What It Takes to Sell Me That Cherry-Red Coupe (or a Sensible Sedan)

As a Millennial, I am likely to spend more than 10 hours before even setting foot in a dealership, researching more brands than any previous generation.

Conor Bergman

February 2, 2018

7 Min Read
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I have a lot of options when looking to purchase a car, arguably too many options for any generally uninformed customer to make a reasonable purchase on their own.

As a Millennial, I am likely to spend more than 10 hours before even setting foot in a dealership, researching more brands than any previous generation, according to consulting firm Deloitte.

I will have considered more cars from more dealers than any other age group of customers. But ultimately, I will only visit one dealership in person.

And, oh, I know exactly what that new coupe in cherry red I’ve come in to buy really costs. No, I don’t want to spend an extra thousand to spice it up.

As the Millennial market begins to flood car dealerships, how do you stay afloat? How are you going to sell to me?

You Have 10 Hours to Catch My Interest

When window shopping from my Windows machine I will come across your dealer site through a Google search, either indirectly via some aggregate or by perusing local dealers.

The first thing I consider won’t be your fancy new lobby, meticulously designed after the latest European trends. It won’t be the crisp, pressed suit of your lead salesman.

The first thing I will look at will be five little stars next to your dealership listing. Over 70% of Millennials indicate reviews on independent websites significantly influence their purchase decisions, the leading indicator, followed closely by input from family and friends (Deloitte). These reviews aren’t limited to individual cars. Dealership ratings make or break online first impressions.

How does a dealer improve public perception? Most reviews for auto dealerships are left during work hours. According to a Cars.com study, more than half of dealer reviews are left between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday (with almost none at all on Sunday).

This is when I need to be targeted with a performance survey. Do not approach me with a cookie-cutter template, and don’t waste my time fishing for perfect scores. Consumers who have a negative experience will leave more immediate and detailed reviews than those with a positive experience (Cars.com). If you want to improve your online ratings, target those negative experiences and address them before they slip beyond your internal survey.

The highest-rated dealerships have the highest follow-up response to customer surveys. Dealerships in Delaware, rated the best in the country, had a response rate to customer surveys of 60%, while South Dakota dealerships, worst in the country, managed to respond to customers less than 10% of the time (Cars.com).

Again, nothing cookie cutter, use personal contact points. Cars.com says surveys that directed customers to individual dealers and sales members rather than the dealership as a whole yielded more positive indicators in the review, such as, “Thank you.”

You Have 28 Minutes to Get Me a Test Drive

As a dealer, you are there to stop me from buying the wrong car, because despite what I may believe, I really don’t know what I want.

When I come in looking for a cherry red coupe, it’s your job to help me realize I might need a sedan.

Get in front of my face ASAP, even before I decide to drop in. When I’m Googling online and land on your site, have an option to ask questions, or to go on a face-to-face video call with a salesperson.

People trust the expertise of dealers. You want me to go to your dealership for information, not to continue to shop around. According to J.D. Power, the primary source of satisfaction in consumer responses is advice from dealers.

Once I’m in the dealership, I want to grab my car and get out as soon as possible. Maintain a personal connection throughout the process. When I walk in, have records of our previous online contact readily accessible. The technology to implement all of this exists already.

More than 40% of brands report a disconnect between their physical and online customer experience, and while the solutions to fix CX problems exist, many brands simply lack the qualified talent to implement them (Accenture).

Adding video and voice chat can be as simple as an integrated widget. Doing the market research into CX solutions is well worth the cost. Accenture found an increase in just 1% of a brand’s CX score could yield significant financial returns.

You Have 39 Minutes to Process the Paperwork

Thirty-nine minutes? Certainly that’s not possible, is it? But who said all the paperwork has to be done in person. This is the 21st century. I may not be willing to spend 39 minutes sitting in your office as you get all the papers together, and I’m certainly not going to wait more than another 39 minutes to figure out all the financing.

But if you give me the option to do the essentials from the comfort of my computer screen, only dropping by the dealership to clean up any physical necessities and pick up my new ride, well then now we’re in business.

File sharing, document collaboration and audio and video conference services now are all available in the CX-support market. Hopping on top of the rising trends will keep customers coming back.

Modern customers know the invoice prices. They have access to the inventory listings at the nearest 100 dealers at the tip of their fingers. But modern consumers also are willing to sacrifice price for ease of experience (Accenture).

Over 60% of consumers reported they would rather shop without ever negotiating with a sales person (Deloitte). The advantage no longer lies in squeezing out the bottom dollar. A dealership gets its edge by how customers are guided throughout the whole process.

You Have 45 Minutes to Perform Simple Maintenance

Customer engagement extends beyond the sale. I don’t want to be dropped and discarded as soon as I leave the dealership. Nor do you want to do that.

After sales, service is where positive dealership ratings are made, and where technology takes the center role.

Integration of modern technology with support services directly impacts customer retention. Customers who are contacted by text message are much more likely to report being loyal to a dealership, where 67% say they “definitely will” return for future services, compared with 55% when contacted by telephone (J.D. Power).

Here’s where dealerships are falling short: only 3% of customers report contact via text message.

It isn’t all bad news, technology is on the rise. Physical as well as digital improvements are becoming more commonplace, both online scheduling and tablet usage have increased nearly 50% in the past two years, both of which showed high correlation with customer satisfaction (J.D. Power). Getting service done right is the base line, CX is the differentiator.

Getting Off My High Horse

Selling in any discipline has changed drastically over the past few decades with the introduction, indoctrination and interdependence of the online marketplace.

New technology seems to pop up and fizzle out every other week. So how are you supposed to keep me satiated? First of all, fully embrace social media: the Millennial consumer is turning to social media unlike any other generation.

Establishing a presence on social media is essential to brand perception.

Don’t think you have to play it all boring and by the book either. Take a little peek at Wendy’s, hardly the staid marketing approach of the yester-decades.

Know when to contact me in person, and when to keep your distance. Millennials reported a preference for text message rather than audio contact when scheduling, but also reflected more trust and higher loyalty when there’s an option for video/face to face interaction.

Keep on top of rising technology. Less than 50% of brands reported they have the skills and personnel to complement CX (Accenture).

I’m not all that different from customers of previous generations. I want to feel I’m heard and avoid superfluous speed bumps.

That said, modern customer experiences are more digital, while previous generations' experiences were strictly in-store. Dealers who cater to Millennial preferences will have an advantage as more members of that tech-oriented generation enter the market.

Conor Bergman is a marketing analyst at uShare.to , a provider of video, audio and chat sales-engagement software for auto dealerships. He is also a Millennial interested in the changing buying behavior of the new demographic of his peers entering the market.

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