The Challenge Isn’t Just To Sell Cars To Gen Y, But To Gen Y Women

Understand the particular triggers in a buy decision from millennial women, and adjust your sales tactics accordingly. BY ANNE FLEMING

Here are a couple of statistics that ought to command your attention as dealers. The estimated population of millennials, or “Gen Y,” in the U.S. is about 78 million. According to J.D. Power and Associates, millennials accounted for 27 percent of new car sales in 2014, up from 18 percent in 2010. And, 53 percent of millennial buyers are female.

Thus, your dealership and its salespeople need to understand the nuances of selling and marketing to millennial women, if you want to grab generational market share.

Our recently completed study at tracked 620 reviews from women car buyers completed November 2014 through May 2015. The results shed light on similarities and differences between millennial and non-millennial women buyers that will help your dealership craft age-specific sales techniques.

While both millennial and non-millennial women ranked their satisfaction level with dealerships as very high, there were subtle differences between the age groups that you can leverage to improve your dealership’s bottom line.

Increasing Confidence With Car Decision

While “excited/excitement” was the leading emotion women buyers reported feeling while shopping for a car, No. 2 was “relaxed” for millennials vs. “apprehensive” for non-millennials (for whom “relaxed” was only the fourth-most-frequent emotion).

Why this matters, and how to take advantage: First, consider why millennial women feel increasingly relaxed and confident choosing a car. Various studies have showed they feel more in control of their finances and making high-dollar decisions, learned more about finances from their parents than did the previous generation, and are more comfortable using technology to get the information needed to make an informed purchase.

Astute sales advisors who respect this confidence will quickly win over millennial women who visit their lots. A good sales approach is to ask them lots of questions, respond to their questions truthfully, and only try to guide them through the information they haven’t yet gathered about the vehicle and terms.

Above all, assume from the get-go that these are smart women who have invested a lot of time learning about what they want. While they may come to you with less experience than older female generations, they have a lot more information at their fingertips – and are prepared to access it while in your dealership.

Trust Becomes More Important

“Trustworthiness” and “respect” ranked first and second with millennial women among reasons to buy from a particular sales advisor, followed by “understanding.” We also learned that millennials tend to visit slightly more dealerships than older women buyers.

Why this matters, and how to take advantage: Many millennials are first-time buyers, so while they feel relaxed and informed, they also want a comfort level with their salesperson to cement their comfort with the choice.

Trust and respect comes from realizing and outwardly demonstrating that these millennial women will have done their homework. Once again, a sales advisor should listen carefully to what the shopper is saying, answer questions honestly and avoid trying to help with ever decision. Learning to perceive where the real grey areas with this buyer can help accelerate a sales decision. Be there to help, not coerce; listen, don’t lead.

Going The Extra Mile, Literally

The millennial women we surveyed travel 21.5 miles on average to buy a car, vs. 15.4 miles for non-millennials, and were less likely to shop at the dealership nearest their home.

Why this matters, and how to take advantage: It is more important than ever to capture information about women shoppers during your screening process, and understand quickly what she needs. If you learn a millennial woman has other dealership choices closer to her home, it is crucial for you to demonstrate why the extra distance and time are worth it.

Make a point of showing her your service center and its capabilities, for example. And, make sure your advertising strategy targets millennials, so they will be more inclined to stop at the dealership rather than drive past. Obviously, your dealership needs to advertise online, where 80 percent of millennials research car purchases. Also, make sure the subjects of the photos on your website and social media reflect the 53 percent of millennial buyers who are women, and the types of cars that tend to appeal to that age group.

july gen y2Appearance Really Matters

“Style and design” and “color” ranked interestingly high in the millennials’ top factors for purchasing. While price was No. 1, “style and design” was second, then “brand and model’s reputation,” followed by “color.”

Why this matters, and how to take advantage: A car’s appearance is more important to millennials than to previous generations. A savvy sales advisor will grasp that form is really important to a millennial woman buyer, and it is a mistake to focus only on function (safety, technology, convenience and warranty features). This may mean making an extra effort to locate a car in her preferred color.

You Can’t Offer Too Many Perks

When it came to the service department, availability of a courtesy/overnight vehicle was the No. 1 factor for both millennial and non-millennial women. However, a wireless connection and café ranked second and third.

Why this matters, and how to take advantage: Millennials have a higher expectation for “service,” and I don’t mean the kind with repair bays. They are more likely to shop around based on added comfort and convenience. So, during your sales process, be sure to showcase the service lounge and its comforts, concierge services and hours.

Checking You Out Online

One in four millennials (vs. one in five non-millennials) said they read customer reviews of car dealers online before visiting the dealership. And, 44 percent (vs. 34.5% for non-millennial women) visited the dealer’s Facebook page, with 67.5 percent (vs. 57.5%) “liking” it.

Why this matters, and how to take advantage: It should come as no surprise that this buyer group is tech-savvy and –reliant. Dealers need to ensure their websites and Facebook pages have engaging and educational content.

Plus, this millennial generation is very connected socially and have a multi-faceted engagement style with media, watching TV and the same time they post on social media and have chat sessions with their friends. Engaging this generation will require dealership leaders to step into their world and learn what resonates in this new style of communication.

In addition to our survey, I think other general trends shown in an early 2015 survey from Edmunds can help you fine-tune marketing and sales strategies aimed at millennial women. These findings include:

  • Seventy-three percent of millennials believe they are savvier than their parents when it comes to buying cars.
  • More than 50 percent of millennial respondents (compared with 37 percent of older Americans) said they are active in advising friends and family on car choices.
  • Eighty percent of millennials use digital strategies to shop for cars, compared with 46 percent of people over age 35.
  • One in three millennials used their phone to find contact information for a dealership, compared with one of four people in the 35-and-up group.

While many buying habits are the same for millennial and non-millennial women, the differences I have discussed are significant enough that they need specific sales and marketing strategies. Punching the right buttons with younger buyers early in their car-buying experience can help forge a long-lasting relationship with your dealership.

Anne Fleming
Anne Fleming
Prior to her involvement in the retail automotive industry, Anne spent 20 years in brand and strategic product development for several international consumer product companies. Her leadership training led to her becoming the President and CEO of, the industry’s premier platform for attracting, engaging and increasing sales to women+families through research, ratings and reviews.

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