Published in Automotive

GenderGraphics: Are Auto Retailers Delivering “Gender Savvy” Experiences to “Every Customer”?

GenderGraphics: The study of differences between men and women according to their psychological makeup…how their attitudes, values, fears, etc. differ from each other. In retail auto, how the genders differ in their wants, needs and desires when buying or servicing a vehicle.

It’s 2018, and some are saying that this might very well be the “year of the woman”.  But in automotive, that moment arrived a few years back. And it arrived in the form of the SUV, where women, both young and mature, single and otherwise, either make the decision to buy entirely on their own or have “veto power” over final decisions to buy.  Research also reveals that women are less satisfied than men with the “experience” they receive when buying or servicing their vehicle.

A Sales Force Still in First Gear

In the past, the typical, mostly male sales force, relied on the same old “meet and greet” word track that’s been around for decades.  And I guess it worked OK, because, in my opinion, past customers, especially women, had to lower their expectations when it came to car shopping and servicing. Those expectations will dramatically rise in the future for all dealership customers, but especially for women.

In the future, the old multi-step process of developing rapport, presenting features/benefits, handling objections, etc. will need to be boosted to a higher-level skill set that include more subtleties and nuances in order to connect more with the customer’s feelings.

And I believe that new sales process will also include a healthy dose of GenderGraphic awareness, that will create for women a culture of care. Women car customers don’t want to be treated equal to men, they want the salesperson to show a level of “care” not so highly valued by men.

Even if some present-day salespeople are skeptical that women need to be sold differently, I’m pretty sure they do realize the power of women to “veto” any car transaction with as little as the look on their face.  That “veto power” is just as critical as the amount of influence women have in closing that sale. 

“Memorable Experiences” Become Just as Important as Price

I spoke of the behavior change needed in retail auto in a letter published recently in Automotive News, “Train to Adjust to the New Customer”. Here is a quote from that letter:

“Before retailers do anything, they need to answer this question: What is the profile of my existing and future customer base, and how is that reflected in both the demographics and communication styles of my front-line staff?”

And that profile of the future customer base will include women decision makers more and more—buying on their own or using their “veto power” to determine if the decision to buy goes forward.

A Message for Dealers About Hiring/Training/Retaining Gen Y Sales Staffs

Integrate GenderGraphics more into your training plans, especially when it comes to SUVs.  Again, from my article in Automotive News:

“By educating your front line about the needs and communication styles of the new customer, you’ll get more business. Plus, the fact that you can show potential millennial and female hires that you are proactively training to adjust to their needs as customers will aid in the recruitment of those two groups for employment.”

GenderGraphics and Millennials

The entire retail arena is intoxicated with Millennials, including automotive. But auto retailers might want to consider digging a little deeper into the GenderGraphics of Gen Y, especially when it comes to driving. See the graph below? Millennial women not only retain twice the number of drivers licenses as young men, they outnumber men significantly in purchasing the hottest category besides trucks, small SUVs. Check out this recent article that featured research done by MaritzCX:

“There’s a group of single, professional females out there that need vehicles, and you need to be attentive to them,” said James Mulcrone, director of research services in MaritzCX’s Michigan office, who has studied trends among female car buyers. “They’re going to make money, they’re going to make their own decisions, and they can be very loyal consumers.”

This graph from that same MaritzCX data supports the fact that women virtually own the compact SUV market.

Graph showing license ownership by gender

And this graph compares the number of Gen Y female driver’s license holders compared to young men.

A graph showing the number of Gen Y driver's license holders

My prediction is that GenderGraphics will play just as important role as demographics and Psychographics in retail auto.  Especially in the hottest category of vehicle next to trucks, compact SUVs.