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 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.