Over the last few years, the marine and recreational vehicle industries have noticed shifts in their customer demographics. As newer generations transition to having more buying power, your dealership must keep generational differences top of mind to reach their audiences moving forward.

According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, millennials make up 31% of boater demographics, surpassing the baby boomers, who make up 28%. Additionally, the RV Industry Association states that 84% of current millennial and Gen Z RV owners plan to buy another in the next five years. 

Let’s take a look at how you can deliver a sales process that meets each generation’s varying preferences.

Baby Boomers (1946–1964)

It’s no secret that baby boomers have been at the forefront of consumer spending for quite some time. The Federal Reserve reports that their current household wealth has reached $77 trillion. So how should you go about selling to this significant group?

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Because of their extensive spending power, boomers have options. Price isn’t everything, and if their sales experience is anything short of positive, they’ll gladly take their business elsewhere — even if that means spending a little extra.

When walking into a dealership, boomers are looking for top-tier customer service. Greet them with warm smiles, listen intently to their requests, and be ready and willing to meet their needs. Replicate this level of service off-site as well, handling phone calls and online inquiries promptly and enthusiastically.

It’s also important to engage this generation through both traditional and new forms of media. Despite the common misconception about baby boomers, they’re quite capable when it comes to technology. They may not have grown up with today’s technology, but this hasn’t stopped them from embracing innovation. For example, recent studies found that 78% of boomer participants are active on Facebook, and 90% have reported shopping online.

Once you’ve established a strong relationship with boomers, they’ll be some of your most loyal customers. In fact, 86% of boomers say their favorite brands reward them for their loyalty. You can use this to your advantage by offering loyalty perks such as a discount on their next purchase, discounted service rates, or exclusive access to events.

Gen X (1965–1980)

Gen X is often referred to as the “forgotten” generation. This group falls directly between the baby boomers and millennials, which are arguably the most talked-about generations to date.

Currently, this group ranges from their early 40s to late 50s. For specialty dealers, this is good news as this demographic is likely in the highest earning years of their careers (meaning more disposable income for large purchases). According to the Federal Reserve, their household wealth has accumulated to $42 trillion. However, they tend to be more cautious with their money.

This generation wants to buy quality products from trustworthy businesses. There’s no doubt they’ll be researching both you and your competitors before coming to a decision. Your dealership must build a positive reputation on review sites to give Gen X confidence to seal the deal.

If you can bypass their skepticism, Gen X is actually the most loyal generation. Reliable products and services combined with money-saving incentives are the perfect match. In a recent loyalty study, nearly 89% reported joining loyalty programs to help save money.

Before securing loyal Gen X customers, you need to know how to reach them. Gen X engages with both modern and traditional media channels but is much more influenced by email marketing, with over 80% saying email is their preferred method of brand marketing. Be sure to send this generation email updates regarding perks for being a loyal customer and upcoming deals.

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By working to gain loyal Gen X customers, you also have the opportunity to set up future connections with future buyers. Gen X is busy raising families and holds a lot of decision-making power for their households. Kids who grow up camping in RVs or taking a boat out on weekends will likely want to make similar purchases in the future.

Millennials (1981–1996)

Millennials are now the largest living generation in the United States, with 56 million active in the workforce. Their current spending power amounts to $2.5 trillion and will continue upward as their careers progress.

A significant portion of millennials’ lives have been filled with advances in technology and the internet. So it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re 25% more likely than older generations to engage with online advertising content. One of the most effective forms of content to grab millennials’ attention is online videos. Millennials are most active on Facebook and YouTube. Civic Science reports that 44% use YouTube daily, and 39% use Facebook daily. You can use these popular platforms to post engaging videos of vehicle tours and reviews.

Even more than online content, peers are a powerful influence on millennials. In fact, millennials are 38% more likely to cite word-of-mouth advertising as the way they discovered a company. User-generated content can show millennials that your dealership and products are trustworthy. Encourage customers to share their experiences with your dealership online so when millennials witness these great stories, they’ll want to join the fun!

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On top of these consumer tendencies, millennials are very socially conscious. They value businesses that incorporate sustainable practices. If your dealership builds an engaging online presence, gains authentic word-of-mouth advertising, and supports a good cause, you might hit the millennial jackpot.

Gen Z (1997–2012)

Last but not least — let’s talk about Gen Z. In just four years, Gen Z’s spending power has increased from $143 billion to $360 billion and will continue to grow as they get further into their careers. Before you know it, they’ll be in the market for larger purchases.

Gen Zers are the first digital natives, with 74% spending their free time online. They can be found on every social media platform, but they’re particularly active on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat. Engage with this group through these platforms by creating short, visually appealing videos to garner interest.

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While it’s important to meet Gen Z’s online expectations, they value more than the online experience. In fact, 47% prefer shopping in-store compared to online, which is more than any other generation. Focus on spreading awareness online and use outstanding customer service on-site to finalize their decision.

Similar to millennials, Gen Z considers more than just product price and quality. They want to be heard and valued as individuals, and honesty is important. When expressing their opinions or commenting on your content, they expect to be acknowledged or to receive a response. CM Group found that 22% of Gen Z notes that a lack of transparency reduces their opinion of brands and products. They’d rather come across organic customer reviews and recommendations over sales-y marketing content.

Consumer segments and preferences are bound to change over time. Understanding each generation and responding in the way they want to engage with your business is essential to your growth and success.

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