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Millennial Moms Ditching Minivans & Moving to Pickup Trucks

Automotive News Millennial & Gen Z

It’s never been cool to drive a minivan. The automobile industry is seeing a record number of Millennial and GenZ moms saying bye-bye to minivans and taking the pickup truck plunge.

Yet, the minivan — specifically, the Dodge Caravan — had been the mainstay of the American family driveway for nearly three decades.

In the past, soccer moms have forgiven the minivan’s stodgy appearance. Because it was so darn efficient at moving kids in, out, and around town. Today's moms are a different breed altogether from moms who’ve come before. A new trend has emerged and now record numbers of women are replacing their minivans for pickup trucks.

Since the 1990s, SUVs have provided something of an alternative to minivans for those looking for a little more style in their rides. But, pickup trucks, especially the #1 best-selling Ford F-150, are delivering a better way to travel with families.  

There are many reasons behind the trend, but chief among them is the unique mindset of the demographic itself. These Millennial and Gen Z moms question all kinds of old thinking, including the idea that you can’t look cool when you’re shuttling kids around. Turns out you can look cool, and the pickup truck is the way to do it.

There’s a good reason Millennials and Gen Zers constantly question conventional wisdom, like the old dictate, “moms buy minivans.” They’ve grown up with the Internet, after all. What if I don’t like minivans? What if there’s another vehicle out there that makes sense and looks cool, too? To this younger generation, there is no problem that can’t be solved, no question that can’t be answered in seconds using the phone in their pocket. They’re the most mobile generation in history, and they don’t have patience for websites that don’t deliver the answers they’re looking for.

Think about the Amazon mobile shopping experience: in a few clicks and mere seconds, you can find and purchase just about any item you want entirely on your phone. Amazon makes it easy to research and compare similar items right on their site. There’s never a need to click off and gets bits and pieces of information elsewhere. And this is a big one: Amazon never requires you to speak with a sales associate before you can make a purchase.

To be successful going forward, car dealers need to be taking the Millennial mindset very, very seriously. When all these Millennial and Gen Z moms land on your mobile dealer website to research Ford 150 pickup trucks or any vehicle for that matter, how confident are you that you’re providing the best mobile experience that you can?

Adapting your dealer website to the way people want to shop is the key to surviving in the automobile industry. If your car dealer website frustrates these Millennial and Gen Z moms even for a second, they bounce off your site and you’ll probably never hear from them again. Many are doing their car shopping research late at night after work is done and the kids are settled. They literally don’t have time for a poor mobile experience. And, even if your dealership was open in the wee hours while mom is checking out trucks to buy, the last thing she wants to do is call you and speak to someone. Millennials find any interruption in the online experience annoying.

For years, car dealers have operated on the principle that if you can just get potential shoppers into your dealership, you’ll be able to sell them a car. But that old way of thinking is proving costly for those dealerships that haven’t yet begun to adapt to the way Millennials and Gen Zers shop today.

When these younger shoppers walk into your showroom after having a poor dealer website experience, they realize that they don’t have all the facts they need to make the next move. Remember, these folks with the internet in their pockets aren’t used to feeling confused. While you’re wasting time trying to sell to them, their minds are swirling with questions, like: Will a pickup truck really fit into my family’s lifestyle? ... Can I get a better price elsewhere? ... Should I sell my minivan to a private buyer to get a little more, or trade it in at the dealership and save the hassle? You’ll never talk these Millennial and Gen Z moms into a sale because they’re fuzzy on the facts, they don’t want to make a mistake, and your dealer website missed an opportunity to fully prepare them to make a purchase.

These buyers are such believers in research that they trust their own judgment over anything your salespeople can tell them. They don’t want to be “sold to.” They want you to be there when they need you, and get out of the way when they don’t.

So who’s doing it right when it comes to providing a dealer website experience tuned to the needs and expectations of Millennials and Gen Z buyers?

The majority of today’s dealer websites are clunky, outdated, and completely missing the boat when it comes to giving younger buyers a frustration-free experience. Worst of all, most of today’s dealerships don’t realize their websites have a problem.

Today’s breakthrough dealer website platform, 321 Ignition, sprang into existence to help dealers sell cars faster — and deliver a car buying experience perfectly tuned to the needs and expectations of their customers. Our team hails from Fortune 100 brands and tech startups, not from the automotive world, which gives us a unique perspective that’s unhindered by pre-conceived notions about what can’t be achieved in the car industry. As in every other successful industry, adapting to the needs of customers is the single best way to maximize profits.

So, what are some elements that make for a good dealer website and mobile experience for Millenial and Gen Z shoppers, including busy moms? Here are just a few:

Your dealer website needs to let them do all the homework they deem necessary before making such a big financial decision. You should be publishing information on your site to help buyers decide things like, will a pickup truck really make sense for your family? ... How will your FICO Auto Score affect your car loan? ... Pros and cons of trading-in your car vs. selling private party, etc. Most dealer websites spend a ton of money on blogs. But instead of producing useful educational content for this new generation of buyers that thrives on feeling informed, these blogs end up being just unhelpful keyword stuffing that don’t take into account Google best practices.

Your dealer website needs to shorten people’s time in the dealership to about one hour. For these younger buyers that are always on the go, a fast experience in your showroom is a good experience. They don’t have the patience for today’s abysmal average time of 4 hours in-showroom hammering out financial details and what-not in person. Everything possible should be done beforehand online, while the kids are at school or in bed and mom has a free minute. For example, your dealer website should feature a “smart” car loan application that’s only as long as it needs to be for the specific applicant. Smart apps increase completion rates many-fold. By the time these buyers come into your showroom, the heavy lifting is done. All that’s left is a test drive.

And speaking of test drives, your dealer website needs to let people schedule a specific time/date for a test drive online. If you’re still making people fill out a form request for a test drive, and then calling them back to confirm the appointment, you should know that you’re frustrating a whole generation of buyers. These younger shoppers expect to be able to schedule appointments entirely online. Dealerships who do it the old way look irritatingly old-school.

Your dealer website needs to allow for real trade-in appraisals using photo uploads. How many times have you given a ballpark appraisal only to have the car value plummet when you actually see it in person? That kind of sloppiness erodes trust and wastes time. But when potential buyers have the ability to snap photos of their car using their phones, and then upload those photos to your site, your appraisals are more spot-on. 

Months? Years? Decades? It’s anybody’s guess how long the pickup-truck-as-mom-mobile trend will continue. But one thing is for certain: Your dealer website and the mobile experience you provide are the keys to selling more cars, faster to Millennial and Gen Z buyers. Take a good hard look at your dealer website, and make sure you’re positioned to capitalize on car-buying trends as they emerge.