Automotive, Industry Ideas, Insights

How you can beat Uber (and win back Millennials)

By Andrew Tai - Sep 21, 2020

Car ownership is a fickle thing. For the past few years, it looked like old fashioned ownership was on the decline among younger demographics who found more value in newer transportation models.

Between ridesharing services like Uber and car-sharing offerings like Zipcar, many consumers (Millennials and Gen Z in particular) saw little value in the traditional lease or purchase paradigms.

READ: Here’s How to Win Over Gen Z

Insurance costs alone could easily exceed the price of taking a Lyft everywhere, not to mention the hassle of maintenance (and winter tires, and major repairs, and gasoline, and…). So why are Millennials suddenly shifting back towards the car ownership models of yore? And how can you sell to them?

A recent article published in the Atlantic outlined the sudden and unexpected surge in car sales among younger generations. While car sales initially dropped off due to early quarantine measures, purchases among consumers aged 18 to 35 increased.

While convenience has long been on the top of everyone’s mind, COVID rearranged our collective priorities and placed safety above all else – specifically, safety from germs. We still don’t know the full story on the COVID-19 virus, but it seems pretty clear to most people that small, enclosed spaces like an Uber driver’s Civic represent a greater risk.

This is equally true for other common methods of transportation, like busses, trains, and taxis. All the shared-use alternatives to car ownership very suddenly gained a negative stigma among those worried about illness. The only risk-free mode of transit is the car that you, and only you, are allowed to use.

Okay, so how does this all circle back to digital retailing? After all, that’s typically what I discuss, and I know you’re expecting more than just an upbeat article on the resurgence of car sales among the young.

Well, when we dig into the nature of this resurgence, we see an interesting but not unexpected trend: car purchases may be increasing among the youngest two generations, but dealership traffic isn’t. Millennials and Gen Z want to buy a car the way they buy everything else: digitally.

According to Bloomberg, online-only car retailer Carvana has serious concerns that their inventory isn’t keeping up with demand. As car sales fell, Carvana’s revenue soared due to consumer need for easy, online purchase options.

And it’s not just Carvana. Headlines have pummeled us all summer with news of a “digital-first” industry shift; the success of dealerships across North America appears to hinge on seamless digital solutions.

That “seamless” part is small but critical. As eager as young consumers (whose market share is surging) are to buy online, they don’t want to feel like they’re navigating a second-class purchase process. These car buyers demand an online experience that equals or exceeds the dealership norms.

This is the power of digital retailing – the power I’ve been hinting at for what feels like years. As consumer expectations and purchase habits shift (quite rapidly these days), dealerships need to be equipped with the right tools to meet a new type of car buyer head-on.

More than that, dealers can succeed today and tomorrow by choosing a solution that offers the flexibility to continue adapting as the situation evolves. With the top digital retailing platforms, consumers choose their own paths to purchase, interweaving digital and physical shopping into their own unique patterns.

As showrooms reopen, that’s what car shopping is going to look like. Some people are eager to rush to the dealership and smell that unmistakable new car scent; other people will continue to avoid unnecessary public interactions for years to come. There’s a new spectrum of customer behaviour, and omnichannel digital retailing is your way to satisfy everyone on it, no matter how they want to buy.

Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at motoinsight.com.

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