Gen Z Is Coming: How Auto Dealers Can Market to the Next Generation of Car Buyers
Millennials are easily the most talked-about generation in the media today. Everyone is eager to understand this “lazy and entitled” generation that still lives with our parents and buys a $7 cup of coffee from Starbucks every morning.
While millennials are certainly worth your dealership’s attention, there’s another generation giving millennials a run for our (borrowed) money: Generation Z.
They’re young, tech savvy, and beginning their post-grad lives, entering the workforce for the first time ever. And like every generation before them, Gen Z-ers have unique needs when it comes to buying a vehicle.
Is your auto dealership ready for this next generation of car buyers?
Below, we break down what Generation Z is looking for in a car-shopping experience — and what your dealership can do to prepare for this growing number of young car buyers.
Who Is Generation Z?
First things first: let’s define this group of young’uns.
According to the Pew Research Center, Generation Z (sometimes referred to as the iGeneration) is defined as “anyone born from 1997 onward.” In 2021, this means the oldest Gen Z-ers are in their early 20s.
Defining characteristics and historic events marking a Gen Z-er include:
- Was not born or was too young to remember the 9/11 terrorist attacks
- Witnessed the historic election of the United States’ first black president, Barack Obama
- Was exposed to the Internet and social media at a very young age
- Received “participation trophies” growing up
- Is more likely to feel lonely and left out than other generations
- Is more money-conscious than the millennial generation before them
Generation Z-ers are beginning their adult lives: graduating college, accepting jobs, and moving out of Mom and Dad’s house.
If they haven’t already, Gen Z-ers will soon realize that the 2003 used sedan they’ve been driving since high school is on its last leg, and they need something newer and more reliable to take with them into post-grad life.
Now is the prime time for your auto dealership to help Generation Z with their first major purchase as an adult — but how you market your vehicles to Gen Z will need to be different from how you market to older generations.
Car-Buying Characteristics of Generation Z
Some Gen Z characteristics (like being tech savvy) aren’t surprising. However, there are some characteristics unique to Generation Z that affect how they approach the car-buying process.
1. They’re More Educated
Since Generation Z grew up on the Internet, they’re very comfortable doing their own research and making decisions based on what they discover, not what their parents believe.
When it comes to brand loyalty, Generation Z doesn’t have any allegiance. Since they haven’t had an opportunity to drive many vehicles in their lives, they’re open to all vehicle brands while searching for their first vehicle purchase.
Automotive News reports that Gen Z is well educated on the market — more so than young buyers 10 to 15 years ago.
Even while Gen Z-ers are at your dealership looking at a vehicle they’re interested in, they are on their phones, researching other vehicles (and other dealerships).
What Does This Mean for Auto Dealers?
Generation Z is hungry for more information, and you can be the one to give it to them. \
When you consistently produce helpful and informative content on your dealership’s blog or build useful landing pages that drive a desired action, you’re much more likely to see that Gen Z car shopper at your storefront, ready to buy from you.
Not sure how to best create the content you need for your dealership’s website? Download our Web Content for Auto Dealers eBook!
2. They’re More Practical with Their Money
Generation Z has been watching how millennials manage money for years — and they don’t like what they see. Millennials are swimming in debt, but that often doesn’t stop them from taking expensive vacations, building new houses, and buying brand-new vehicles when they can’t afford them.
The next generation of car buyers doesn’t want to end up in the same financial situation as their parents and older siblings. This mentality directly affects how they go about the car-buying process.
Generation Z is hesitant to buy new vehicles and take on more debt, even if you promise 0% APR financing for 72 months.
In fact, auto loans have risen only 3.2% since 2009 — a much slower growth rate than student loans and mortgages. Additionally, LendingTree reported that in December 2018, only 36% of Gen Z-ers had an auto loan.
They’re looking for a practical used vehicle that gets good gas milage and still boasts the technology features they want. In many cases, Gen Z-ers are finding what they want in a used sedan, even though crossovers and trucks are on the rise among Generation X and Baby Boomers.
What Does This Mean for Auto Dealers?
Stop trying to convince that new college grad they can afford a new vehicle. They’re. Not. Interested!
Instead, work on building up your used inventory, and try offering incentives for those who trade in their current vehicle.
Leasing is also growing in popularity among millennials and Gen Z-ers, so capitalize on that. If someone is really interested in having a vehicle with the latest and greatest technology and safety features, share how they can drive that new vehicle for a lower monthly price when they lease instead of buy.
Unfortunately, many people perceive leasing as confusing and “too much hassle.” Your dealership can shed some light on this topic by explaining the leasing process to car shoppers and producing relevant lease-related content.
3. They Want the Process to Go Fast
When Generation Z wants something, they want it now.
According to Forbes, nearly half of Gen Z-ers say the most important thing to them when shopping online is that they can find what they’re looking for quickly. And since 74% of Gen Z-ers say they spend their free time online (a majority of which is spent on mobile devices), your digital marketing and online presence need to stand out.
For years, we’ve preached about the importance of optimizing your website for mobile, but Generation Z’s shopping behaviors prove this point even more. If a Gen Z shopper can’t easily find what they’re looking for, they’re going to look in other places until they are satisfied.
What Does This Mean for Auto Dealers?
Generation Z will avoid stepping into your store for as long as they possibly can, meaning they want most of the car-buying process to be online.
Make it easy for Generation Z (and all car shoppers!) to use your website to research vehicles, submit trade-in evaluations, estimate their monthly payments, and find your contact information.
When a Gen Z-er does reach out to you, make sure you respond as quickly as possible — or be ready to hear them to say, “thank u, next,” as they contact the dealership down the street.
Additionally, you know Generation Z car shoppers spend an excessive amount of time on the Internet and social media on any given day. That’s why it’s important you have an intuitive Facebook ad strategy with dynamic retargeting to bring your vehicles and brand messaging back in front of people where they are most!
Looking to learn more about Facebook ads for auto dealers? In our Facebook and Instagram Ads for Auto Dealers eBook, you’ll learn how to:
- Set up your Business Manager account
- Determine your Facebook ad objectives
- Analyze and improve your Facebook campaigns
Reach All Generations with Digital Marketing Help from 9 Clouds
Whichever generation you’re trying to reach, digital marketing will help your auto dealership send the right message to the right audience.
Need help figuring out the best way to communicate that message?
We can help! 9 Clouds works with auto dealers across North America to deliver personalized online strategies that will attract Boomers, Gen X-ers, millennials, Gen Z-ers, and future generations to your dealership!Explore Our Free Resources »