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What Gen Z Wants from a Dealership Experience

group of young people looking at phones in their hands
Article Highlights:

  • The car buying process needs to feel seamless.
  • Having to fill out a form or make a phone call is a complete roadblock.

Before your dealership can target any specific segment of your audience, you have to first understand it. And that can be particularly challenging when it comes to your youngest generation of customers.

Generation Z, the oldest of which are currently in their mid-twenties, represents a significant portion (20%) of the U.S. population. They currently represent $143 billion in buying power, which means that marketing to them may be one of your dealership’s most profitable opportunities in the long run.

That said, it seems like many brands are targeting this generation with drastically different (even wacky) approaches, like nonsensical memes or Roblox marketing campaigns. The good news is that your dealership doesn’t have to do anything far-fetched to capture the attention and loyalty of your Gen Z customers.

The best way to establish long lasting, profitable relationships with them is to understand the kind of experience that Gen Z individuals want with your dealership.

Keep it simple

Your Gen Z customers are finding you from a variety of sources—social ads, google searches, personal recommendations, or simply driving past your lot. No matter how your customers are finding your dealership, the car buying process needs to feel seamless.

Ask yourself how difficult it is to buy a car from your dealership, starting with the moment a customer is first interested. As you complete this walk-through, here are a few transitional points to consider:

  • If a customer clicks on one of your ads (whether it be in a Google search or on their social pages), do you bring them to a website page with the same visual appearance, messaging, and offers as your ad?
  • If a customer completes a credit check or finds their trade-in value online, do they have to repeat these steps when they come into the dealership?
  • If a customer comes in for a scheduled service appointment, are your advisors able to quickly and easily access their relevant information, such as customer name, ways to contact, reason for appointment, etc.?

Keep it casual

Your customers, especially younger ones, want to take the path of least resistance when it comes to making purchases. For many, having to fill out a form or make a phone call is a complete roadblock.

It’s important that your dealership is providing customers with the information they want, but you also need to consider how you are communicating. Your goal should be to reach customers on the platforms they already use with a clear, relevant message.

Very few Gen Z customers are going to be interested in picking up the phone to call you, but they might be open to sending your business a DM on social media or asking questions on your website when prompted by a chat greeter. In fact, a chat message that greets your shoppers based on the action they took to land on your website (such as clicking through a service offer email) is one of the most impactful ways to engage. And when crafting your messages over these channels, be sure to keep a conversational tone—this will help ensure that your message is easy to understand (plus, customers can find stuffy business tones a little off-putting).

Keep it short

Four simple words—short form video content.

Not only are short videos the best way to reach your younger audience members, but it’s the most memorable form of content that you can offer them. Why? Your customers see thousands of ads a day. They don’t want more of the same—they want interactivity.

The good news is that your dealership doesn’t need to start from scratch:

  • Cut your content into bite sized pieces. A snippet of a longer dealership branded video can be used as a TikTok, a YouTube Short, or a reel on Facebook or Instagram.
  • Stories (content that’s automatically taken down after 24 hours) is a great place to create or share short, timely content.
  • Interactive polls are also a great way to find what your customers want, directly from the source themselves. Try incorporating one into your social media strategy.

Keep it real

There’s tons of content available for consumers to view at any given moment, and your Gen Z customers have mastered the art of ‘training their algorithms’ to only serve them what they want. In other words, if your dealership isn’t relevant, your message won’t be seen.

Targeting your marketing messages to your audience’s specific wants and needs is not a best practice, it’s an expectation.

If you’re looking to improve the relevancy of your marketing, looking at your dealership’s first party data is a great place to start. How long has it been since that information was updated? If the answer is more than a few days, there’s a good chance your marketing missing the mark.

Keep it current

Every business is interested in turning a profit, but capturing the attention of Gen Z means your dealership is going to have to be a bit more personable than that.

What does your dealership stand for—are there any charities you donate to? What about fun events that you sponsor or host? It’s important that you show your customers the things that you care about, as many Gen Z’s want to support brands that reflect their own values.

With this, let your employees be a part of the voice that your dealership conveys. Give your employees a chance to display any weird or fun talents they may have, and if your team uses any interesting lingo, it’s okay to incorporate that into your brand.


The first step to successful targeted marketing is understanding your audience, and Gen Z customers are looking for a seamless, simplistic, and personal kind of car buying experience. Providing that kind of experience is a great way to build loyalty that will last for years to come.

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Mollie Swygart is a marketing communications professional at Reynolds and Reynolds. She is an expert on Reynolds’ suite of cutting-edge marketing products, their functionalities, and how they can be utilized to improve dealership success. Mollie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art and English from Marietta College. She also obtained an Associate’s Degree in Marketing from Rhodes State College.

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