Falling gas prices. Rising gas prices. Hurricane Harvey devastates Southeast Texas. Hurricane Irma crushes Florida. All of these are major factors in the auto industry today, shifting the needs and desires of the buying cycle. Change is happening all around us.

How do we keep up with the change? Or better yet, get ahead of it?

Millennials represent 77 million Americans, or one-quarter of the U.S.-buying population.

They wield $1.3 trillion in buying power. Getting ahead of this generation is not as daunting as you may think when you know what they’re looking for:

  • A vehicle with all the bells and whistles, including the latest technology.
  • A safe vehicle that will last and have minimal upkeep costs.
  • A person they can trust at the dealership.
  • To be communicated with, in the way they are most comfortable.

Before we talk about how to reach this generation, let’s talk about how we hold a profit when dealing with this consumer.

With the fluctuating gas prices, the next generation has moved away from sedans. I spoke with an influential Ford dealer in Tennessee recently, and he is wondering if we’re looking at the death of the sedan. I don’t believe it’s a death watch, but it certainly is the thinnest part of the auto market today.

Profits are being held with light trucks, crossovers, and CPO vehicles, so let’s focus on these three and how we can move more profitable vehicles faster.

How do we do that?

First we focus on CPO vehicles. They offer the trust (at the dealership level), safety, and latest technology at the lowest cost for the consumer. That covers three of the four things today’s consumer wants and has the highest grosses for you.

Second, focus on your social media presence. Places like Facebook, DealerRater, and Google+ are visited by just about every millennial today, and these reviews are extremely vital to their decision-making! Two out of every three in this segment are influenced by social media reviews. Plus, they want to connect with the salesperson before they come into your store.

Have happy customers leave reviews about your store …

…and about your salesperson on the top social media sites from their own devices while they are still at your store. They’re never more emotionally connected to your store, your salesperson, or their new purchase than at the moment of purchase! Leverage this to win future customers.

Third, mine your own data and your service drive for new CPO customers. You have new opportunities for sales in your own CRM, DMS, and service bays that are being left to walk across the street to your competitor.

Many of your previous used or CPO customers bought those vehicles instead of a new vehicle due to no or damaged credit. After two years of payments, they should have better credit and maybe the itch to step up to a more modern, upgraded vehicle. Have a salesperson work the service drive and talk with your customers. At the same time, have someone pull email addresses and phone numbers for all pre-owned sales from 18 to 24 months ago and promote your light trucks, crossovers, and CPO vehicles. Follow those emails up with phone calls.

Maintaining Dealership Profit with the Next Generation

Work them!

Finally, communicate with this generation the way they want to be communicated with. That means through social media, blogs, and text and mobile ads.

Have an active social media strategy that speaks to the millennial with meaningful content. If they don’t connect with your content, they won’t connect with you and won’t buy from you. Post often and keep your content fresh.

Use text. Send photos, comments, and videos to their smart phones—85 percent of this segment has a smart phone, and they use it 45 times per day. How better to be top-of-mind than to be active with them via text?

Finally, since they look at those phones 45 times a day, connect with them via mobile ads. Put your advertising on sites that retarget your consumer. Know your buyer, their demographic, and what they look for. Then through mobile ads, be in front of them early and often.

The next generation is not as complicated as you think.

They want the most for the least and want to be validated in their decisions before they make them. They live on their smart phones. Knowing these basics and leveraging the technology available that allows us to speak their language will also keep us ahead of the many changes in the industry, and to maximize profits in a tightening market.

Robert Christman

Robert Christman

Regional Director of Sales, Automotive at USA Today Network-Tennessee
Robert Christman

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