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90s generation set to disrupt auto marketing

Johnson Jin

Head of SOP business

Auto 24.06.2015 / 10:20

Young female Chinese driver

Want to use old auto marketing tricks on new generation buyers? It is not going to work.

In no time, the 90s generation (people born in 1990s) have become the emerging backbone of consumers. The oldest one of them will turn 25 this year. They are going to disrupt the existing thinking and practice of marketing, especially in the auto industry.

An auto brand was surprised to find that among its new small SUV's first batch buyers, 27.47% of them were from the 90s generation. In the following consumer research, the brand invited buyers from 70s, 80s and 90s generations to test their opinions on external, internal, configuration and advertisement of the car. In some cases, the brand organized focus groups according to their generations, and each group formed different opinions.

In some cases, when 70s and 80s were mixed in one group, the two generations held onto their opinions throughout the conversation and neither of them was won over by the other. However, in the groups consisted of both 80s and 90s, 80s generation were often persuaded by 90s and those groups' discussion results were highly identical to that of pure 90s generation focus groups. The 90s generation has an astonishing influence over other generation groups.

On the one hand, 90s generation (as consumers) is growing in numbers day by day. On the other hand, they wage strong influence over, and sometimes lead, other generation groups. For automakers, 90s generation is no longer irrelevant. They have increasingly become a challenge for traditional auto marketing thinking and practices.

According to the abovementioned brand's research, 90s generation have totally different behavioural pattern in purchasing, using and maintaining cars compared with 70s and 80s. When buying a car, for example, on average 70s and 80s will visit an auto dealer shop for six to seven times to collect information about the car model's information, experience the drive, bargain for discounts or a better deal, and check the background of the car dealer company itself.

But for 90s generation, they go to the car dealer shop only once or twice. Most of their researches on car models were done through online platforms, such as video websites, online forums, WeChat Moments discussions or QQ groups.

To explain this in another way: for 70s generation buyers, the car brand has six or seven chances to win them over at the store. But for 90s generations, the brand has only one or two face-to-face chances because most likely they have already made up their minds even before they meet the sales person. This is just one typical example of how old marketing tricks will not work on this new generation of buyers.

The 90s generation are also very different from other age groups when maintaining their cars.  In a survey testing their responses to O2O car maintenance service providers, the three groups were asked about their awareness of Kalading (卡拉丁), Bopai (博湃), eBaoyang (e保养), such as "Have you heard of O2O car maintenance services?", "Do you know about the detailed procedure of such services?", "Are you willing to try these services?", "Do you agree that they should charge the same price as in branded dealer stores?" The 90s generation's awareness level and acceptance level to these answers were several times higher than that of 70s and 80s generations.

The 90s generation also showed much better understanding of auto maintenance knowledge and regulations than older generations, which means branded dealer stores are now facing a more independently thinking consumers and they have to work harder to build trust with them.

Chinese people's perception of private cars changed significantly as automobile ownership gradually rose over recent years. For 70s generation, cars are luxury; for 80s generation, cars are normal durable goods; for 90s generation, cars have become an icon of personal taste and value. Facing the new generation consumers who grew up in Internet age, car brands have to adapt to their new thinking and pattern, otherwise, they'll find themselves roll down an abrupt slope.

Source: Kantar TNS Siinotrust

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