Millennials can be a confusing bunch – with their smartphone obsession and eclectic tastes, marketing may seem like a daunting task. Let's take a look at exactly how to reach the 'elusive' millennials demographic.
During the first few years of the 21st century, the world’s brightest economists and marketers discussed an inevitable major market force that would emerge over the following decade: the rise of millennials – the largest population cohort that the U.S. had ever seen.
What was then theory has now become reality – millennials eclipsed the baby boomer generation by almost 10% in 2013 and now hold a whopping $200+ billion in spending power. Perhaps equally impressive, and just as important, about this generation: millennials are not going anywhere – the oldest were born in 1981 are are still years away from their max spending years. Marketers have to take note.
Getting Millennials Into Your Car Wash
So who are these "millennials?" These children of the ‘90s whose phones are extensions of their arms? Growing up in the age of technology, with all the world’s wealth of information at their fingertips, millennials behave very differently as consumers from any demographic that preceded them – they are a completely different beast for marketers.
- Many millennials were troubleshooting a problem on an iPhone before they knew how to drive a car.
- Millennials spend at least 25 hours per week online, and you will literally never see them further than a few feet from their phones.
So, how do you crack the "millennial nut?" Let’s dive into the 6 ways you can drive millennial traffic into your car wash:
1. Adopt the Mindset of a Millennial
The first and most important step for a reason – if you don’t take the time to understand the mindset of millennials and how they have arrived at the consumer preferences they hold, you’re dead in the water.
Consider this – if you had to cook dinner for my Aunt Susie, and I told you that broccoli is her favorite dish, that information will certainly be valuable to you in pleasing Susie. If I instead told you that broccoli was Susie’s favorite because she is a vegetarian, then you would be far better equipped to cook Susie a dinner that she will enjoy. When you are able to understand why people have the preferences that they hold, it allows you to understand and predict their behavior. Just like it was critical to understand that Baby Boomers held values of justice, family, and practicality, Millennials have replaced these ideals with ideas of passion, fulfillment, and discovery.
So, what does this mean for marketers?
Millennials are not just kids who will grow up someday and adopt traditional beliefs of past generations – they represent a cultural shift. Not only do they hold different ideals, but they also have been conditioned to expect superior service that is enhanced by technology. Their entire lives have consisted of things being made easy for them – did you know you can do your laundry, shop for groceries, and ship packages from your couch now?
For car washes, the key takeaway is clear: you need to make spending money at your car wash as simple and quick as possible if you want to attract millennials and, more importantly, keep them coming back.
2. Engage millennials where they live
A clean-looking website and solid internet reviews are just the tip of the iceberg for any Car Wash that wants to get serious with millennials. 72% of millennials research and shop their options online before making a purchasing decision.
Car Washes in excellent locations might lament this fact, but wash owners in so-so locations should be rejoicing: you finally have factors other than your location that weigh in on driving business to your wash. So, get started on building a sterling online presence if you want to get a foot in the door with this generation.
While an online presence is important, a thoughtful mobile presence is what will differentiate you from every other car wash brand trying to get your customer’s attention. And I do not mean text programs. The idea of communicating a business in the exact same channel that you interact with your loved ones is not one that resonates with any consumer.
I’m talking instead about push notifications. Consumers engage with a whopping 50-80% of push notifications, compared to only 4% with emails. Also, push notifications are a channel by which consumers are used to interacting with businesses, so the weirdness factor of a text program is mitigated completely.
3. Personalize your connections with millennial customers
Another consequence of millennials growing up in the digital age is that they expect highly personalized consumer experiences. If my cousin Sarah came into your car wash 2 times per week, she should expect different treatment from one of your customers who comes in once per month. Of course all of your customers should receive excellent treatment, but Sarah is at minimum 8x more valuable to your car wash from your average customer.
So how can you treat Sarah differently? Reward her behavior and connection with your brand. Some washes accomplish this through an unlimited program with unique and meaningful benefits for full-year members. Others get the job done more cheaply and efficiently through an effective rewards program. Whichever avenue you choose, you need to make sure that you are providing your customers with personalized experiences, otherwise you will fail to differentiate yourself to them – especially millennials.
4. Provide excellent customer service
This is different from providing personalized customer service. "Personalized" customer service is raising the ceiling of service for your best customers, while "excellent" customer service is raising the floor of your service for every customer. Of course, ensuring high customer satisfaction can be difficult when generally your only point of interaction with millennials is through minimum wage employees. However, there is a simple way to tackle this issue: find out exactly what your customers want through a feedback mechanism and provide it to them.
Consider, for a second, a quick story about fishing bait. Even though I love New York style Cheesecake, it would be ridiculous for me to expect to catch a fish by tempting it with what I want. Instead of cheesecake, I should choose to bait my hook with juicy worms, because that is what fish want. This story may sound far-fetched, but this is the exact situation that plays out in businesses every single day. You need to refine your service to give your customers exactly what they want, and there's only way to make sure you're not confusing what they want with what you think they want – ask them.
5. Build a Brand that People Want to Identify With
Millennials want to identify with the brands with which they choose to interact. Because people only identify with other people and not businesses, humanizing your business is critical. One way to do this is to choose something that is important to you and incorporate your connection with them as a part of your Car Wash brand (just make sure it is actually important to you so that the connection is genuine – millennials can sniff out synthetic corporate philanthropy from a mile away : ).
For example, is your local community important to you? If so, partner with a neighborhood school organization. If you are an avid reader, partner with a library. If you’re a huge sports fan, partner with one of the many wonderful community sports organizing charities like the RBI baseball program. There are dozens of ways to make meaningful impacts on other people’s lives while giving yourself an enormous feeling of self-fulfillment, and all the while you will be building a brand that people want to identify with. It is of utmost importance that you show this connection to your customers through marquee events, on-site literature, or a featured tab on your website so that millennials know what you are up to.
6. Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone
You know that technological innovations have always helped car washes run more efficiently and driven increased profits. The idea of adopting the latest, greatest thing has always made sense when it has been a newly-designed sprayer or a recently-created rinsing solution that improves your product. There are people who spend their lives thinking about how to market to millennials and this can dramatically increase the value that your car wash creates for your customers.
When asked about the future of innovation in car washes, owner and operator Kelly Geiger said -
"Anything that makes the wash process more effective, efficient and safer, while speeding up wait times and improving customer experience will not to go unnoticed. Some of these things have been RFID technology, unlimited monthly memberships, and more adaptable equipment. I look forward to new innovations that address these issues."
It's clear there is a mutal feeling of readiness for change, but be sure to be open to these new and innovative marketing strategies if you want to keep up. However, now is a unique time in the Car Wash industry because you still have the opportunity to not only keep up with your competitors, but lead ahead of them by being among the first to adopt newer marketing technologies. As always, whichever marketing strategy you choose, make sure you are able to track every single dollar that you spend back to a firm Return on Investment amount.
This article is the first in a series about car wash marketing. Stay tuned to the Thanx Blog for the second, which will cover best practices for using car wash road signs.