Get Ready for Gen Y


four teenagers on cell phones

Gen Y consumers are changing the face of automotive sales. This influential group, born between 1976 and 1995, is expected to account for approximately 40 percent of the car buying population by 2012 and will exert a significant influence on their parents’ purchase decisions as well. Selling cars to Gen Y, however, is not business as usual. Gen Y is characterized by being more technologically connected than previous generations and more skeptical of authority. Dealers can benefit from recognizing three key elements that increase sales effectiveness with the Gen Y customer:

  • Mobile technology

  • Trustworthiness

  • Online reputation

Incorporating mobile technology into the selling process helps to more powerfully engage and influence Gen Y customers. They are more tech savvy than previous generations and are constantly on the go, so mobile devices are an essential part of their lives. Mobile technology provides instant access to information, as well as multi-media communication to reinforce the purchase decision. A Burst Media research study found that watching an automotive video significantly increased the likelihood that in-market customers would consider purchasing or leasing the model that was featured. But, among Gen Y, this number was even higher than for the population as a whole (64 percent versus 55 percent). When you use mobile technology to show a video during the sales process, you exponentially increase your opportunities for sales success.

In the 2011 Deloitte Gen Y Survey, trustworthiness emerged as one of the top factors for Gen Y when purchasing a car. In fact, the survey found that the actual car buying experience is more important to Gen Y than vehicle design, with 52 percent of Gen Y survey respondents agreeing with the statement, “A negative experience with a salesperson would cause me never to consider that brand of car again.” You can increase transparency and establish trust by making basic product information more readily available during the sales process.

Finally, an automotive company’s reputation in the virtual world is critical to Gen Y customers. In the Deloitte 2011 Gen Y survey, 67 percent of respondents reported that they look for advice or information on blogs or social media forums before purchasing a vehicle, up from just 25 percent in 2009. Gen Y consumers actively share opinions and exert their influence using the virtual world of social media far more than older generations. They will actively promote a brand, even if they don’t buy a car. For Gen Y, social media is all about the interaction. Dealers need to get in on the conversation in an organic way that flows directly from the relationship already established with the customer. You can capitalize on the social media trend by encouraging customers to write and post reviews about their positive experience in your store.



“Online reviews are increasingly important to our business. The best time to have customers write and submit a review is while they are still at the dealership and excited about their purchase—before they get busy and forget to do it,” says Mike Nelson, business development manager for Roseville Toyota. “Capturing reviews while the customer is still at the dealership specifically addresses the needs of the Gen Y customer, but ultimately benefits everyone,” adds Jim Hughes, principal of IntellaCar, the iPad sales application that Roseville Toyota uses to enable customers to post online reviews from the dealership.

Dealers who recognize the potential impact of Gen Y are starting to change the way they do business. Mobile technology is increasingly being used in the sales process to increase transparency, incorporate multi-media communication and enhance the dealer’s online reputation. The result: a more positive overall purchase experience and a stronger connection with the next generation of car buyers.

Michael Bowen is the editor in chief of Dealer Marketing Magazine. Please email michaelb@dealermarketing.com for more information.

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