Marketing to Millennials

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In order for dealerships to market to millennials, they first need to adjust their attitudes toward that youthful generation and set aside preconceived notions. That’s the conclusion Michelle Nelson has come to during her time as president of the marketing firm Back 2 Basics Automotive Marketing.

“Clients, they have this negative view of millennials,” Nelson says, in reference to consumers born between 1981 and 1997. “They think that millennials don’t have any money; I would say that’s not the case. ... They have money, it’s just they’re going to be careful about where they’re going to spend it.”

Millennials, who largely grew to adulthood during a prolonged American recession, like to see value when researching a purchase, notes Graham Scott, marketing director for the Gosch Auto Group in Southern California.

Certainly, dealerships can’t afford to ignore millennials. After all, that group of consumers—currently aged between 20 and 36 years—represents the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Nearly 80 percent of millennials own cars, according to CNBC. And that generation’s impact on the automotive market only figures to grow as members of that group get married, see their families grow and advance in their professional careers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for millennials reached $35,592 in 2015. While that figure inspires price consciousness among many millennials, consider this: According to a recent survey, nearly half of all millennials plan on keeping their cars for five years or less, suggesting that they plan to remain in the market in the foreseeable future (that same survey also noted that favorite current vehicles among millennials include the Honda Civic, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, and the Honda CR-V SUV).

Instead of dismissing millennials, Nelson and Scott suggest you learn about their traits in order to convert those young adults into customers. On that note, here are some keys to keep in mind when trying to reach millennials with your marketing efforts.


Recognize their financial reality.

As a result of the dreary economic climate they grew up in, these days, millennials tend to favor frugal purchases when it comes to the automotive realm, often opting for smaller, budget-friendly vehicles.

Today’s young adults tend to purchase based on need, rather than want.

“You can’t sell to” millennials, Scott says. “They don’t react to sales messages. They react to information. … They need features and benefits.”

In an effort to appeal to millennials, the Gosch group has begun producing short videos for YouTube and Instagram that show service procedures.

“The secret is to show it, not say it,” Scott notes. “Show images of the quality of your work. Testimonials are a big thing.”


Keep your website dynamic.

A recent consumer survey conducted by Bigcommerce showed that 67 percent of millennials make purchases online. Thus, a dealership’s marketing efforts need to meet these young adults where they tend to spend the majority of their time.

Additionally, employees need to closely monitor your dealership’s online reviews, and address any

complaints. Millennials study online reviews closely, and the Bigcommerce study shows that 69 percent of that generation is influenced by those critiques.

“They’re definitely into researching a lot, ahead of time,” Nelson notes. “Millennials typically aren’t just going to pop into a car dealership—they go online to do everything.”

The marketing experts that spoke with Fixed Ops Business agree that, in order to capture millennials’ attention in 2017, your dealership’s website must be mobile friendly with pages that load quickly. Finally, when marketing, you should ensure that your website content gets in front of the consumers you seek by using SEO-friendly keywords that allow your store to trend highly in Google searches (listing your facility’s service, parts or collision specialties, for example).


Communicate via convenient means.

When it comes to marketing to millennials, you can largely ignore email; in their eyes, “electronic mail” is a painfully outdated concept. There’s still some value in collecting email addresses, but their cellphone numbers are of immeasurably greater value in 2017.

“They’re not into email as much as they are instantaneous things—like texting,” Nelson says.

“A lot of people enjoy the anonymity of texting,” Scott says. “What comes through is only what you want to come through.”

Even utilizing Facebook to market to young adults largely misses the mark, Nelson says.

“They might go to Facebook, but really they’re more into YouTube, they’re more into Instagram,” she notes.


What to Consider When Weighing Social Media Platforms 

Graham Scott, an industry vet currently serving as marketing director for the Gosch Auto Group in Southern California, explains what dealerships should consider before choosing social media platforms for marketing.

You’ve got the big players—Instagram and Facebook. We were on Snapchat briefly to experiment with that platform, but we found that it’s purely a social platform. If you stick with Facebook and Instagram, you’ve mostly got things covered. For business stuff you can use LinkedIn. Do some YouTube advertising. There’s no other real big players as far as social media.

You try the social media platform out in your area, see if you get traction, and if you don’t, you don’t. Because it’s digital, it’s measurable, so you look at how many people is it bringing to your website? Try and use Facebook and Google Analytics, so that you can see the true effect that it’s having.

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