Creating and owning the customer experience

As every dealer knows, our industry has changed dramatically due to the explosion of the internet and mobile technology. Savvy dealerships have responded by making their websites mobile-friendly and moving more of the purchase steps online. But now there’s another challenge heading our way: the Millennials. With over 70 million members, this generation will account for more than 1 in 3 American adults in 2020. You can’t afford to ignore this group, but winning their business will require more than technology baby steps and traditional marketing strategies. To attract and retain Millennials, you must create a whole new dealership experience. To understand why, it’s helpful to know more about this generation.

  • They are digital natives practically born with a smartphone in hand. A wired, connected world is all that Millennials have ever known.
  • They are immune to most traditional marketing tactics since they’ve seen it all before.
  • This generation doesn’t emotionally connect to a particular brand or model as previous generations did. They are looking for ease and, as you would expect from a wired generation, plenty of infotainment features such as navigation, Bluetooth and satellite.
  • They’ve always had instant information at their fingertips and can buy practically anything with a few clicks, so their patience with the traditional car buying process is extremely thin.

To be the tomorrow’s leaders, it’s clear that dealers must adapt to fit the new Millennial paradigm. It’s time to jettison antiquated methods in favor of a seamless, technology-driven, transparent experience that will capture and retain the increasingly digital car buyer.

To better understand what’s required, it’s helpful to examine the consumer experience today. As the following graphs illustrate, the linear vehicle purchase and service process that we’re accustomed to is often disjointed, time-intensive, lacking in trust and not enjoyable.



In contrast, tomorrow’s shoppers will demand a more fluid, self-directed and efficient process that effortlessly moves from online to in-store. It will be characterized by advanced technology that creates time savings and takes the hassle out of the process, and transparency at every stage that creates trust and the opportunity for enduring relationships. The following illustrates this new experience.



As a dealer, you may already be moving toward this new experience with digital retailing tools on your website. As a result, you may be capturing more customers. However, to retain and sell these customers, you have to offer an in-store experience that is just as easy and seamless. Simple advances such as using an iPad to present F&I options can go a long way with Millennials.

A superior in-store experience also depends on highly trained sales staff. As vehicles become more technologically-advanced, so must your team. For example, more than 70 percent of Millennials prize infotainment features, but they don’t want the hassle of figuring out how to work them. Just like every other device in their lives, they want them to run effortlessly. Your sales team must be the experts who can easily get Bluetooth up and running, show them how to use the navigation, and pair their smart device to the vehicle’s audio system.

To help retain customers and gain steady revenue, the same fast, efficient, and transparent process should be in place in your service department. For example, online scheduling and service menus save customer time and make it easy to communicate with your dealership. Another example is a multipoint inspection tool that generates objective, transparent status reports to help engender customer trust and win you more business.

Many dealerships today are struggling to remain relevant with increasingly digital car buyers. This will become a bigger problem as tech-savvy Millennials teeter on the brink of becoming the biggest pool of potential new buyers. Now is the time to focus on creating and owning a customer experience that meets the needs of the connected consumer. Dealerships that master it today will be the leaders tomorrow.

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