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Retailers must embrace new communication methods to connect with younger car buyers

As automotive retailing becomes a more omnichannel experience, it’s important that businesses consider how their methods of communication address the needs and expectations of individual customers.

It is easy for retailer staff to fall back on old habits during the sales process and communicate in formulaic, unimaginative ways, whether that be via telephone or email. What has become clear in recent years is a need for sales staff to make a conscious effort to use new digital tools at their disposal to make the experience of purchasing a new car or servicing an existing vehicle as simple and easy as possible for the customer – something we know that younger car buyers in particular have come to expect.

In late 2021, the CitNOW Group conducted a survey that provided valuable insight into how younger car buyers prefer to interact with retailers. One notable finding was that around a third (33%) of 18 to 24-year-olds said the aspect they valued most about their recent car buying experience was the relationship they established with their sales executive. This was significantly higher than any other age group, and ahead of test driving the car (24%) and visiting the showroom (29%).

It’s perhaps no surprise that direct contact with the customer remains key for establishing trust and creating a personal approach. However, the survey also revealed how important technology is for building relationships with this demographic, right from the enquiry phase. Younger car buyers are open to using newer forms of communication: when asked how they would prefer to be contacted by sales executives following an initial enquiry, almost a quarter (22%) of under 35s said they prefer messaging apps such as WhatsApp. It’s also worth noting that car buyers expect to receive a response from retailers not long after their initial vehicle enquiry. Over a quarter (27%) of respondents thought a response between one to three hours after enquiry is sufficient, whereas almost a quarter (24%) would prefer a response within 30 minutes, with almost a third (30%) of those respondents being under 25. By utilising digital communication platforms, retailers can greatly exceed these expectations to provide an exceptional customer experience.

The findings in our report also show that a high percentage of younger car buyers are open to video being incorporated into the buying journey, with almost three quarters (72%) of survey respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 stating that they would be more likely to purchase a vehicle if they received a personalised video of it beforehand. When asked about their preference in being kept up to date with the progress of their vehicle or purchase, 20% of under 35s said they would prefer updates via live video – the highest of any age bracket we surveyed.

What is absolutely clear from our research is that visiting the showroom remains a highly valued part of the buying process for all car owners. With a multitude of ways to keep in touch with customers through digital means now available, retailers should utilise these tools to help build emotional connections with customers and bridge the gap between online to offline communications. It is important for retailers to replicate the in-dealership experience from the first point of enquiry when using digital tools, to help build long-lasting relationships at all stages from the initial enquiry, through to aftersales and retaining custom. By blending preferred current methods of communication whilst incorporating the latest, more instant forms of communication, retailers can create a customer-led journey that fits the requirements and expectations of each customer and creates a more efficient and seamless experience for all.