We have not had a generation defined by hardship in a long time. The World War II generation, the generation who survived the Great Depression, the Vietnam generation… For those of us who were born in the 70’s or later, all hard times have been very short.
I’m not saying I want to see us scarred by the current economic predicament, but I do believe it will have a profound affect on how we view the world for the rest of our lives. That includes what motivates us to spend our money.
I started selling cars 10 years ago; just before CSI became mainstream. I recall an excellent interest rate being around 8% and the Internet was more of a luxury – nobody was buying anything of significance through it. Shortly thereafter CSI was enforced by all the major manufacturers and the process of buying a new car instantly became much better for the consumer. Over time ISP’s lowered their pricing, AOL got huge, and more people were online. Communicating with customers via email was the new fad! As sites like Edmunds and CarsDirect surfaced consumers gained the knowledge to negotiate on invoice and a multitude of trade-in values. Through all this, incentives were high and interest rates were low (due to September 11th). Consumer confidence was skyrocketing and car sales were never so good!
Then it all came crashing down in 2008. Banks stopped lending, leasing almost died, floorplans ate dealers alive as unwanted cars piled up, layoffs became motivation, and consumer confidence was wrecked. As a thrill/speed junky, I wish they made a roller coaster with that kind of drop!
That’s where we were and this is where we are. The Internet has become as much a part of our existence as the road we drive to work. The Internet is inexpensive. It is a place to shop for a deal and a cheap medium to pop an advertisement on. With traditional medias costing so much more we are all heading online. However, with consumer confidence low, incentive-based advertising is not working. Or maybe we all cried wolf so long people stopped listening…
How do we market to consumers today? How do we define a generation for future marketing?
We all know banner ads are only effective in an incentive-driven world. There are too many spammy emails to be effective with numerous email blasts. Google ads will eventually be passed over, by consumers, for more relevant organic results.
Do we make our inventory look so good online that we are basically driving the car out of the monitor and onto their lap? Do we get on the forums, blogs, FaceBook pages and follow consumers on Twitter? Do we build relationships instead of being marketers?
What will the next generation respond to?