4 Min Read • November 6, 2023
The Boom(er) Times Are A-Changin’ for Dealerships
Baby boomers have dominated car buying and leasing for decades. Now, the oldest members of this generation, typically classified as those born between 1946 and 1964, are in their 70s. What does the aging of this huge cohort mean for your dealership?
Well, times are a-changin’. Your dealership will have to adapt its sales process to appeal to a wider range of customers as boomers age and younger generations step up.
The Flexible Path to Purchase
The good news is that if you’ve taken steps to offer a flexible online-to-in-store buying experience, you’re in good shape to shift with demographics. There are two reasons why. First, we know it’s safe to say that 100% of shoppers use the internet during the vehicle research process. Yes, boomers are as addicted to their screens as younger generations.
The concept of going online early in the buying process to gather vehicle information is here to stay. So, it’s important to make sure your website (your virtual showroom) is equipped with easy-to-find and -use research tools, including detailed vehicle display pages (VDPs) and digital retail tools.
In addition, the hybrid approach makes your dealership appealing to the widest range of shoppers. This is backed by data from our Ease of Purchase Survey, which tracked how people purchased from June 2022 to June 2023.
In June 2023, 67% of buyers completed the purchase process solely at the dealership, down from 73% in 2022. The drop most likely is due to inventory returning and fewer buyers placing vehicle orders. The point is that the in-store experience isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The survey also revealed that 29% of buyers completed at least one of the purchase steps online (such as applying for financing or securing a trade-in value) and finished the deal at the dealership. So, the hybrid approach is also alive and kicking.
The bottom line is that a hybrid approach where the buyer decides how to purchase will make your dealership appealing to all, from the boomer in his 60s to the millennial in her late 20s.
Shorten the Time Spent In-Store
Although most customers want to complete all or some of the purchase in-store, they have a low tolerance for idle time. The CDK Global 2023 Friction Points Study found that longer times spent at the dealership significantly and negatively impacted the shopper’s likelihood to recommend the store to others and slashed customer satisfaction. More specifically, 48% cited price negotiations and waiting on a salesperson as their top pain point.
But there was a big shift in how boomers saw themselves in terms of wanting to spend time at the dealership. From 2021 to 2022 boomers who identified themselves as a shopper who wanted to get the deal done quickly jumped from 45% to 71%.
A key step in adjusting your approach to match up with customer expectations is leveraging mobile technology in-store during the deal-making process. Sales associates can secure a distinct advantage when they use a tablet equipped with the same digital retail tools that customers use on a dealership’s website from home. They can sit side by side with a customer to:
• Review vehicles
• Choose options
• Compare financing plans
• Complete a first pencil
This is a more flexible and consultative experience that can move the process along faster without jeopardizing profit since dealership-specific deal guidelines are built into the tools.
Best of all, it works across generations. A boomer who hasn’t started a deal online can begin right away in the store with a sales rep who’ll stick by their side and walk them through the process. A millennial or Generation Zer who’s started the process online will see the work they’ve done at home pop up on the sales associate’s tablet so they can pick up exactly where they left off online.
Times are a-changin’ and your dealership can change right along with it. A hybrid sales approach enabled by technology will help your dealership appeal to the widest range of buyers. As boomers age and younger generations step up, you can step up right alongside them.