"Millennials are lazy. They don’t really want to work. They live at home, the age of 30 looming on the near horizon, freeloading off of mom and dad’s groceries and the lure of free rent. They don’t have the money for fancy dinners or lavish vacations, let alone enough to buy a car."
Sound familiar? The stereotypes surrounding the millennial generation are infinite—and dead wrong.
While it’s true that millennials are embracing an alternative lifestyle (that might include favouritism of public transit, Ubers or cycling), this generation of young people have an approach to life that encompasses focusing on short-term goal-setting and living in the moment. Mistaken for cash-strapped or cheap, the truth is, millennials prioritize and look at the long-term value of things before making a hasty buying decision.
Instead of this approach: finish high school, go to university, land a job, fall in love, get married, have a couple kids, retire; the millennial timeline might look something more like this: finish high school but take a year or two off before rushing into university, take the time to travel and find where your passions lie, dabble in more than one career field.
So, why is the automotive industry so scared of Canada’s millennials?
To automotive dealers, the millennial persona is intimidating, mostly because they are a buyer persona that is unpredictable in a very predictable market.
According to a study done by Autotrader.com, in 2013 there were more than 75 million millennials, who, as a mega-group, were among some of the most educated, socially-conscious and technologically-savvy that the automotive market has ever seen. Depending on the definition you subscribe to, millennials range in age from 19-35, but in the sales and marketing world, the term 'millennial' is generally seen as someone in their late-teens to mid-20s.
Despite this information, automotive dealers continue to be hesitant towards this buying group, especially when it comes to finance or leasing programs. Thanks to the current state of the economy in Canada, post-grad millennials often enter the workforce with a pile of debt, ranging from student loans to condo fees. But the study reveals that although millennials have it bad when it comes to job security, their generation is expected to be the wealthiest the auto industry has ever seen, pulling in $3.4 trillion in car revenue (compared to $2.8 trillion from Baby Boomers), and by 2023, will make up 40% of new car sales.
For this reason alone, automotive dealers need to make friends with their millennial clients. Doing so will offer financial gain and company growth for years to come.
One of the most common misconceptions automotive dealerships have about millennials is that they don’t want cars. This isn’t true. Millennials do want cars, but not necessarily right this moment. The economy won’t allow for it. In the same survey done by Autotrader.com, 73% of millennials intend to own a vehicle in the next year or so, and upwards of 84% of older millennials do own one already (and we’re not talking used cars).
Millennials don’t always land in the very first stage of the Buyer’s Journey. In fact, their personas are scattered throughout. For that very reason, building immediate relationships with millennials who express even the slightest interest in your brand is crucial to solidifying a business transaction somewhere down the road.
As a very liberal, open-minded, diverse and educated generation of people, millennials deeply care about personal relationships and face-to-face engagement. In fact, before even setting foot in your dealership, chances are, they’ve already spent numerous hours online conducting their own research about the vehicle they’ve got their eye on, as well as your brand.
Asides from online research, Autotrader states that at least 46% of millennial shoppers land on your dealership’s website, or come in for a visit, due to a referral or word-of-mouth from fellow shoppers. Technically speaking, they don’t even need to see you, because their minds tend to be made up. The difference is, they want to, and it’s up to you to take advantage of this offer and engage them to your best ability.
Millennial car shoppers prioritize what they need in a vehicle, over what they want. They view a vehicle as something they will invest in only if it is absolutely necessary to benefit their lifestyle. They are deeply trusting and it’s important to exceed their expectations when it comes to your brand.
Personal image and brand identity go hand in hand with millennial personas, so the stronger your brand presence is, the more willing they are to purchase from you. Millennials are willing to pay more for a vehicle, if the entire package speaks to their individuality, which means there is plenty of room for profit and business growth. Millennials are also very intuitive and connected in the digital age, (with 70% citing technology features as a must-have in a new car) so unlike the Baby Boomer generation, they are more likely to engage and interact with new vehicles that feature smart features, compared to previous generations who crave a more traditional, classic automotive style.
As plugged into technology as they are, millennials still prefer in-person consultations when it comes to the final stage of the Buyer’s Journey: decision making. They are also very brand-loyal, so if you take the time to build the relationship and provide excellent service, the rewards will appear in the form of more leads, a stronger brand presence and more referrals.
The next time you see a millennial (or a crowd of them) enter your dealership, drop your assumptions and forget about all of the stereotypes you know. Remember, millennials love a good conversation and the more genuine your approach is, the more likely they’ll remember you, your dealership, and your vehicles when it comes time to make that purchase.
Christine Hogg is a deadline driven content writer for FlexDealer who comes armed with an Honours B.A in Journalism. When she’s not drinking lattes and typing away furiously at the keyboard, you can find her practicing photography, enjoying Toronto’s downtown core, or looking for the best all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant.