew up on technology and expect ease and speed when they’re on the go. Site design roadmaps should include mobile optimization at the very least, device responsiveness at best. Pertinent information about products and services should never be more than one to two clicks away. And since Gen Y buyers rely heavily on peer advice and referrals, customer reviews and testimonials should be showcased.
Respond quickly. Millennials are always on, which means follow-up to prospective purchases should happen within minutes, not hours or days. There’s a sense of urgency among younger buyers—if they can’t find what they’re looking for (or don’t hear from you quickly when they do) chances are they’ll move on.
Jeremy Beaver, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at the Del Grande Dealer Group in San Jose, California (and a Millennial himself) agrees and says it’s all about effective communication. “Consumers want to feel connected no matter where they are, especially when it comes to younger car buyers,” said Beaver. “Whether they’re on their cell phone or tablet, or reaching us through our website or on Facebook, they need to feel like we’re responsive. Most importantly, we listen to their individual needs and help guide them to the car that best meets those needs.”
Develop content around key triggers. Overall value (as it relates to fuel economy and the availability of eco and tech-friendly features) is important to Gen Y car buyers, so develop content about the benefits of your brand/products/services around these core triggers. Interactivity is important too. Allowing young consumers to engage and interact with your content—on your site and via social media—enables them to feel more engaged and connected with you.
Ditch the old school sales pitch. Gen Y buyers (arguably, most car buyers) don’t want the hard sell—they want a consultant to guide them through the process. The Deloitte study revealed that half of Millennials surveyed said they would permanently turn against an automotive brand if they had a negative experience with a salesperson.
Millennials (virtually) kick the tires until the very week they buy a car; they’ve done their homework by comparing multiple brands, they know what they should pay, and they won’t waste time negotiating.
This group is increasingly turning to practical, reliable cars with generous warranties and excellent fuel economy (according to Deloitte, 89% will consider buying a car that gets better gas mileage). And while existing financial obligations like student loans mean tighter budgets, they still expect more refinement, even with entry-level products. They want value but value doesn’t necessarily mean a lower price tag. For Gen Y buyers, it means reliability, safety, and convenience at a reasonable price.
Make no mistake, as Gen Y’s incomes grow and technology shifts them further away from their brand-loyal predecessors, we won’t be talking about a new consumer but the consumer.
*U.S. Census Bureau statistics
Nick Matarazzo is CEO of Jumpstart Automotive Group, an expert digital automotive marketing and advertising company and division of Hearst Magazines.