DONNA HARRIS

How to handle the Gen Y customer

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News
We’ve discussed Generation Y-ers and their characteristics as employees. But how should dealers reach out to these young adults as consumers?

Forrest Heathcott, president of JM&A Group, of Deerfield Beach, Fla., an independent supplier of finance and insurance products, addressed this topic in his keynote address to the F&I Management & Technology Conference last week in Las Vegas.

Heathcott said dealers have to sell products in a more “progressive” fashion holding up businesses such as eBay, Nike Inc., Apple Computer Inc., and Amazon.com as examples. He described this technologically savvy generation as “our toughest audience yet.”

His advice?

• Turn the buying process -- not just shopping -- into a fun, online social experience. He recommends reaching out particularly through YouTube and social media such as Facebook.

• Make the purchase easier and more convenient. Move more of the transaction online. He says the industry should be lobbying for up-to-date electronic signature laws. Current consumer protection laws were drafted pre-Internet.

• Don’t sell them, give them choices. Gen Y tends to respond well to touch-screen menus, for example. These independent thinkers developed strong opinions at a young age and don’t want a sales job.

• Interact with them with transparency. These are no-nonsense consumers, and they want straight talk, not smoke and mirrors.

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