In automotive, three generations represent the bulk of consumers: millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers.
Each has its defining traits, spending habits, and media preferences. Millennials often steal the spotlight as the industry frets over their ride-sharing and urban lifestyle predilections.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is the group that represents automotive’s ideal customer. Born 1946—1964, they are well-acquainted with the traditional auto retail model, with cars linked to their generation’s culture. With more buying power than any other age group, they have the means to purchase. Still, they account for 62 percent of all new vehicle sales (NADA).
This is the boomer consumer.
Three Generations, One Ideal
It’s important to understand what differentiates the boomer consumer from later cohorts.
Born directly after boomers, Gen X represents the smallest generation. Like millennials, this group was hit by the Great Recession. Gen X also carries more debt than any other group, nearly $10,000 more per person than the national average (Northwestern Mutual). Sandwiched between aging parents and early-adult children, they feel the financial burden of supporting both, all while managing their own debt.
Millennials are the trendsetter generation. They have surpassed boomers in numbers, but not wealth. Student loan debt is a contributor to their lack of disposable income. Millennials are entering peak car-buying years, but reports show that this generation continues to view cars pragmatically, willing to switch easily between vehicle ownership and public or on-demand transportation services depending on their situation.
Then, there are the baby boomers. This generation has had time to accumulate wealth, controlling more than 70 percent of disposable income in the U.S. They also perceive a practical and emotional value in vehicle ownership. NADA reports that it currently takes four millennials to replace one boomer’s economic impact. Better yet, 1 in 3 baby boomers plans to purchase a car in the next 3 years (AARP).
There is potential in each generation, but the data shows that today’s ideal consumer is the baby boomer. The next step is reaching them with your offers.
Reaching the Boomer Consumer
Earlier, we dubbed millennials the trendsetters. It’s easy to get caught up in millennial media habits like mobile-first platforms and streaming services.
But to reach the baby boomer, strategies must be geared toward their specific consumption styles.
Boomers are the largest viewers of linear TV. According to Pew Research, 70 percent of consumers ages 50 to 64 still use cable or satellite as their primary source of TV. Additionally, 14 percent of boomers are willing to engage with advertisements on TV versus only 4 percent on mobile. Their TV ad engagement is higher than any other generation’s (Deloitte).
Aside from broadcast ads, baby boomers can be reached with selective digital strategies. They respond best to search engine marketing, making SEO and paid search tactics invaluable. Eighty-two percent belong to Facebook, suggesting that social media ads are also a good choice. Since this generation grew up reading books and newspapers, blogs and long-form content are seen as an indulgence rather than a burden, contrary to the younger generations.
By adjusting tools that already exist, you can resist the traps of trendy marketing and instead focus your efforts on automotive’s most profitable customer.
Bonus feature: Data Shows Car Renters Poised to Purchase
Enterprise Holdings, operator of the largest car rental company in the world, commissioned a study with Polk to analyze the car-buying behavior of its customers. Polk found that customers who rent from Enterprise are 55% more likely to purchase a new vehicle within 6 months of renting. Moreover, 1.2 million out of 11.4 million retail sales were made within 180 days of a consumer renting from Enterprise. This data suggests that customers may turn to renting to test a vehicle before committing to purchase.
John Paul Strong
John Paul Strong combines his two decades of automotive marketing experience with a team of more than 140 professionals as owner and CEO of Strong Automotive.
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