It takes Rumpelstiltskin not to realize that online shopping has exploded since the pandemic began. Digital Commerce 360 ​​estimates the pandemic has contributed an additional $218.53 billion to e-commerce bottom line over the past two years and 48% of consumers say their shopping habits have changed permanently since the pandemic. These brick-and-mortar holding businesses — including car dealerships — must feel like old-school, Red Sox scouts in the 2011 classic “Moneyball”: They were outdated overnight. And, meanwhile, new automakers like Tesla

that abandoned traditional dealerships feel vindicated by years of criticism.

But a new study from Progressive

along with decades of user-centered design (UCD) quietly suggest to the trained eye that dealerships could survive by targeting their new main character: the Gen X buyer. The study points out that buyers under 40-year-olds are three times more likely to buy online and only 26% of Millennials said they bought a car from a dealership. Comparing this to the New York Times 2020 report stating that “…millennials were almost twice as likely as baby boomers to purchase and purchase a vehicle – new or used – entirely online.. ., suggests that the trend is not decreasing. Yes, dealerships can build or license online shopping websites, but suddenly they have to compete with Carvana, Vroom, Shift, etc., much like a mom’n’pop store selling locally versus Amazon.

and WalMart selling nationwide.

However, reading the study backwards offers a glimmer of hope for dealers: some shoppers have rejected online sales for a variety of reasons. Deanna Glick, 50, of Leesburg, Va., recently purchased a new vehicle, choosing to buy from a dealership. The test drive was his main concern. “It was important to take a test drive, and that influenced my decision to visit the dealership,” she says. “As a short person, I really like to see how a car fits and how easily I can reach the controls and adjust the seats. That’s something that can’t be gauged when buying online. .” Other respondents said, “I wasn’t happy with some of the details I wanted and it didn’t [online]” and “I liked the [dealership’s] seller. He was funny. He took the time to answer my questions. These verbatims suggest a continued need for personalized in-person service. And the best news yet: Experian’s study in mid-2021 showed Gen X temporarily becoming the largest segment of new-vehicle buyers (32.0%) by overtaking both Boomers (29 .6%) and Millennials (27.3%). There is therefore a market and its need exists.

User-centered design

The foundations of user experience and a customer-centric approach like UCD are to design very specifically around the main character: a singular, quasi-fictional character who embodies most of the real-world personalities, unmet needs and buying habits of the target segment. Here are three demographic or personality traits that I suggest dealerships consider when generating their main personas in the coming months:

1. SWITCH TO FEMALE: Women account for 65% of all new car purchases and 85% of all consumer purchases. This doesn’t bode well for most dealerships, as women “feel vulnerable” at dealerships and often have to pay a “pink tax” (e.g. $117.12 more than men when buying new cars; more than $7,800 more during the eight years of ownership). Part of that could be staffing since “…almost universally, women rated their satisfaction scores higher when dealing with female sales consultants,” according to a 2019 report analyzing more than 3,000 dealership reviews and later noting that “…only about 8% of front-line dealership positions are held by women.”

2. GO GREEN: From the media, you’d assume millennials are leading the charge (no pun intended) on electric and hybrid vehicles. Bad. According to 2020 data from TrueCar, Gen Xers are buying the most electric vehicles (39.8%) while Baby Boomers “…buy the largest mix of all green vehicles, which includes electric, hybrid , plug-in and fuel cell hybrids”. That said, according to a recent study by The Zebra, “About 40% of people have considered a hybrid compared to only 18% of people who have considered a fully electric vehicle“, which was even more pronounced among older buyers.

3. GO PRACTICAL: Although Gen X earns the highest salaries with a median income of $106,000, they also have the highest average student debt of any generation ($30,000 vs. $25,000 for Gen Y) and have the more children still living at home. Yes, your dealership may still have a high-end, flashy vehicle available, but consider advertising and showcasing the Griswold Family Truckster. Linking this to “GO FEMALE”, a survey of over 500,000 consumer inquiries found that “the qualities women really want in a car are affordability and practicality, unlike the types of cars that men are most interested in buying”. [which were sportier, performance-based cars].”

Author’s note

Long ago, client clinics realized that clients loved or hated the [then] new style of the Dodge Ram. Those who liked it became loyal buyers and eventually competitors copied the look because it was so popular, and billions in revenue were made on a design that some people hated.

The point: design more than one experience (eg, online, in-store) around those people who will love it. Don’t design everything for everyone or it will become the equivalent of cafeteria food: bland, tasteless, unappealing to everyone.

Make them love.


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