Today’s car-buying population spans more than 60 years. It ranges from Generation Z, in their early twenties, to the Silent Generation, many of whom are reaching or exceeding 80 years old. Your messaging needs to cover a lot of ground to connect with such a wide range of life experiences and buying habits.
Of those millions of potential customers, four cohorts should drive your decision-making: Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen X, and the up and coming Generation Z. Millennials and Baby Boomers alone have almost 900 billion in spending power. Add in Gen X and Gen Z, and that number grows to well over $1.4 trillion in total annual spend.
These groups prioritize very differently. When you take advantage of the distinctions, you make getting a piece of the pie easier, meaning more sales and a further increase in ROI.
Generation Z: The Digital Generation
The oldest Gen Z members are now turning 25, and most don’t know a world without the internet, smartphones, and the like. Reaching them takes a new set of tools, including social media and a responsive, user-friendly website. They still respond to more traditional strategies, so don’t think physical marketing is out of the picture.
Before the pandemic, Gen Z still preferred shopping in-stores despite their connected life. Throughout 2020 and 2021, the industry developed an online-only selling model, with hands-off vehicle delivery and retrieval for safety. No doubt Gen Z members appreciated the move, but they enjoy being out with friends and living life together. When going out returns as the norm, it’s not a stretch to imagine the youngest generation making their way to stores once again.
You have an opportunity to find ways to marry the convenience of online shopping and the relationship focus of the in-dealership experience. Don’t rely solely on signage or documentation or even your sales staff.
Expect and encourage the use of digital devices, as Gen Z shoppers are liable to have their phones out, checking online for the best offers and reviews from others their age and older. 52% of Gen Z look up information online while shopping, and they’ve probably done plenty of research before even considering a purchase.
You can also provide easy access to videos and interactive media about your inventory, sales process, and any benefits or incentives you can offer. These can live on the show floor and be available on the web, optimized for mobile devices. Lean into these tendencies to show your investment in them as a newer breed of customer.
The Millennial Difference
The decision to buy a car isn’t one Millennials come to lightly. Their finances have improved in recent years, but both Generation X and the Baby Boomers still outpace them economically. They came of age during the Great Recession, and the COVID downturn hit as some were making the transition to senior positions or finally getting their economic footing.
That’s why respecting the importance of a car purchase will win Millennial loyalty to your brand. Offering them exemplary service that keeps their unique situation in mind will make them more likely to spread the word about you to their friends and family. With 73% of Millennials considering other online reviews before making a purchase, one positive outcome can become much more.
The importance of a vehicle purchase also pushes them to consider one for upwards of 17 hours before they buy. Much of this research happens online, both at a computer and on mobile devices. It might also come from a phone call or an in-person visit to the dealership. Millennials bridge the gap between more traditional marketing methods and the disruptive digital ones reshaping the landscape.
Older millennials grew up when the technology most take for granted was in its infancy. They remember their parents making sales calls, sometimes on rotary phones, and interacted more frequently with physical mail and television ads.
While they share a familiarity with technology alongside Generation Z, they are not wholly reliant or grounded in the digital world. Your website and social channels are valuable in reaching Millennials, but you can also rely on much that’s worked in the past. The Millennial generation understands the value of low-tech and will appreciate it almost as much as their older peers.
Remember Generation X
The middle child between the Boomers and Millennials, Generation X is nevertheless a valuable market to tap. The difference lies in what they want and how they live, which is probably the most unique out of every generation mentioned here.
Generation X are the parents of younger children or young adults coming of age. They’re primarily middle-aged, almost universally still working, and saving all they can either for their kids’ college fund or retirement. They want a car that can get them from Point A to Point B safely and economically but still do a lot of work outside of everyday travel needs. Your SUVs and other mid-range priced inventory are likely high on their shopping list.
This cohort also sits somewhere between Baby Boomers and Millennials with regards to technology. Online video is one of the most valuable channels to optimize when reaching out to Gen X, with almost 79% of them having watched some kind of video content at least once per month. Investment in video is important for other generations, but for Gen X, it seems to be crucial.
Email marketing is also one of the best ways to reach Generation X. As working professionals, they’re likely to check their email regularly, regardless of the hour. Business can happen at any time. Their inboxes are cluttered like everyone else’s, but they’re more likely to respond to an email that aligns with their interests. That is, as long as it gets to the point quickly. Generation X members are usually short on time, and their attention is divided a thousand ways.
Don’t neglect social media when marketing to Gen X, either. Their focus is primarily Facebook, but both Twitter and Pinterest are making their way into Gen X’s schedule as well. The same messaging rules apply, but only if the information is as truncated and essential as possible.
Pragmatism is ultimately the best word to describe marketing to Gen X. There’s no huge push for luxury for this group, but there’s also no desire to settle. Their next car should get the job done and get it done well, and they will expect their buying experience to follow suit.
The Power of Baby Boomers
Most Baby Boomers are now in their 60s and early 70s. Though some still care for and support their children, many nevertheless retired with plenty of disposable income and the inclination to use it.
Your focus when marketing toward Baby Boomers is like a mirror of Millennial marketing. The younger generation has come to rely on technology but remembers a time without it; the older generation sees technology as an extension of the analog ways of shopping. Social media sites like Facebook give them a window into your dealership, as does your website.
Like Millennials, most Boomers will research a product or service before making a purchase: 85% of them. Once they have an impression of where they’re shopping, Boomers are likely to reach out personally, either by visiting the store or making a phone call.
You’ll want to take into account how Baby Boomers shop as well. They have more than 580 billion in total spend annually, so they have the freedom to make larger purchases more often. Your higher value vehicles will tend to be more their speed. They do, however, still value great deals on any investment they make. They’re 75% more likely to purchase if there’s a loyalty or reward program attached.
Lastly, it’s essential to understand their values. While higher-value vehicles and vehicle services are well within their reach, safety, security, and comfort are also at the top of their priority list. They will also appreciate a new car that gives them easy and affordable access to farther-flung parts of their community. When it’s possible again, Baby Boomers are a traveling generation, ready to spend their copious free time anywhere but their familiar environs.
You can lean into this wanderlust when attempting to reach them. More than just a great deal on a new vehicle, where that car can take them can be an essential factor in their buying decision. If they could eventually pass it down to their children, all the better.
Different generations base purchasing decisions on many factors, but they share more than you might expect — they merely express those shared values differently. When they do differ, their differences come from the environment in which each generation came of age and what was successful at that time. The above explain only some of the considerations you’ll need to make as you design marketing campaigns for people of all ages.
ReVo MG understands this wide variation in customer sentiment and designed our direct mail and email offerings to account for them. Contact us today to learn more.