Breaking Through Screens to Reach Gen Z Car Buyers

Mar 23, 2022
Jessica Stafford, SVP and GM of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book

Gen Z is the largest, most diverse population ever, and 88% of them plan to make their first vehicle purchase within the next 5 years.? This generation’s lives are dominated by screens, but they still value in-person experiences. As technology has blurred the lines between their digital and physical worlds, they demand a consistent, convenient and personalized experience in both.  

At NADA Show 2022 I gave a session on how to influence, break through and deliver a superior shopping experience to the next generation of car buyers. Now I’m here to share these insights with you! 

So what do we know about Gen Z? Let’s talk basics:  

Gen Z includes people born between 1997 and 2012. To many of us, 1997 may sound recent, but the oldest members of this generation are 25 years old. And with tens of millions of them entering the workforce each year, Generation Z has become today’s car buyer and tomorrow’s.  

In total, there are 65 million of them in the U.S, making up 20.2% of the population with $44 billion in purchasing power.? Gen Z is a diverse group of people who use the internet in a more intuitive and integrated way than any other generation before. They connect, consume, research, browse, buy, stream and learn on the internet.  

Selling cars to a digital-first generation 

One in four Gen Zers are connected within five minutes of waking up each day, and nearly all are connected within an hour or less.   

They communicate regularly with diverse populations across the globe, and they think nothing of it. Location isn’t a factor for them when it comes to communication. They’re a digital-first generation of consumers. They grew up with the internet and widespread connectivity across multiple devices. They don’t remember a time before social media — so when it comes to making a purchase, traditional sales and marketing approaches won’t work.  

And when it comes to cars, they want one. As I stated earlier, 88% of them plan to own a car and nearly all plan to get a driver’s license. And 35% also said that they plan to increase the number of vehicles they own in the next five years.?

Gen Z views car ownership as a necessity. It represents freedom and convenience, which are both very important to this group of young people.   

To turn Gen Z car shoppers into buyers here are four things every dealership needs to know:  

  1. They have integrated technology into nearly every aspect of their lives, but that doesn’t mean they want every possible new piece of technology in their car. They’re connected, but they want the right technology that adds value. 
  1. Gen Z also knows how to find a good deal online — being web savvy isn’t just good for posting videos to Tik-Tok. These consumers will scour the web for special offers, knowing they can always find a better deal. So, for dealers working with Gen Z car-buyers, it’s critical to provide price transparency and shopper confidence online.  
  1. Along with being cost-conscious and practical, they’re also focused on safety, so highlight the trifecta of price, safety and indispensable technology where you can.  
  1. Gen Z car buyers place a high value on a positive and seamless shopping experience, both digitally and face-to-face. A test drive is second only to their parents in terms of influence over which vehicle to buy, so creating a unique and high-quality in-person experience could win them over.  

The auto industry is waking up to a new, car-friendly Gen Z. However, if dealers wish to succeed with this unique generation, they’ll need to deliver the shopping and buying experience they’ve come to expect. Is your dealership ready? 

For more tips check out our 2022 Digital Marketing Trends and How to Build a Digital Dealership That Meets Consumer Expectations blog posts.