The term, “behavioral adaptation,” describes an animal’s adjustment in behavior to survive climate change, food scarcity, or other transitions in its environment. Animals that don’t adapt die. If today’s dealerships don’t adapt their digital marketing behaviors to meet the preferences of the millennial generation, they could also face uncertain fates.
Why all the attention on millennials? Part of it is sheer numbers; there are 1.8 billion globally. Studies show that 83 percent of millennials are looking to purchase or lease a car. They currently comprise 40% of the potential car-purchasing population. Beyond stats though, millennials are also driving changes in the shopping process.
Understand What Millennials Actually Prefer
Preference #1: Multiple Sources. Multiple Devices.
Like every generation, millennials have certain behaviors, the first of which is their propensity to shop across devices. Although there’s significant migration to mobile devices, most millennials use multiple platforms (tablets, laptops, smartphones, etc.) throughout their shopping experience—whichever device is the most convenient at the time. This demographic also uses a network of sites to research purchase decisions. A recent Google study discovered that car shoppers now visit an average of 24 sources on their path to purchase.
Preference #2: Text Based Communication.
The second behavior seen in this age group is their preference for text-based communication. Individuals first sent more text messages than phone calls in 2008. Now that number is almost 5:1. According to Nielsen, there were 764 text messages sent and only 164 phone calls made, on average, per user per month in 2012 (and that gap is widening). You’ve also probably noticed the growth of online chat applications—IM applications like WhatsApp, webchat applications embedded in social media and email services, chat support on nearly every website—all anecdotal proof points to this text-based migration.
Preference #3: Immediate Response.
Finally, they expect immediate responses. If companies keep millennials waiting once they’ve submitted an inquiry, they’ll move on to the next dealer who is instantly available.
Help Your Dealership Adapt for More Sales
Adaptation #1: Responsive Platforms and Network Saturation
The first adaptation confronts the multiple device/multiple site trend. In order to most effectively reach and cultivate trust with millennial shoppers,dealerships need responsive web platforms and high network saturation. The dealership must be accessible on any device and throughout the network of research sites where millennial shoppers spend time.
Adaptation #2: Text-Based Communication
Adapting to millennials’ text-based preference is simple: Adopt a text-based communication strategy. Both SMS (texting) and chat (IM) are necessary to build a robust strategy. Going forward, these options will be as standard as phone and email.
Adaptation #3: Rapid Response
Finally, dealerships must implement processes to ensure rapid response to inquiries of all types. Not responding quickly enough is the easiest way to lose a millennial customer. So dealerships should set a benchmark response time for each media (text, chat, email, phone, etc.) and hold teams accountable to it. They should also empower their teams with mobile—easy enough to do as most vendor solutions have mobile applications.
And there’s no time to waste. Dealerships must adapt their behaviors before millennials decide they simply aren’t worth their time.
Adam Flegge is a product and technology marketing evangelist at Contact At Once!, the market-leading digital conversation platform provider for the automotive industry. He combines research, marketing analytics and an interest in how to best communicate with his own millennial generation, shakes it up and uses the results to educate and encourage dealerships toward a more progressive marketing approach.