In a two-part series, Auto Remarketing Canada covers the impact millennials are having on the automotive marketing landscape. What has changed? What still rings true?

Digital marketing experts, dealers and industry analysts discuss how best to reach and engage with a younger audience. Part I will cover changes in motives for car purchases as well as meeting millennials where they are on the Web.

When asked how the millennial generation has changed the game for automotive dealers, Michael Wyant — general sales manager at Vaughn Wyant Automotive Group and Auto Remarketing Canada's 2015 Dealer of the Year — said dealers are basically playing a whole different sport.

“There are so many ways to reach out to these people. I think the biggest thing for us is whatever medium you find effective in driving traffic to our site, you must make sure that the site itself is user-friendly, it’s optimized, and it’s self-responsive, so that when somebody goes onto it they have a great experience,” said Wyant. “There are thousands of ways to drive traffic to your site, but the challenge is once they get there, do they want to stay there?”

According to research shared with Auto Remarketing Canada by Kevin Gordon, co-founder and managing partner at Convertus, by the year 2025, generation Y is expected to account for 75 percent of all vehicles purchased.

“The question is, will they purchase from you?” asks Gordon.

Times Change, And So Do Motives

Times change, and so do shoppers’ reasons for making large purchases — including that of buying their first vehicle.

Norman Hebert, vice president of corporate development at Groupe Park Avenue, said one of the first things his dealer group noticed about millennials is they certainly may not want to buy a car the same way their parents did — or for the same reasons.

For example, the classic parent of a millennial may have been quick to get their driver’s license when they turned 16, so they could purchase a car, and in doing so, their freedom.

On the other hand, “when we think about millennials, we think of them looking at the car as perhaps more of a utility tool rather than that purely emotional, ‘I can’t wait to have a car feeling,’” Hebert said.

Since these purchases are more often logical than emotional, Herbert said price begins to come into play, as well.

“I think we see that millennials may have a budget to buy a new car, especially with interesting prices in some of the entry-level cars, like the Nissan Micra, etc. However, they may not want to allocate that much into buying cars. Therefore, the pre-owned space becomes even more important,” said Hebert.

Meeting Millennials Where They Are

There are still a variety of opinions spanning the gamut on dealership involvement in social media. That said, Wyant said there is one thing for sure: you must have a presence on social media and maintain a good reputation.

The most important thing on social media — well, being social, of course.

Wyant said the focus should be on relevant and entertaining content — not on selling cars and posting inventory — and the content you are pushing out on Facebook or Instagram has to be into people are interested in and connect with emotionally.

Dealers have the option of utilizing an emotional approach, but they also can employ their connection to their communities.

“On social media, you are going to be planting seeds in people’s minds as to why you are a good business to buy a car from, and hopefully sometime, when they get to the right phase of the purchase funnel, you are going to pop up in their brains because of something you have done in the social digital world as opposed to an ad that you put in the newspaper,” Wyant explained.

For millennials, their purchases often reflect their images, and this includes vehicles.

“Millennial buyers want to be able to relate to the person they will eventually be doing business with, and they would probably rather do business with someone who has similar values that are aligned with theirs,” Hebert said.

At Groupe Park Avenue, the dealer group uses its social media platforms to not only share relevant content about the industry or about vehicles and remodels, but also as a great avenue to share community involvement and charitable work, and as a way to get some of the more relational content in front of shoppers.

Gordon also pointed out millennial shoppers rely heavily on third-party review websites to help them make educated purchasing decisions — in other words, online reputation is key.

Do you know how many reviews your dealership has on Google? Have you taken the time to respond to each review, whether it is positive or negative?

“If you have negative reviews on any of these sites, it’s important to respond to those people and show them you not only hear them, but that you care about them,” said Gordon. “It’s also equally important for you to show the rest of the world that you stand care about your customers and are willing do what it takes to turn negative experiences into positive ones.”

Which review sites are most important? In priority order: Google, Yelp, Facebook and DealerRater, according to Gordon.

One way Wyant says his dealership grows their online reputation is through store promotions — but the dealer group enlists outside help, as well.

When VWAG does promotions that are geared toward the millennial generation, the dealer group utilizes connections with local media companies that can help get the message out to a broader audience, and this includes social media in a big way, Wyant said.

While as the dealer group may have a couple thousand likes on Facebook or a couple hundred Twitter followers, Wyant says that’s not enough to get your message out there.

“We have done promotions combined with local radio stations that have reach in our marketplace and that gets the word out there to potential customers, and to people following the promotions on your social media platforms,” said Wyant.

“Because we don’t have the cool factor that a pop radio station might have, we have had success doing promotions in partnerships with other local companies, such as radio, that would have a further reach,” Wyant concluded.

Stay tuned to Auto Remarketing Canada for Part II of our marketing to millennials feature series.