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Attracting first-time car buyers: How to understand the needs of younger customers

First-time car buyers, particularly millennials, are becoming an increasingly influential demographic in the auto retail industry. Previously, experts underestimated the interest of this generation in vehicle ownership. However, they have proven to be a pivotal market segment, prompting a novel approach to sales, marketing, and customer service in dealerships.

The market shift: Millennials driving new vehicle sales

According to a recent survey conducted by CDK Global, over 1,100 vehicle shoppers of different age groups who had recently made a car purchase were asked about their experience. The findings revealed that Generation Z respondents, many of whom were purchasing their first car (56%), exhibited the lowest inclination to recommend their dealership experience compared to older generations. Their net promoter score (NPS) stood at a mere 32, while Millennials scored 49 and Baby Boomers recorded 53 on the NPS scale.

Deloitte’s projections estimate that nearly 40% of all new vehicles will be sold to millennials over the next decade. This is a significant shift that dealerships need to acknowledge and prepare for.

To effectively cater to this emerging demographic, dealerships need to comprehend their motivations and shopping habits. Research shows that these buyers typically set a budget before stepping foot in a dealership, indicating a more financially-conscious approach to car buying. They prefer the convenience of monthly payments and appreciate dealerships that offer competitive finance packages.

Moreover, millennials extensively research online before making a purchase decision. Autotrader data reveals that they spend approximately 17.6 hours researching various makes and models, examining add-on features, and reading customer reviews. 

Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, have become an essential part of their research process, providing authentic and firsthand perspectives on the cars they’re considering.

Strategies to Attract First-Time Car Buyers: Adapting to Their Needs

Given these insights, attracting first-time car buyers necessitates strategic adaptation. Here are four strategies for dealerships to consider:

1. Respect Their Research

Acknowledging the time and effort first-time buyers invest in online research is crucial. Sales representatives can establish a meaningful early connection by asking specific questions about their findings. This approach reassures buyers that their knowledge and experience are valued, thereby building a solid foundation for future vehicle sales.

2. Craft Engaging Social Media Content

Social media platforms are indispensable information sources for first-time buyers. Dealerships should aim to create authentic, engaging content that resonates with this audience. A single positive online experience could incentivize a potential buyer to visit the dealership in person.

3. Ensure Consistency and Transparency in Online Content

Data shows that nearly 62% of millennial car shoppers use dealer websites as a primary information source. Therefore, dealerships should ensure they provide transparent and consistent information across online and in-store platforms. This consistency includes details about vehicle specifications and pricing, which can significantly enhance the trust and credibility of a dealership.

4. Forge Meaningful, Long-Term Relationships

More than 95% of millennials want brands to actively engage with them, according to research by Accenture. To meet these expectations, dealerships should strive to adopt a people-focused sales and service model. This approach involves getting to know customers on a personal level and making genuine efforts to retain their business.

5. Leverage Technology for a Seamless Buying Experience

With millennials being digital natives, dealerships must leverage technology to streamline the car buying process. This could include implementing online booking for test drives, offering virtual tours of vehicles, or even developing a robust mobile application that allows buyers to access essential information and make purchases from their smartphones. 

Such technological enhancements can provide a seamless and convenient buying experience that first-time buyers appreciate.

Adapting to an Evolving Market

Car buying demographics in the U.S. are evolving, and attracting first-time car buyers, particularly millennials, is increasingly important. By understanding their unique needs and adopting tailored strategies, dealerships can tap into this promising market segment, bolstering their profitability and growth in the process.

As the car buying landscape continues to evolve, those who can effectively adapt and meet the expectations of these buyers will position themselves for long-term success and profitability.

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Joseph Iyanu
Joseph Iyanu
Joseph is a contributing writer and reporter for CBT News. He has over five years of experience holding various different positions in both independent and franchised car dealerships. Joseph is a dedicated advocate for the automotive industry and offers readers a unique blend of insider knowledge and the latest industry trends. Join Joseph as he explores the ever-evolving world of auto dealerships, shedding light on best practices across all departments, from sales and finance to service and parts.

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