Your dealership ratings, search rankings and overall online presence strongly influence this growing group of auto buyers.
Millennials don’t buy cars — or so the story goes.
Why not? Because they’re frugal. Because they’re weighed down with student loans. Because they’d rather take a Lyft or Uber than find parking or designate a driver.
All good reasons to believe the rumors are true — but the numbers tell a different story.
According to a recent study by credit reporting agency TransUnion, millennial consumers, ages 21 through 34, are taking out new auto loans at a 21 percent higher rate than Gen X borrowers did when they were the same age. (The report defines genX as people born 1965 through 1979; millennials, 1980 through 1994.)
And data from J.D. Power and Associates’ Power Information Network shows millennials accounted for 29 percent of the car-buying market last year, with 4.1 million car purchases. In fact, millennials will represent roughly 40 percent of new-car purchases by 2020.
That’s a lot of cars they’re not buying.
And don’t forget — millennials won’t stay young forever. Eventually, they’ll grow up like the rest of us. They’ll have families and get stable jobs — and they’ll buy minivans, SUVs and luxury cars, too. If you don’t figure out how to reach this emerging — and rapidly growing — buyer segment, you’ll be at a severe disadvantage.
The Sales Starts Outside the Showroom
But for auto dealers, appealing to millennial buyers may require turning traditional models upside down.
The millennial car buyer is much more educated than older buyers before they set foot in the showroom, largely because of their ability — and propensity — to access information.
Autotrader found millennials rely heavily on internet research, with 95 percent using the internet to shop for cars. They perform 61 percent of their research and shopping online, and just 12 percent while visiting dealerships. They also take a lot longer to decide on a make and model.
By the time a millennial car buyer comes to your dealership, they know what they want and what it should cost, and they don’t think they need the help of an eager salesperson to make their decision. Truth is, they’ve probably already made it.
Your Online Presence Matters
If the millennial buyer is a web-head who prefers internet research to the traditional floor room sales pitch, you’d better provide a stellar online experience that convinces them your dealership is the best place for completing the purchase they’ve already decided to make.
But impressing them may not be easy. Millennials grew up online. Before they buy, they’re watching you. They’re visiting your website, checking your social pages, looking at YouTube videos and asking opinions of their friends online.
They’re doing the same with your competitors — and they’re comparing what they find.
They’re not sitting at their desktops either. AutoTrader says 45 percent of millennials conduct vehicle research on a mobile device — which means your website should be optimized for mobile — and you’d better be able to rank high in local search.
Think about it — if a millennial car buyer Google's “dealership near me” and you don’t show up in the Top 3 results, you’re out of the running.
Here’s how you can catch a millennial’s eye online and rank high enough in search to get more local foot traffic:
1) Build credibility with reviews.
Nothing speaks louder or persuades more effectively than what customers say about your business. And millennials are listening.
According to Adweek, 68 percent of them are unswayed by celebrity endorsements. Instead, peer reviews rule — 93 percent of millennials look to blog posts and customer reviews to gauge a business before making a purchase.
Online Reputation Management emphasizes the importance of building review volume by actively requesting reviews from customers — and platforms like Reputation.com make it easy. For example, the Reputation Live app simplifies the process of requesting reviews by text — before the car buyer even leaves the showroom floor.
Having lots of recent reviews improves dealership ratings and search rankings, so you look good online and show up in Google’s local 3-pack more often.
2) Maintain an accurate, complete online presence.
Nothing frustrates a millennial more than a poor mobile experience, and for local businesses, that experience starts on a smartphone. If someone Googles you and your address or hours of operation are wrong, you’ve already failed.
Make sure your dealership listings are accurate, complete and compelling. Include photos of your showroom, and make sure shoppers have all the information they need to choose your dealership over the one down the road.
A surplus of online reviews and high dealership ratings will make your listings even more appealing.
3) Tune in and take part.
More than any segment, millennials make use of social media — if you’re not active on social, you’re missing opportunities to build trust and community. Make sure you have processes and tools in place to continuously monitor social channels and respond to posts — both negative and positive.
By joining in on the conversation, you can influence it, demonstrate your commitment to your community and share customer successes that may just persuade an uncertain buyer to head to your dealership — not your competitors’.
Although you may not see too many millennials milling about your showroom, they’re still shopping. Capture their attention with a strong online reputation, and it will be much easier to learn them into your dealership so you can finish the sale.