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Guest opinion: Dealers should ignore Millennials at their peril

Simon Benson, director of motoring services at AA Vehicle Inspections

It’s a popular sentiment that the younger generation - often known as Millennials - simply aren’t interested in buying cars. At least, not in the way that their parents did.

Millennials might not be heading to the forecourt in their droves like previous generations, but presenteeism isn’t an indicator of interest. The purchasing journey now starts on their smartphones and for a large number of that generation, it ends there too.

Dealers are increasingly clued up to this shift to digital and are aware of how valuable this market is. Innovators are popping up all over the place to take advantage of these smartphone natives and how they like to shop around.

For those slightly behind the trend, Millennials are often a difficult group to truly understand. After all, it’s not good enough to acknowledge they differ from other age groups – it’s about understanding why that is the case.

To further complicate this, the barriers to reaching this market aren’t just physical - they’re psychological too.

 Young drivers are inherently inclined to be more cynical about their experiences with dealerships. Recent research found that half of drivers between the ages of 18-24 discovered faults with secondhand cars in the first six months after buying them – these findings help to reinforce a general sense of caution towards dealers.

 So how can dealers take advantage of fluid area of the market and, more importantly, help to break down these trust issues?

 To speak to Millennials, dealers need to make sure they’re talking on the right medium. According to Accenture, six in 10 Millennials enjoy the convenience and one-stop shopping aspects of buying online - this has become the default method of buying for a large proportion of this generation, so why shouldn’t it extend to cars too?

 While digitised showrooms are steadily becoming a reality, you don’t have to install Virtual Reality simulators in order to reel in these digital natives. Having an online presence is a good start, but delivering more than just car specs will help cut through the noise.

It’s now assumed wisdom that the majority of car buyers look for new cars online before they head to a dealership - this is also the case for Millennials. So not only do dealers need to be online, but it’s important that their sites are mobile responsive to take advantage of this appetite for smartphone shopping.

It’s worth considering that the advent of the internet has made users notoriously flighty. Have a website that doesn’t load within three seconds or is clunky to use, and surfers will simply look elsewhere.

It’s also important that dealers list their stock on third party auto sites - with so much choice in where to hunt for new or used cars online, car buyers instinctively head to sites like this that aggregate and filter vehicles to make searching easier.

Secondly, it’s vital that dealers work with Millennials to get them to drive off the forecourt. Since the financial crisis, young people have suffered the worst from a real time squeeze on the value of their money. This often means that they to be more imaginative with the budgets they have for big ticket items - such as cars.

Having said that, Millennials are more likely than other age groups to be interested in improved in-car software such as touch screen interfaces, smartphone tech and built-in dash technology - and are ultimately willing to pay more than other generations to get at it.

So while young buyers might be looking to keep the costs down, they aren’t averse to spending a bit more on tech. Dealers that can negotiate these two ideas will reap the rewards.

Ultimately, younger drivers are more likely than other age groups to be cynical about salespeople. The thought of having a product - be it a car or otherwise - pushed on them is a good way to shut down a sale completely.

A far more effective method of engaging is by building trust through a combination of owned content online (‘How to.’, ‘Dos and Don’ts’ etc) and ultimately garnering positive word of mouth through social media.

Dealers that can understand the nuances of this fluid and disparate generation stand to take advantage of a loyal audience - Millennials should be overlooked at their peril.

Author: Simon Benson, director of motoring services at AA Vehicle Inspections


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