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Guest opinion: four ways to win over the youngest car buyers

Sarah Welch

Millennials may be the best educated generation ever, but by their own admission they know very little about how to buy a car.

Our recent research indicates that millennial shoppers face a knowledge gap when it comes to cars, with nearly half (43%) admitting to not having a good level of car buying knowledge.

This appears to be a generational issue as almost half (49%) of Gen Y-ers in the UK admit to feeling anxiety about buying a car, compared to just a quarter (25%) of their elders.

As millennials (a person born in the early 1980s) become more of a commercial force in the marketplace, it’s becoming increasingly important for car dealers to know how to engage these buyers.

A recent study by The Economist Group (pdf) found that nearly three out of four millennials surveyed currently own or lease a car, and half agree that it is very important for them to own a car in the future.

So not only do you need to adopt the right techniques to reach this rapidly growing customer base, but also use the right tools and processes to meet their expectations. 

These four tips are designed to help you think like a millennial, communicate with them and importantly convert their interest into car sales.

1. Get to the point

Using the right language is critical in any car sale, but knowing how to communicate with the millennial generation is particularly important.

Millennials are notorious multitaskers who are constantly glued to their smartphones or tablets, and switch between devices and media platforms an average of 27 times an hour (pdf).  As such, it pays to be clear and concise in your communication to keep their attention.

2. Be honest

Gen-Yers may admit to a lack of knowledge on car purchasing, however this doesn’t mean they are gullible.

In fact, our research suggests the contrary; millennials are the least trusting age group of those surveyed and over two-thirds (68%) believe that car dealers want to overcharge them.

They appreciate honesty and prefer things to be explained clearly.

Ensure you are transparent when presenting a deal, don’t just go in heavy-handed and push the positives of the sale.

Nothing is ever perfect so it might help you win them over if you point out some small negative aspects of the car to help build their trust.

This can show the customer you care about their purchase, not just making the sale and your profit margins.

3. Optimise for mobile

Your online presence is important for any audience, but to reach millennials your ability to optimise for mobile is imperative.

Millennials spend 3.2 hours a day on their mobile devices, the equivalent of almost a day a week. Further still, our own research shows that millennials use the internet as their primary research method when it comes to buying a car. Don’t miss out on this opportunity.

You need to ensure your dealership has a digital and mobile presence; by creating your own mobile optimised website and tapping into the expanded reach of a mobile-optimised online car shopping platform to advertise your listings. You should also be aware that the mobile shopper is much more likely to call your dealership than submit an email lead, so make sure you’re set up to effectively handle the growing shift towards phone leads.

4. Give them access to reviews

It’s important to remember that millennials have grown up in the age of online consumer reviews and therefore expect to both read and have an opportunity to provide their own reviews of goods and services. In fact, BrightLocal research found that a whopping 88 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Your customers need to not only be able to review the cars they are looking to purchase, but also the dealerships they are buying from. Show your millennial customer that you are being transparent with them to earn their trust.

It may feel risky, but they’ll be more likely to purchase a car from you if they know exactly what they are getting and the experience other customers have had with your dealership.

Understanding a new generation of customers’ changing attitudes and expectations is always a challenge for any business but it’s important to evolve now, as their expectations are likely to set the tone for generations to follow.  

These tips should provide you with a solid foundation to connect with younger car buyers on their terms. Doing so can help you educate them on the car buying process, gain their trust and eventually close the deal with this increasingly important segment of car shoppers.  

Author: Sarah Welch (pictured), senior vice president consumer marketing, CarGurus

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