Women drivers now outnumber male drivers, and women influence as much as 80% of all auto purchases. 53% of millennial car buyers are women.1 With these numbers projected to escalate, creating a sales environment that encourages women shoppers and buyers is more important than ever.
Now, the Bad News
Do you know that three out of four women feel car marketers misunderstand them?2 That’s right, nearly 75% of women are leaving your dealership feeling misunderstood on some level. Why is this an acceptable statistic when it directly – or, negatively — impacts the dealership’s bottom line?
What General Manager wouldn’t begin implementing a plan to change that number today to attract and optimize their female market share?
When developing a marketing and sales plan, it is typical to conduct a market analysis and create a plan that directly targets major market segments. Yet, many car dealerships have a marketing plan designed for a Y2K demographic. Does your dealership have a recent plan? Does your Marketing Director research, understand and target your most important markets? This article will explore some of the reasons behind the mindset disconnect and offer forward looking dealerships creative ideas to make the required and necessary marketing shift.
Improving the Numbers
In today’s dealerships, about one in ten car sales associates are women3. While the lack of women in the sales force is the case in many traditionally male-dominated fields, that attitude or excuse is of little value today. A dealership must actively recruit women into their business. Sure it takes effort, real effort. But it is not impossible. While this approach initially may incur more costs (additional recruiting, additional training), these costs will soon be offset by an increase to the bottom line. Women buyers will relate better to women sales advisors, executives and dealership owners. In 2010, CNW Marketing Research found that 47% of women preferred to shop at a dealership owned by a woman.4 However, most weren’t given that opportunity as only 3% of dealer owners are women.5
6 Ways to Increase Sales to Women
Aggressively recruit women onto the floor as sales advisors. A 2010 survey6 reports that women are more comfortable dealing with a woman and may feel that her needs will be better understood.
Create a hiring practice that recruits women into management. Actively seek to up the percentage of women in the dealership. Seeing a balance of men and women in a dealership will promote a sense of fairness to your women customers.
Train all sales advisors to understand women’s car buying habits. Women rank trust and respect at the top of the list when choosing a sales associate. Women take the time to read reviews about a dealership before they arrive, so they are already well informed. Women may not know the exact car they want, but they have done their homework. Sales professionals need to do homework, too. What are women buyers looking for? How do their needs vary from men’s?
Understand that “attitude is everything.” Today’s women, especially millennials, will be very sensitive to the way they are treated. The outdated concept of “we treat everyone the same” no longer applies. Women will intuitively know if they are being placated or patronized or put off. With today’s many choices for buying a car, women will simply walk out the door when not engaged to her liking, and head down the street.
Develop proactive programs that help women in their decision making. When shopping, only one in ten women know the exact car they want to buy. Women are less likely than men to tie their car to accomplishments and status; women see cars as a way to get them where they need to go. Women take a utility-minded view towards a vehicle, focusing on durability, reliability and safety. 6 Sales advisors should be educated in advance to understand these key differences in women shoppers. A well-prepared sales advisor can help these buyers prioritize their list of wants and needs, and arrive at buying decision more quickly.
Create a comprehensive and actionable plan to analyze the dealership. If there has never been an effort to specifically address women as a key market segment, there is work to be done. Talk to women shoppers and actively seek their honest opinions and attitudes. Find out what could be done to make the dealership more inviting to women. Use the information to create an annual marketing plan. Determine how much of the marketing budget to allocate to women buyers. Implement the plan, and have frequent reviews with the Marketing Director and executive team to track progress and make necessary adjustments to the marketing approach.
The choice is clear. If you ignore the car buying habits of women, you will lose business to a savvy competitor. If you pay attention to their needs, behaviors and attitudes and implement proactive programs to meet and exceed expectations, you will see a direct, positive impact on your business and the dealership’s bottom line.