If there is one thing that is making this industry nervous it is what to do about Generation Y. Often called Millennials, this generation is different from the recent Generation X and the earlier Baby Boomers. Where Baby Boomers worshiped the...
If there is one thing that is making this industry nervous it is what to do about Generation Y. Often called Millennials, this generation is different from the recent Generation X and the earlier Baby Boomers. Where Baby Boomers worshiped the automobile, having devoured Kerouac and the Beats, and Generation X looked at the car as a means of getting from one dead-end job to the next while listening to Nirvana, Generation Y is pretty much turning its back on the automobile.
Studies from various research firms paint a portrait of a generation mired in high student debt, few job prospects and little upward mobility. Consider them the train wreck of a shattered economy and a grim future. Because of this, members of Generation Y are reluctant to purchase a vehicle and others say they have pretty much given up on vehicle ownership. It is an expense that many wish to avoid, if they can; and if some do purchase a vehicle, it is often a used, older vehicle.
Added to this mix is a profound change in how Generation Y interacts and communicates. The Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. found 95 per cent of 17- to 19-year-olds were online and the majority of those used social media as their primary means of communications. Carleton University Professor Eileen Saunders was quoted in The Huffington Post as saying most of her students feel more comfortable communicating with peers through text messaging or social media than calling them or even meeting them in-person.
These trends mean a profound change in how our industry will need to operate in the future. We are dealing with a market segment that spends reluctantly and will look askance at any business that uses traditional means of trying to reach them to solicit for business. Simply, we have to completely rethink how we are going to talk to and sell ourselves to Generation Y. All of that stuff you have been taught about in customer communications classes and management is going to have to be radically altered. Traditional advertising in newspapers or on the radio is wasted on a generation that is growing up downloading television, movies and other media, who communicate in 140-character bursts and have ‘friends’ that they meet infrequently or will never meet face-to-face their entire lives.
And when we do manage to get them into our shops with their cars, they are likely already checking or have checked prices on parts and service from the competition. This can be frustrating for many shops who now have to deal with ‘know-it-alls,’ but that is the reality that is going to have to be confronted. This generation values the opinions and recommendations of online friends, online ratings postings and reviews, and their own research for who they are going to do business with. They expect a high degree of quality for the dollars they are going to have to spend.
At the recent AAPEX show in Las Vegas, analysts agreed Generation Y will spend money on keeping vehicles longer and operating properly, and will invest in quality aftermarket service and parts; but only if we know how to communicate with them.