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There’s no doubt that the advent of the Internet has rushed in sweeping changes throughout the automotive industry. But perhaps even more profound, as many people are pointing out, is the changing face of the customer. There’s constant talk about the millennials and how they operate, how they shop, and how they interact, and quite frankly, how it “ain’t like it used to be.” Well, I can’t speak to how customers used to be, but I do know what they look like today. Keep these characteristics top of mind when trying to reach the younger, more Internet-oriented customer (like me!):
Customers are digital – Duh? Yes, that’s my initial reaction even when I say it to myself, but what does that really mean? Customers are on the Internet all the time. They live here, shop here, hangout with friends here. Shoot, I even work here. If you’re not operating with a significant online presence, you’ve long missed the boat. But there’s more. As Gary Vaynerchuk mentioned in last year’s DSES keynote, we’re not looking at billboards. It’s true. That’s not to say that traditional media is ineffective. It’s not. It fully supplements the online presence, but you have to be online for it to supplement. And try thinking about traditional media in new ways. Put your radio ads on Pandora or format your TV commercials to be YouTube appropriate. We’re just as easily susceptible to advertisements and marketing as the customer two decades ago – we’re just looking and listening in different places. Find us.
Customers want transparency – It comes with the territory of being an Internet researcher. People my age feel like they should be able to find all of the answers online – all of them. If they can’t find your address, better luck next time. If your search function is even hard to use, might as well kiss them good-bye. Not to mention if you are purposely with holding information. What’s the price? Does that include doc fees? Are there any rebates? Not having the tangible details available online creates a chasm of distrust between you and a potential customer. Be up front or be forgotten.
Customers want consistency – If you haven’t figured it out yet, we live online. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t come out from behind our backlit computer screens. When we do, though, we want out experience to reflect what we learned online. When you give a price online, you sure as heck better match it in-store. Do you market that your salespeople are friendly and don’t negotiate? That better run all the way through the process, down to the accessories department. The experience you create online needs to match the experience in-store or the disconnect won’t sit right. And we want it to sit as right as our worn-in, comfy computer chairs.
Customers WANT to like you – As I mentioned before, customers today aren’t all that different from customers two decades ago. We want to have a relationship with our dealers as much as our parents did. But instead of calling our friend on the phone to say how great you were, we want to share it on Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Yelp. We WANT to be able to give you good reviews and we WANT to advocate for you and your store. The need to create and sustain that relationship is equally important if not more so than the one you created with our parents because we can tell 130 friends at a time (on average). We have to write bad reviews, but we get to write good ones.
Young customers may not be as passionate about cars as our parents were (although there are some die-hards, example: Hunter Swift) and we might prefer to hold a cell phone in our hand over a memo pad, but we’re still customers. We want to buy a car at a good price from a dealer we trust. How different is that?