The 3 Commandments of Creating a Millennial Buying Experience

A holistic, end-to-end approach provides choice, delivers consistency, and makes an impact

Almost everyone likes the movies. When it comes to movies, however, much like buying a car, the one constant people want is choice. This is especially true when it comes to creating the right millennial buying experience.



There’s an old movie house I frequent with my family, the Redford Theatre in the Detroit area. It was built in the 1920s and is now managed and cared for by volunteers, including an organist who plays before the movie starts, during intermission, and when silent films are shown. At our most recent visit, the film shown was the spaghetti western classic The Good, The Bad and the Ugly with Clint Eastwood.

Sitting up in the balcony and looking around the theater, I noticed the crowd, as usual, was a range of patrons from millennials to Gen Xers to baby boomers. Whether they bought their tickets online or at the door, paid credit or cash, they were all there for the same reason—the experience, and to be entertained.

What does this have to do with marketing and selling cars and trucks to millennials? Simple. Channels rarely go away, they only expand. In spite of all the other popular entertainment options available, a theater that is nearly 90 years old, showing films that are 10, 25, or even more than 50 years old, is still of interest to millennials.

Is that so different from our industry, where the showroom and test drives are not going away anytime soon, while at the same time ways to digitally interact and transact grow at an ever-quickening pace?

This brings us to a common myth about millennials: that they are interested only in online interactions and shopping. I suggest this simply isn’t true, any more than is the statement that millennials watch only streaming videos.

Sure, millennials like and want digital experiences, but they also want human interaction and face-to-face experiences. More to the point, they want it all, and want their transition from digital to brick-and-mortar to be seamless and consistent.

This means that using disjointed technology with millennials is not enough to win them. You have to employ a holistic, end-to-end approach that takes all your channels into consideration: mobile, online, phone, in-person, etc. It starts with three important, if perhaps obvious, steps:

1. Provide choice

In my past few articles, I have beat the drum for the need to adopt a multi-channel approach. At the risk of beating it one too many times: Providing millennials with choice is critical. Study after study indicates they want mobile, they want online, and they want face-to-face.

For example, ask yourself: Does your millennial customer have the choice to schedule an appointment equally easily on a smartphone, your website, or with a phone call? Are the same options available for each method?

2. Deliver consistency

Not only do millennials want choice, they want consistency. View the buying cycle as a single conversation between your customer and your dealership. As in day-to-day life, that conversation should build in quality, depth, and understanding as it progresses.

Take the F&I process, for example. Your dealership may a beautiful website, great vehicle display pages, and online forms to schedule sales appointments and to apply for credit. Information captured online can be retrieved in the store to continue the sales process. So far, so good—but move into the F&I office and out comes the laminated menu, dot matrix printer for contracts, and a three-hour process.

This does not make for a consistent or good customer experience.

3. Make an impact

Millennials want impact. Luckily, many dealers have a strong community presence by supporting baseball teams, local YMCAs, charities, and events. This is important and should be highlighted in your social media, website, and other communications because it demonstrates impact. But, of course, personal impact—namely, “what’s in it for me?”—matters too.

One forward-looking OEM has done a nice job of demonstrating personal impact. Its value proposition basically translates to: If you invest your time using our online process, you will have a more efficient dealership experience.

This does not have to be your promise, but you need one, whether it is convenience, speed, price, service, or something else. And whatever your promise, there has to be a strong commitment to delivering it from a customer’s first interaction with you to when you hand over his or her keys.

In one of my favorite scenes from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Tuco (the Ugly) says, “If you have to shoot, shoot—don’t talk,” while he promptly takes out an enemy with his pistol. In other words, to win and advance, you have to take action and mean it by delivering choice, consistency, and impact.

Todd Mason is chief product and marketing officer (CPMO) for RouteOne, a joint venture created by Ally Financial, Ford Motor Credit, TD Auto Finance, and Toyota Financial Services. He is responsible for managing product conception, development, and strategy, as well as implementation of all marketing-related strategy and tactics for RouteOne.

Todd Mason

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