Robert Grant
| 08/31/2017

Are You Positioned to Attract Millennials ?

Everybody's talking about the millennial generation—sociologists, the media, and of course, marketers. The better the recreation industry understands how to sell to millennials, the better we can understand our economic future and position ourselves for success. Being a member of the preceding generation, Generation X, I wanted to get a better understanding of what defines a millennial. In addition, I took a look at their impact on the RV market, examining a study done by our data services team looking at vehicle purchase trends over the last five years.

Who are Millennials?

The general consensus is that those born between 1980 and 1996 are considered millennials. According to a U.S. Census Bureau press release, millennials were one-quarter (83.1 million) of the total population and surpassed the population of baby boomers (75.4 million) in 2015. It’s no secret that they are an influential group, but how do they act?

Here are some characteristics of the millennial generation that stand out:

Attract Millennials

Industry Numbers

Now that we understand a little more about what makes millennials tick, let’s take a look at their impact on our industry.
We studied 370 dealers’ activities, including 56,346 new unit sales from August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2017. The sample data included all RV classes including Class A, B and C motor homes, fifth wheels, travel trailers, and pop-up trailers. Here’s what we found:

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Average Age of RV Buyers

We found that the average age of customers purchasing a unit over the last 5 years is 52. While millennials only accounted for 9.34 percent of RV purchases, there’s strong evidence that the number will quickly grow.

Sales by Generation

When we broke the percentage of sales down by generation over the last five years, we see that the baby boomers top the charts, as might be expected, with a five-year average of 47.68 percent. But Millennials show a strong five-year increase from 10.2 percent to 23.15 percent — a 12.95 percent increase in market share! This is a major growth opportunity for recreation dealers.

Taking Action

Image removed.So what does this mean for you?
It means that we need to put ourselves in the shoes of a millennial consumer. We need to adjust how we market our products and services and present our message. And we need to tailor our services so they reflect the things that are important to millennials.
There’s a lot of untapped opportunity in this large group. If we can adjust to attract members of this demographic, we’ll be able to sustain our businesses and be successful for many years to come.

Here are four areas to focus on:

  • Product Offering: Do you have the right product on the lot? Consider that millennials gravitate toward companies (and I’ll even say products) that are engaged in the betterment of society. Whether you emphasize the sustainability of your products, or simply emphasize the positive corporate philosophies behind of the products you carry, your choice of products is important.
  • Web and social media content: Millennials have grown up with social media. It’s second nature for them to do their research there. In fact, in our recent millennial study, we found that they overwhelmingly use digital channels to research their vehicle purchases. Make sure you prioritize your digital presence and think through how you present your brand and products online. Have an employee assigned specifically to your social media channels, and keep the content fresh.
  • Lifestyle: Play up the fact that being involved in recreation is part of a lifestyle. Key in on the idea of RV ownership being part of “adult” life (similarly, we found that 58 percent of millennials are motivated by the social status of owning a car). In addition, you might hone in on lifestyle trends that millennials might connect with. For example, we’ve all heard about the “tiny home” craze where people from all walks of life are gravitating to a simpler way to live. What better way to achieve this than in an RV?
  • Retail Finance options: Be prepared to offer a variety of finance options. Because of younger buyers’ limited credit histories, you may have to work a little harder in finalizing the sale. Millennials’ discretionary income isn’t quite at the same level of an older Gen X or baby boomer customer. Be ready to offer a solution appropriate to their phase of life.
Robert Grant
Robert Grant

Robert B. Grant has over 18 years of RV, marine and powersports industry experience. He got his start managing the parts and service departments at local dealerships in the Salt Lake City, UT. He attended the University of Utah where he received a BA in Finance. He has been employed by CDK Global Recreation, previously known as ADP Dealer Services, for 17 years and has worked in many different capacities in the company which provides the Lightspeed dealer management software and services for the Marine, RV and Powersports industries. He currently works as a business development engineer.