10 Thoughts Millennials Have When Searching for a Car Online

by Marissa Marazzi on October 14, 2016

Hello, I’m a millennial looking to buy a new car.

Right now my millennial generation is quickly becoming some of the world’s primary consumers, and it seems brands are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to market and sell us. We are a whole new breed, like nothing you’ve seen before considering we grew up connected to technology.

We are progressive, tech-savvy, open-minded, self-expressive and not shy about spending money.

As the automotive business keeps evolving, it’s time for dealers to keep embracing technology and focus on creating experiences for my generation online to get us in-store.

The purpose of this post is to share my insights and perspective of what it’s like shopping for a car online from the eyes of a millennial.

Here are the 10 thoughts that ran through my head when trying to search for a car online to buy before visiting a dealership in person and some actionable advice:


1. Let’s start with a Google Search 

It all starts with a google search. If I have ANY question in the world, I will Google it first. If your dealership isn’t popping up in Google, essentially you don’t even exist. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve driven past your dealership in the past year or how many tv commercials I’ve seen- it’s an unwritten rule that you must show up in the top of my Google Search Results Page.

Advice: Invest a large budget into SEM or get lost in the dust.


2. *Judges You via Website Design*

If your automotive website looks like it’s from the early 2000s, the chances of me actually coming in your store are zero to none. Although that may sound snotty, I truly believe a website can tell you a lot about your in-store experience. I want my in-store experience to be fast, progressive, friendly, honest and to the point. When I see a half-fast website with graphics that are all sorts of clashing “buy now” colors screaming at me, this is how I envision your dealership:


Advice: Imagine your dealership’s website as a virtual shop window. Ensure it’s built mobile-first, responsive, follows website design best practices, and creates a rich user experience. Build it for the user and don’t be shy on spending extra money on this valuable piece of your business.


3. Are there any eco-friendly options?

Sustainability should be a priority- why aren’t any dealers concerned? I’d like to consider us millennials a green generation, we truly care about the environment and want to do our best to be “eco-friendly”. Realistically most of us need a car to commute to work and sadly can’t afford a fancy tesla. Therefore, when buying a car our ideal situation would be a car that is as eco-friendly as possible. Personal values are more important than personal benefits, such as cost or convenience. 
Don’t believe me? Check this out:


Advice: Give us an option to refine search results on your website to “eco-friendly” options. Yes we can configure highway MPG, but that’s not enough.  

4. Why can’t I search for non-leather interior in cars?

Searching through various dealership’s websites I was troubled to find that I couldn’t refine the results to a synthetic interior, I had to manually click into each cars VDP and search to find what the interior was made of. Unlike previous generations, we do not consider leather a luxury. Why? Well because most of us have seen Cowspiracy or that gross viral leather video online.

Advice: Give us an option to refine search results on your website to synthetic interior options.


5. Chat tools are spammy.

Clicking through different dealership website’s I’ve noticed a common theme: everyone uses a “chat tool”. Personally, I’m shocked the tool even works; it’s invasive in the way that it keeps popping up and sometimes even moves around my screen to where I can't make it go away. I also assume it’s a “chat bot” aka a computer talking to me on the other end. Why would I go through the trouble of asking a computer something I can easily find myself? I assume dealers think customers will be typing in a basic question like, “what are the late modeled Toyota Camry options available?”.  As a millennial, I most likely would be asking something far more complex that I don't think a computer would be able to auto answer, if I decided to use this tool.

Advice: Give us tools that will help us throughout our purchasing journey and be innovative not invasive.


6. What is my trade-in value?

Before I can make moves, I need to know how much my current car is worth so I can understand what type of budget I’m dealing with. I’m very idealistic and want to spend money, but realistically I am unsure how much money I can spend.

Advice: Have a trade-in tool with a human-designed clean interface that can give me my trade-in value fast and easy.
This Trade-In Tool is a great example- I can get all needed information in less than a minute, am incentivized to come in-store and can even schedule my appointment inside of it.


7. What are your specials?

Our general millennial population are professionals at online shopping. Our first reaction when visiting a website is to check the “sale” section before we even view the normal inventory. This can be reflected the same with an automotive site, we are going to check out your Specials before we further navigate your site.

Advice: Make sure your specials page is clean, clear and clicks through to the correct search page to catch us.
Brandon Honda does a great job doing this.


8. I don’t want to give you my information BUT if I do I’m probably very serious about the vehicle. 

I know how the game works, I give you my information and you proceed to blow up my phone and email for the next two months. Although our phones are attached to our hands, we don’t want to be bothered. To be fair, I understand the methodology of why this is done; you want to ensure we visit your dealership and not another dealership. Here’s the good news, if we do give you our contact information we are probably very serious about coming in-store.

Advice: Understand that if we are giving you our information, chances are we are going to be a great lead. Get us in store, we probably know what we want anyways.


9. *Dreads communicating with a real person who possibly might be a pushy salesman*

Good luck communicating with us, this might be an area where we absolutely fall into our stereotype. If you contact us to much, we are going to ghost you. If you contact us too little, we might get so lost on the internet we forgot you existed. It’s a tricky tricky area.

Advice: Do not take on millennials from a traditional call script and contacting us schedule approach- this wheel needs to be reinvented specifically designed for us. We crave experience, being treated like real humans and the easiest way to keep in touch is by texting us only please.


10. I only want to visit 1 or 2 dealerships before I make my purchasing decision.

Sometimes I see statistics online and really doubt their validity. Example: according to Google, “The average car purchasers only visits two dealerships before making their purchasing decision”. This my friend, is quite accurate. The thought of shopping dealership to dealership like how it use to be done, sounds about as fun as a day full of doctor appointments. I’m going to do all of my research online and ideally have everything ready to the point where when I walk into the store, we can get straight to the test drive, numbers and paperwork. I want to spend as little time as possible at the dealership.

Advice: Build the bridge between digital traffic and foot traffic for millennials by being useful during crucial decision making moments online. Give us all the tools we need on your website to be able to go in your store and buy the car as quick as possible. 

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To clarify, I don’t represent the entire millennial population because we come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, tendencies and behavioral patterns. With that being said, I know targeting millennials seems to be an unknown tricky territory, but if you seek to understand us it is easy to influence our behavior. I hope that some of my thoughts above can give you some inspiration on how to enhance the consumer experience for millennial car shoppers.

What are your thoughts or advice when it comes to targeting us millennials on your dealership’s website?


Topics: Incentive Marketing