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5 Actionable Tips to Reach Millennials with Your Car Marketing

Not long ago, Millennials were thought of as a harbinger of doom for the automotive industry. Ride-sharing services and crippling student debt made many declare Millennials as the generation that would stop buying cars. Those doomsday prophesies didn’t come to fruition. In fact, the growth of Millennial car-buying is becoming one of the largest opportunities for dealerships to flourish in these uncertain times.

Let’s look at a snapshot of the Millennial car-buying situation:
In 2016, just two years ago, Millennials made 29% of car purchases, or about 4.1 million cars. By 2020, in just two years, this generation is projected to make up 40% of all new car purchases. This makes them the fastest growing segment of car buyers. As Millennials leave college, start their careers, buy homes, and start families, their vehicle purchasing is driven by need, rather than want.

Millennials need new vehicles to fit their changing lives and family sizes, making this the perfect time to invest in marketing to this generation. However, this population is still made up of digital natives whose expectations for online interaction and marketing have been set by the customer-centric practices of digital retail giants. This fact will play a part in each of the following tips we have to share.

Without further delay, here are five of the best tips we have for reaching Millennials with your car marketing:


Reviews, Testimonials, and Social Proof

Millennials know they’re lacking in experience. They make up for this by utilizing both their vast social networks and their online search skills to gather knowledge based on the experiences of others. It shouldn’t be wholly surprising that 73% of Millennials say that it is important to read other’s opinions prior to a purchase. Without the experience to inform their purchase decisions, Millennials rely on a type of crowd-sourced experience — aggregated information from a variety of sources that approximates what the buyer can expect — to inform their vehicle purchasing decisions.

84% say user-generated content has some influence on that they buy, and they’re 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social media. Whether they’re reading reviews, looking at a friend’s photos of their new car, or watching a Youtuber’s walk-through of the car, user-created content is a solid source of likely unbiased information, and that’s incredibly valuable to Millennials.   

Part of your car marketing geared towards Millennials should capitalize on their desire to share their experiences. In fact, 70% feel responsibility for sharing feedback with a business after a positive or negative experience. Tap into this by implementing testimonial and review-gathering initiatives that appeal to Millennial car shoppers.

While peer influence isn’t the only factor driving Millennial vehicle purchasing, it would be a poor idea to ignore this resource.


Don’t Ignore Service

Millennials are particularly good service customers. As you can probably imagine, this can be a major boon to your car marketing. This generation currently makes up 25% of all service customers. As Millennials increasing the sizes of their households and purchase more vehicles, that percentage is sure to rise.

In the meantime, however, you should still be incorporating your service department in your dealership’s Millennial-focused car marketing. 70% of Millennials report that they’re willing to pay more for quality vehicle service or maintenance, which means marketing that highlights the quality of service and trustworthiness of the dealership department can be effective at bringing in Millennials to have their vehicles serviced or maintained. This generation is also more likely to have a vehicle with an extended warranty — which means they’re already more likely to choose to do their vehicle maintenance with a dealership.  

Looking to drive more business to your service department? Focus on marketing to Millennials. Incorporate this phenomenon into your dealership’s car marketing by offering coupons, deals, or promotions for your service department on Millennial-favored advertising channels.


Advertise In the Right Places

Whether it’s because of their Recession-steeped coming-of-age, their digital lifestyle, or shifting advertising and cultural paradigms, Millennials have a slightly different relationship with advertising than the member of older generations. This has a variety of implications for car marketing professionals.

For one thing, their digital lifestyle means that just getting their attention can be difficult. While older generations still change the channel when ads interrupt their programming, Millennials don’t even bother with that. They don’t need to try to focus on finding something interesting to watch on a different channel — the instant ads started playing, they whipped out their phone (or likely, never put it away), or laptop, and do other things until the show resumes.

The fact that Millennials switch their focus so quickly can be discouraging, but it actually provides the opportunity for dealerships to take a more comprehensive approach to their car marketing. Successful car marketing to Millennials demands a strong omni-channel strategy. With their scattered online presence and device-aided multitasking, being able to deliver strong, cohesive, and consistent marketing messaging and offers across multiple platforms is essential for dealerships to effectively reach Millennials.

On top of this, Millennials also think that the Internet is four times more helpful during than TV or newspapers. An essential piece of effectively reaching Millennials with car marketing is selecting and investing in the channels that they prefer to use for car shopping.

Finally, and for a bit of a silver-lining note, Millennials are actually more receptive to viewing ads than older generational groups. This comes with a bit of a caveat — the content they are viewing must be accessible and free. This receptivity to advertising comes from a blending a sense of fairness with the reality of Millennials digital entertainment consumption. Millennials commonly consume digital video content (like Hulu and YouTube) and video-on-demand. These types of video content have unskippable advertising, but Millennials understand this as the price they pay for free, entertaining video content, and stay more positive about the ads they view.


Emphasize Trust, Partnership, and CX

Forget “The customer is always right.” Now, the better phrase would probably be “The consumer is now in control.” Sure, it doesn’t roll of the tongue as well, but it represents the core shift in car marketing much better. In a world where product information is available to shoppers at the tap of a finger, the customer has control. No generation (with the possible exception of Gen Z) knows this as well as Millennials.

Online, shoppers can have access to all the information they could want about a particular vehicle, and can shop between dealerships with unprecedented ease. This digital shift means that 61% of customers say they feel significantly more empowered as a customer now than they did five years ago. Millennials are leading that charge.

All aspects of car marketing to Millennials should be adapted to fit this new role. Dealerships aren’t the source of information anymore — they have to become trusted partners in the vehicle shopping process. Use your car marketing to curate information, provide useful and personalized offers, and form a more authentic relationship with your Millennial shoppers.

As Hildegard Wortmann, vice-president of brand at BMW remarked at the Automotive News Europe Congress, remarks, “[Millennials] want brands that behave like human beings.” Want to effectively market to Millennials? Humanize your dealership, and treat Millennials like humans too.



Mobile is absolutely essential for car marketing to Millennials. We can’t make this point often or vehemently enough. This generation grew up with the world in the palm of their hand. They expect interactions to be seamless between devices. They expect interaction to be able to take place anytime and anywhere.

Currently, 65% of Millennials use a smartphone to conduct research prior to visiting a dealership. That number is only going to grow, and dealerships that don’t emphasize mobile in their car marketing will see even greater losses than they have already.

Millennials use their smartphones for the entire vehicle research process, but the most common shopping action on mobile devices were:

  • Getting prices
  • Viewing classified vehicle listings
  • Finding a dealership
  • Reviewing vehicle features and specifics
  • Reading reviews and testimonials

The most effective car marketing to Millennials is that which supports these actions specifically on a mobile device. Build all your Millennial car marketing materials, from your emails, to display ads, to social media posts for a mobile experience, and ensure that it all seeks to try to help Millennials accomplish one of the above listed actions. For example, use your car marketing on social media to promote and highlight real-life reviews (preferably video) from your customers.



Keep your eyes on Millennials. Gen Z may be fascinating, but they’re not at their car-buying peak yet. More importantly, Millennials mark the beginning of a new era in car marketing. It isn’t enough to just grab your shopper’s attention anymore — there must be something of value in order for Millennials to care. Following the tips above can help take your car marketing to new heights, but once there, don’t get too comfortable and lose the lead.