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At 76 million strong, millennial consumers cannot be ignored even if their buying power is softer compared to their parents, especially when it comes to auto purchases. The 18-to-34-year-old segment born between 1980 and 1999 make up a large portion of digital automotive media consumption and account for 25 percent of car purchases in 2015 - translating to $135 billion dollars in sales this year, according to DetroitBureau.com.
Social Influence & OEMs
While the economy may be sluggish for big-ticket purchases, male millennials are the most vibrant lead source for car dealers having visited automotive sites and OEM social channels more than any other demographic. BMW has one of the most active social engagements according to the latest social media statistics. With 19.6 million Facebook fans, the high-end automaker not only pushes out relevant content to its followers – BMW has high interaction and viewership due to a regular circulation of content and use of sponsored posts. Its German competitor, Mercedes-Benz keeps fans engaged and its brand at the forefront in the social space as well, given its 18 million fans on Facebook, and 1.2 million Twitter followers.
So what do these two brands have in common? A mere perusing of the brands reveals they both share exclusive news, information, and entertainment content to its fans on a consistent basis. Both brands celebrate the lifestyle their cars exude, in addition to the extensions in racing and other ancillary relationships – a tactic that has been successful in reaching the millennial segment.
One of Facebook’s largest acquisitions to date reflects the move from text to visual storytelling that the parent company has witnessed over the last two years as millennials began to migrate from Facebook to Instagram. A picture is worth thousands of dollars to millennials. The premiere place for visual storytelling in the digital space provides an avenue for OEM’s to showcase their latest models while tracking the conversation from start to finish. The majority of users on this Facebook-owned platform are under the age of 35, which makes it a prime place for dealer’s to engage and their showcase their available inventory on a social channel. The key drawback for brands with Instagram -- users can’t share posts with others within the platform. Link your Facebook account to Instagram and the opportunity to spread your message becomes a reality once more.
Overcoming Economic Odds
Younger car buyers have serious economic odds to overcome - more so than their Generation X counterparts. Due to active social media followings, the influence millennials yield is crucial to brand awareness. Millennials are the first generation in the 21st century to have higher levels of student loan debt and lower levels of wealth than the Generation Xers and Baby Boomers before them. While this profile may be daunting to automakers and local dealers, Millennials will tell you they deem their financial situation as temporary. The latest research conducted by the Pew Foundation provides a glimpse into the hope the younger generation possesses for their future wealth -- 53 percent say they don’t have enough cash flow now, but will in the future, compared to 30 percent of Generation Xers.
Marketers should listen and be encouraged by their optimism. When millennials do desire to spend, social media engagement firm SocialChorus found that 95 percent of users in the age group say their most trusted information comes from the family and friends. 91 percent of the same group surveyed says they’d consider purchasing a product if a friend recommended it.
Interacting with Millennials on Their Timetable
For a generation where smartphones are the norm and ordering anything can happen in a matter of clicks, convenience has given way somewhat to impatience. Gone are the days that traditional office or store hours dictate when consumers can and will reach out for more information regarding desired goods or purchases. As one millennial shared with us, “When they are ready to buy -- they are ready to pull the trigger now”. “Now” means in the middle of the night via your dealership website. “Now” for this generation of buyers means, “I’ve texted a question to you, and I expect an almost immediate response, or I’ll move on.”
For millennials, email communication is passé, while texting is king. Since 63 percent of millennials say their phone never leaves their side, the opportunity to receive and embrace text messages after establishing a relationship with a dealership is a valuable reality. They are more adept to interactions after traditional business hours, so the implications for dealers and their sales teams to be “on” all the time is key. It is no longer a choice to have tools readily available for these consumers to search and choose a replacement vehicle, valuate their trade (if any), structure their own purchase offers with payment and term options, as well as access to select aftermarket and warranty programs. These online buying tools will become the industry standard. And, in short – dealership’s sales teams utilizing mobile tools to connect with a young prospect at a moment’s notice will win.
While analyzing those social conversations and turning them into showroom traffic and purchases is the endgame for car brands and dealers, it is worthy to note that millennials need more wooing than other demographic groups. And don’t forget their parents. Yes -- even the older end of the millennial spectrum (29 to 33-year-olds) still seek more advice from their parents than previous generations, so parents are in a highly influential role in assuaging buying decisions.
Regular interactions and long-term relationships are what they seek in the social space from friends and brands. These future professionals will also be the group that is most known for socially sharing almost everything they do - their likes, their dislikes, wants, aspirations, and dreams - for their 250+ friends to see at any given moment of the day. Developing relationships and creating brand identity and loyalty now on social, could lead to a future loyal follower showing up in your showroom ready to purchase in the future.