An interesting observation causes a general manager for a Toyota store to wonder if the industry has reached a tipping point in today’s Digital Age.

A general manager (GM) for a Toyota store in Arkansas made a stunning observation: A “super-loyal” customer who has purchased five cars from the same salesperson, who he loves and “won’t buy from anyone else,” came in as an internet lead.

Yup, instead of calling his beloved Jackie to say he’s coming in to look at a new Toyota Tacoma, Mr. Super-Loyal visited the dealership’s website, found the vehicle he wanted, and submitted a lead form. The horror, right? Well, it wasn’t the first time the GM observed such a thing.

“He was an internet sale, so the website got credit for that sale,” the GM told me. “It wasn’t a conquest sale. We didn’t go out and get us a new customer, but, technically, on paper, it’s an internet sale.”

Remember when market studies told us car buyers were shopping less than two dealerships before pulling the trigger. Well, according to a poll of 2,001 consumers conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Urban Science, consumers are visiting, on average, 2.5 dealerships. Wait, it gets better.

Generation Z and young millennials — you know, the ones who were supposed to skip the showroom experience altogether — are visiting, on average, 3.5 dealerships. Gen X visits 2.3 dealerships, while older millennials and Boomers visit, on average, two.

Randy Berlin, global director of dealer consulting for Urban Science, says the reason visits are higher among the younger demographics is “they have no brand identity or loyalty.”

“The young people, they’re just not brand loyal at all, except for maybe Apple,” he adds.

And get this: Berlin says the average customer is submitting an average of three leads. The reason, he says, is customers are cross-checking prices. See, price (84%) is the most significant influencer of a buying decision — even above a “low-pressure sales approach (72%).”

The GM’s story and all this new data makes me wonder why data mining isn’t getting more hype, especially when we’re dealing with a less loyal customer who is focused on price and is cross-checking two to 3.5 dealerships.

All of this reminds me of something I heard from one of our Strategic Growth Managers for our RevenueRadar tool. His name is Winston Harrell, a 33-year industry veteran and a serious data-mining pro. To demonstrate the power of the tool to new clients, he asks them to load the solution with the conditions that point to a high-target prospect or are important to the dealership. Then he has them run a report to see how many people the dealership sold a car to in the last month fit those parameters.

“It’s pure amazement,” he says. “Unfortunately, no one reached out to those customers, so they showed up as a fresh up or an internet lead.”

And you know your third-party lead providers are more than happy to take credit for those sales.

Harrell says the reason most dealers lose faith in data mining is they don’t have a defined process that’s written down, implemented, and managed by a dedicated person. Think BDC manager.

DealerSocket commissioned its own study. Conducted by Strategy Analytics, nearly 50% of the 500 dealers polled listed “Identifying the best places to invest marketing spend” as their No. 1 pain point. Again, I’m not sure why data mining isn’t getting more hype when it’s clear the answer is buried in the data.

  • Millennials Value Exclusivity: Salespeople should use words like “unique”, “one of a kind”, or even “special” when selling to Millennials, because members of this demographic believe they’re unique and their rides should be as well.
  • Millennials Hate Waiting: Give them the VIP treatment by having the salesperson waiting and ready to show them cars based on the needs they shared when they chatted, texted, or messaged the dealership. Millennials hate being taken to the salesperson’s “lair”.
  • Millennials Want to Text: Must text millennials. You have to text with them.
  • Millennials View LinkedIn: Make sure your salespeople have a LinkedIn account with a photo, content that humanizes them, and connections, because Millennials will look them up to see if they can trust the salesperson.
That was the list my colleague jotted down while listening to millennial whisperer Jason Dorsey at our recent DealerSocket User Summit in Anaheim, Calif. Dorsey serves as president and lead researcher at the Center of Generational Kinetics in Austin, Texas, and he shared insights on various generations, including mine, during his keynote address on Aug. 21.

According to my colleague, his message was well received. In fact, she noted in her email that one general manager in attendance emailed Dorsey’s speech notes to his team and told them to review it and be ready to discuss when he returns. My colleague was kind enough to also send me those notes before being shuttled to the House of Blues to watch celebrity band Royal Machines during our DealerSocket After Dark party. How nice of her, right? She concluded her email with the following: “This might make for a good blog.”

Yeah, she’s always thinking about me.

My colleague’s thought about the blog was a good one, but I wondered how millennials would feel about the list. I mean, it kind of makes them sound entitled — that’s until I reread the list.

Yeah, “unique” was the reason I bought my current vehicle four years ago. I just hadn’t seen very many of them on the road or in the parking lot at work, and the thought of having a vehicle no one in my family had made this Gen Xer forget about the issues pointed out to me in the reviews I read.

As for the VIP treatment, why not? Heck, I know of a few dentist offices that could heed that advice. But, yeah, if they came ready to buy, shouldn’t you be ready to sell. Besides, isn’t your dealership’s sales process designed to keep customers moving so they don’t have time to second guess their decision to buy. So I guess being ready for them and not making them wait isn’t asking too much, right?

I totally agreed with the texting recommendation. In fact, I had a millennial colleague at my previous gig who came to me for advice on buying a car. A couple of days after we talked, she returned to show me how the deal went down. I write “show”, because she handed me her iPhone to show me the texting exchange she had with her salesman. In his last message, he told her she owed him for getting management to agree to her price. He then asked her out for coffee, which you probably shouldn’t do.

I also agree with the LinkedIn advice. The social media site was my go-to source for learning about people I needed to interview for a magazine article. And I just hated it when an interviewee’s LinkedIn profile had no photo and his or her “Experience” section only listed company names and titles.

In fact, I’ve used LinkedIn to look up my son’s baseball coach and fielding instructor, his tennis coach, teacher, an email solicitor, and someone who liked (or hated) a social media post I made or an article I wrote. And, yes, I even looked up the guy who sold me my last car.

So I guess that list contains solid advice, and maybe this Gen Xer was just being — as Dorsey describes my kind — his typical “skeptical,” “cynical” self. By the way, Dorsey also says Gen Xers make great managers and leaders because we dive into the details. Who am I to question an expert, right?

What I find interesting, and I’m sorry for the shameless plug, is many of our most recent updates to our DealerSocket CRM address Dorsey’s recommendations. Last month, for instance, our product teams rolled out a new mobile-optimized widget for our DealerFire websites. It’s designed to connect car buyers who request a text conversation to users of our CRM through our SocketTalk texting tool.

Earlier this year, we rolled out the capability to send walk-around videos (up to 500 MB, or roughly two minutes) and vehicle images through SocketTalk. The texting tool can also receive images and videos, a capability your used-car manager can use to get a head start on appraising a customer’s trade. Oh, and we also added an emoji keyboard to SocketTalk.

The CRM release that really speaks to Dorsey’s recommendations, particularly tip No. 2, is SocketCredit. After having a positive exchange via SocketTalk, imagine being able to text a link to our SocketCredit credit application or a request to perform a soft pull on the customer’s credit. Heck, you can even mention to them that the soft pull won’t harm their credit. Hey, Gen Y knows how hard credit pulls ding their scores, thanks to their baby boomer parents.

Talk about a connected retail experience, right?

Dorsey also offered great insights in “Decoding Gen Z the car buyer,” a report DealerSocket developed in conjunction with Automotive News. Born after 1996, Gen Z is entering the workforce by the tens of millions while wielding roughly $3 trillion in purchasing power. The article breaks down the vehicles Gen Z wants and how they want to buy them.