Digital Thought Starters: Alexa Speaks, and Watch Out for Smartphone-wielding Gen Z Buyers

Safe to say, there’s just a little bit of uncertainty as we head into the summer selling season. And apprehension – there’s some of that as well, thanks to tumbling sales, inventory levels and aggressive incentive programs.

As always, time will tell just how good (or bad) the next few months will be in terms of new and used vehicle sales, but one thing is abundantly clear: dealerships are not only battling slowing demand, they’re also facing a new set of expectations from car buyers. Savvy dealer managers are already looking for answers across the sales and marketing spectrum to help handle the shift to Millennials, and what comes with this first true “digital native” demographic. Layer in the coming influence of Generation Z, and the automotive space is in for a rollicking good time. It’s like buying a ride on the world’s biggest and most expensive roller-coaster: the climb to the top is incredible, but that descent is, well, something else. One way managers are working to offset that pit-of-your stomach feel is to keep up with the trends and innovations that drive consumer habits. Here are two recent studies that may tip into some of these coming changes:  

Alexa Speaks. People Listen!

According to eMarketer, the active use of in-home voice-activated assistants is gaining momentum: 35.6 million Americans now use the technology once a month, a 130% increase over 2016.  The April 2017 study also found that 60.5 million Americans use virtual assistants via their smartphones – a little more than 25 percent.

Siri, why do I care?
Because the biggest users of virtual assistants just happen to be older Millennials, and they just happen to be movers and shakers in the car market. According to 2016 Dealertrack Credit Application data, Millennials are increasing their influence across all credit spectrums, to 36% of all unique credit apps. While this doesn’t mean you should replace your sales team with Alexa, what it does show is how digital innovation is influencing the way people consume content, and how people are shaping content to be a more organic and integrated part of their daily lives. That’s something to consider when you make decisions about how your team uses content and conversation during the online to in-store experience. Click here for more about the study, and check out the most recent look at Millennial behavior from Cox Automotive.

Gen Z is Here, and They’re Clutching Smartphones

Teenagers. Who needs ‘em? As a matter of fact, we all do, as they will soon become a powerful group of car buyers in their own right – a group that will redefine and enhance the auto retail experience yet again. According to a GlobalWebIndex Study in late 2016, teen Internet users (is there another kind?) spend over 3 hours and 30 minutes a day on their smartphones. That’s a lot of Snapchatting, and a bunch of video watching – habits they are sure to apply to their shopping preferences. The findings complement an in-depth Cox Auto Insights study on Gen Z from 2016, which found that “Smartphones are nearly as important as a PC/laptop in the car-shopping experience so it’s important to deliver a good experience on all devices, and that the focus should be on creating a seamless experience that integrates online and offline with investments in mobile technology and social media.” In terms of retail best practice, then, consider implementing a mobile approach to key technology supports, such as menu selling and contracting. Think about buyer connection points – and make plans to implement a mobile strategy around these key moments.

The Takeaway

Trends and insights don’t sell cars. Or do they? When it comes to these two trends, they serve as good brain food for keeping up with car buyer preferences. Think about how your retail experience mirrors the reasons why Alexa is popular: casual, comfortable and consultative content when and where buyers need it. And in terms of the mobile phone habits of Gen Z, consider how mobile device usage has arguably come to define comfort and accessibility for all of us, and how important that is to implement during key moments in the buyer’s journey.