Bring on those Millennials

I read with sadness that millennials could sound the death knell for car retailing as we know it. They are less likely to buy a car than previous generations and want to buy online are popular generalisms. I’m less sure of these factors. I happen to believe that they simply want a different car and F&I buying experience.

Stuart MacDonald Head of Business Development 

I’m most certainly not a millennial (born early 1980s/mid-1990s/early 2000s) and nor am I scared of them; well possibly a wee bit of my daughter, but what Dad isn’t from time to time!

No, the millennial will not be the end of motor retailers, quite the opposite in my view and I don’t think I’m alone. In part, this conclusion is drawn from 36 years working across motor retailing and the industry’s capacity to evolve and partly because I choose to believe that adapting to the needs of millennials simply represents improving our service.

Very recently I was visiting a relatively local franchised motor dealer. The glass walls which covered two sides of the showroom were 60 or 70 feet high, the imported black marble tiles the vehicles sat on were incredibly highly polished, the ultra-expensive lighting in the main display area made the paintwork on the vehicles glisten and sparkle at their absolute best. The pedestrian walkways were covered with a superb high-end karndean type flooring that I would be delighted to have had in my hallway and dining room. It was all a long time back to my first dealer canvas call to the VW site in Invergordon in 1982. It was a showroom filled with two bread van polos and two Golfs, sitting on terracotta tiles…. how we have evolved. The buying experience today is far from that in 1982, even if some in the media would still have it that way.

However, it is worth noting that while showrooms may have grown, footfall has gone into reverse. According to Autotrader research last year in 2012 buyers would go to four or five dealerships before buying a car, by the time of the research this average had come down to between 1.2 and 1.5 visits because so much of the car buying process now happens online.

At the core of this online journey is the millennial generation. Far better informed customers than their predecessors, but also far less likely to represent ‘tyre-kickers’.

Better educated, better informed and with an aura of entitlement that is not the thing of my baby boomer generation, millennials are often bright, articulated and empowered. They also value quality in products and services; witness the move to premium branded clothing and top-end burger restaurants; are people who spend like this to be feared? It seems not, here is a great heading from last June;

Millennials are buying everything online — except cars (MSN)

It is becoming apparent that the Millennial represents not a further threat to our Industry, but a massive opportunity.

They are looking for:

  • Ease of process – they often recognise that time is money
  • Expert guidance

In short, they want and expect great service and as a high-end purchase, they want personal service. This audience wants the product, experience, ‘theatre’ and ease of process. Good service is not a hope it is an expectation. Look at our motorways think Costa not Little Chef. This is how the dealer and dealer experience must evolve and we must be ready.

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