When was the last time you tried calling your home phone to talk with your 20-something son? The odds are high that you found yourself leaving a voicemail—which was totally ignored.
Many members of the millennial generation have long abandoned the concept of a “home phone”; they stay connected with their smartphones via social networks. By the same measure, you won’t frequently find millennials reading display ads in newspapers, sitting through a 30-second spot on the living room TV or flipping open the Yellow Pages when they’re ready to shop.
Millennials, born after 1980, live in a largely wireless, paperless, highly mobile community of digital communications, and dealers who want to reach the new generation of shoppers must be prepared to meet them on their own turf—or screen.
As many as 86 million millennials are about to reach the age when they will begin shopping for a vehicle, and comScore estimates their buying power at $170 billion. Dealers cannot afford to ignore this market, their needs or the high-technology way they shop.
A recent consumer survey by eBay Motors, found that more than a third of millennials pull a mobile device from their pocket to research information while they are shopping for a car or truck. Only 19 percent of other people do so. Among millennials, 94 percent go online to gather information about a new car or truck, and more than four in 10 Millennials pull out their phones to compare prices or download information while actually at a dealership.
To stay competitive as a dealer, you must recognize how crucial it is to reach these highly connected digital shoppers through the types of communication they prefer: social networks, online shopping sites, review and price-comparison sites, online video, chat and other digitally driven media.
Millennials make an overwhelming proportion of their initial buying decisions by shopping and comparing online, long before they ever enter your store. If they don’t discover your dealership in the process, your chances of selling to them become miniscule. Conversely, if your dealership and your approach to communications are digitally friendly, you’re likely to make a long-lasting connection with millennial customers.
You can start appealing to this market by taking five important steps:
Update and broaden your presence on the Web
. Become easy to find online and create strategies that drive shoppers to the information they’re seeking.
Ensure your website is optimized for mobile viewing
. Millennials won’t put up with web pages that load slowly and require panning across the screen. Your site should be built with responsive design that automatically sizes the content for mobile phones and tablets.
Provide free Wi-Fi inside and around the showroom
. Millennials want to be able to find information instantaneously and compare prices while they are shopping. Wi-Fi lets them do so with tablets and preserve their mobile-phone minutes, too.
Connect anytime, anywhere by offering mobile apps
. Today’s shoppers want to click an app, not key in a website address, to find details on your offerings. Use existing platforms or apps that already reach your mobile customers, or develop your own app to attract digital shoppers.
Participate frequently and proactively in social media
. If you don’t have accounts with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+, get active with as many of them as you can. Social networks are one of the primary ways millennials converse, exchange ideas, and make recommendations. You can’t afford to be left out of the conversation.
Your dealership has the opportunity to connect with a new and growing audience through a range of innovative and expanding digital outlets. Be sure to make online channels a key part of your sales mix as the marketplace evolves.
Clayton Stanfield is the senior national sales manager for eBay Motors.