BLOG: The future consumer
AKRON (Oct. 6, 2014) — For a while now, we have been talking about Millenials in the work place and as consumers and how this generation is different from all those before it.
But guess what? We Millenials are getting older and Generation Z is fast closing in on our tails. While I grew up playing Oregon Trail on the computer and Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo, this generation was born sometime after the movie “Toy Story” came out.
According to a Mashable article, Generation Z — those born 1995 or later — make up 25.9 percent of the U.S. population and contribute $44 billion to the American economy. The article stated that more than half of Gen Z uses YouTube for research projects and a third collaborate with classmates and watch lessons online.
And guess what? The eldest members of this generation are already your customers and even more are on the way.
You may think they have their own language, and maybe they do. Social media is no longer considered a young person's game, as the average Facebook user gets older, so much so that 25 percent of the 13 to 17 year old bracket left the network in 2013.
Scared yet? Don't be.
With every generation comes change and you just have to learn to roll with it, just like you have for every generation that has come before it. But there are definitely a few things to remember, one big one being: This generation does not know the world without the Internet, so if you aren't jumping online, you need to be.
As we talk about the future consumer, I thought about the future driver. How can we market to them? How can we reach them? How can we get them prepared to be on the road, safely?
As I thought about how to figure this out, I decided to take off my journalist cap and put on a different one I love to wear: aunt. My nephew, Brady Karpus, is 13 years-old and recently started eighth grade at a local high school. Now, I do not always like to acknowledge that he is getting older and only three years away from getting a driver's license, but I have to…and so do you. I decided to lure him over with a pot roast and ice cream to pick his brain on his thoughts on driving, social media, etc.
He explained to me that he is “excited, but also nervous because I don't know all the concepts of driving yet.” He is very astute for a young age. Before a driver gets his or her license, that driver should learn the basic components. He added that his dad will not let him start driving until he knows how to check the oil, change a tire, etc. I know this is true because his dad is my brother and forced the same rules on me before I got my driver's license.
As a tire and automotive aftermarket service provider, you need to think that maybe not everyone has this knowledge before they start driving. How can you reach this generation? Post instructional YouTube videos on your website and social media sites so they can watch. You also can offer basic car maintenance classes to teach them.
Young generations will want to watch the videos, but their parents will want them to show up in person. Either way, you are putting your company name in their minds. So much of the independent tire dealer business is because of that relationship — the respect between business and customer. Who better to work on your car than the person who taught you how to maintain it?
When interviewing my nephew, I was impressed with many of his answers about driving.
He said the most important aspects of driving are to not text and drive and “Click it or Ticket!” As his aunt and fellow driver on the road, I was happy that these safety concerns are embedded in his brain well before he gets behind the wheel.
Brady also realizes that driving is not just a freedom but a responsibility, adding that he would not want to deal with lawyers or finances after getting in an accident or getting a ticket. He understood there are real-life consequences to poor choices on the road. Additionally, he wonders what you are supposed to do when you get a flat tire but do not have a spare tire? I advised him to call home or an automotive repair shop or AAA.
It was at this point in my interview that I learned my nephew was a bit of an old soul. He prefers to use books over the Internet when researching for school. He also prefers to go to a bricks-and-mortar store over online shopping unless it is something he cannot get at a store. I suspect this may change as he gets older, but time will tell. While he is not shopping online, he said he does spend three to four hours a day on his smartphone, spending most of that time playing games.
I asked him what he thought he would do if he needed to go to a repair shop for service. He said he would look up the phone number on his phone and call. He doesn't foresee wanting to book that appointment online, but on the flip side, has never used a phone book. This partly explains why having a mobile-friendly website is so important to a business. There are people who want to call and talk to you. There are people who want to set up that appointment online. Either way, getting that information to the consumer in the way they want it is key.
Maybe you think you still have some time before you need to target Gen Z. However, while many Gen Zers are not yet the ones to put cash or credit down on your counter, it doesn't mean they are not making decisions.
A Business 2 Community article said, “Once upon a time, children were meant to be seen and not heard. Those days are over. Nowadays, instead of bending to their parents every whim, family life bends to the needs, interests and desires of the new generation.”
It is not enough to do what you have always done; you have to keep preparing your business. I think one of the best examples of this is with social media. Some people still think of this platform as a young person's game. They think they can log onto Facebook and post some cute dog pictures and a couple promotions and are targeting the younger demographic. As stated before, younger generations are logging off Facebook in favor of other social media sites.
I asked Brady what social media sites his friends talk about. While he has never been on Facebook himself, he said about half of his friends still are. He is active on Instagram because he said it is a good way to connect with a lot of people all at once. SnapChat also is how a lot of his friends connect.
In a nutshell, Generation Z is not to be feared. But just like all of us who came before them, you have to pay attention to their needs.
As these needs change, so should your marketing plans. And if you are not already embracing online, you need to be or you are missing opportunities to connect to your future customers.
Do you have an opinion about this story? Do you have some thoughts you'd like to share with our readers? Tire Business would love to hear from you. Email your letter to Editor Don Detore at [email protected].