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Phil DuPree

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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?

 

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*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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