3 Essentials for Revving Up Your Millennial Marketing Strategy

Offer the buyer of today a seamless digital experience that delivers personalization, engagement, and transparency

The millennial car buyer is often seen as an elusive prospect—in a generation that seems increasingly focused on sustainability versus excess, where do vehicles fit? And once you find the fit, how do you make sure your millennial marketing strategy isn’t missing the mark?



The idea that millennials are ditching cars in favor of more environmentally friendly options like mass transit or cycling is prevalent, but not necessarily accurate. In fact, a recent study by MTV research revealed that a majority of millennials view car buying as a necessity, with 80% considering a vehicle to be the most common big-ticket item purchased by those within their age group .

It’s not a question of whether millennials are interested in purchasing a car—they accounted for 27% of new car sales last year, according to J.D. Power—it’s a question of how to market to them in the most effective way based on their purchase priorities and how they prefer to connect with your brand.

And because millennials constitute a group that CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights estimates has $1.68 trillion in spending power, it’s a question worth answering. Here’s how.

1. Keep it personal

Millennials have matured in the data-driven age. They expect brands to know them and treat them as individuals, not as a mass audience. The personalization and customization of content on your website based on their interests is not only desired, but expected.

It’s crucial for marketers to mine their data to create laser-focused customer profiles. Available options like Facebook Custom Audiences can provide a powerful starting point, combined with the hyper-targeting throughout the consumer journey.

Audience management solutions and behavioral targeting tools open up opportunities to engage individuals in the moment as their interests evolve based on online behavior layered with CRM, ad exposures, history, etc. When millennials are your target, the power to offer a truly individualized experience (both online and in the dealership) can make all the difference.

Note that personalization is also something millennials value in their vehicles. According to the MTV study mentioned earlier, 73% of millennials view their car as a mode of self-expression. It’s important for marketers to keep that in mind, both in advertising and while these customers move further through the purchase funnel. Highlighting unique features and customizable options may be more important for millennial buyers than for other generations.

2. Streamline the experience

Cross-channel and cross-device marketing has never been more important. Millennials move seamlessly from smartphones to laptops to tablets and back, and something like re-entering information or re-selecting favorites between devices can immediately turn them off of an experience.

Marketers should ensure that not only are all of their platforms working together cohesively and are optimized for various devices, but that users’ data can be accurately plugged into every aspect of their experience.

For example, when millennials create a model of the car they want to purchase on a dealer’s website using their laptop, they want the ability to pull up the site on their mobile device and have immediate access to the theoretical vehicle they created to show to a friend. When they come back to the site, they want to see that vehicle or a special offer to engage them on a personal level.

3. Get engaged, stay transparent

No user likes the experience of being abandoned by a brand after making a purchase, especially a big-ticket purchase like a car. Millennials are no different—if they engage with a brand or dealership, they expect engagement in return.

Relevant, consistent activity on social media is important, especially in terms of responses to the questions of potential customers. Millennials are more likely to feel comfortable posting a question to a brand’s Facebook wall or sending a chat message than calling a phone number.

It’s important for marketers to reach them on that level, rather than expecting them to revert to more traditional means of communication. Those exchanges across onsite chat can be especially valuable when the data is used to further personalize the experience, enabling future interactions to be even more targeted.

Because of the prevalent use of such casual lines of communication, it’s also important to remain transparent, especially in the final steps before purchase. Millennials won’t hesitate to instantly compare cars, prices, or features online, and 83% say they want more detail regarding how brands set the prices of their vehicles.

Not only do millennials have more questions, but they’ve never had easier access to answers. Marketers are best off positioning their brands in such a way that invites honesty and transparency—avoiding and subverting the old stereotype of the used-car salesperson.

Millennials now make up the largest percentage of the country’s population. Despite common misconceptions that they have little interest in vehicles or don’t see the value in traditional transportation, they are a highly valuable and often under-tapped and misunderstood market.

Although they may not utilize the same standards that their parents did when purchasing a car, it’s important for marketers to meet millennials where they are, offering a seamless digital experience that delivers personalization, engagement, and transparency.

Rachel Pierson, global director of strategic accounts with IgnitionOne, works closely with the marketing teams of major vehicle manufacturers and their agencies to develop strategies and solutions to increase marketing performance. A graduate of Central Michigan University, Rachel has 14 years of automotive marketing and advertising experience. She currently resides in the greater Detroit area.

Rachel Pierson

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