Connecting with women, Generation Y consumers

By Steve Bauer
Managing Editor
INDIANAPOLIS — Dealers have more opportunities than ever to reach the enormous number of women and Gen Y consumers but need to change their sales approaches for each group if they want to see success.
That was the message Jessica Prokup, manager of emerging market communications for Discover Today’s Motorcycling (DTM), gave to dealers gathered for a seminar aimed at reaching out to potential women and Gen Y riders.
“Nearly 90 percent of all bike riders are men, yet they make up only half of the U.S. population,” she said. “And although Gen Y makes up only 15 percent of all riders, they have $200 billion in buying power. Think about those numbers, and it’s easy to see why both these groups are so sought after.”
Women riders
Prokup says women riders, although only 10 percent of the riding population, are becoming more of a force because of their increased spending power and unique position when it comes to being a decision maker in a household.
“In the past 30 years, the income of the average woman has increased more than 60 percent compared with just 0.6 percent for men,” she said. “And even though women don’t make up the majority of bread winners in their households, they do make the majority of buying decisions, which means they’re looking for ways to spend that extra income.”

Experience and interaction
Before you can serve any customer well, Prokup says you have to know what they want, what they need and what they’re trying to achieve.
“The way to develop a lasting relationship with any consumer at all is to deliver something compelling,” she said. “This is even more true when it comes to female consumers. Find out what’s important to them and help them make it happen. It’s not so much about selling the product, it’s about selling the experience.”
The No. 1 thing dealers have to keep in mind is to make their sales presentations real and relevant. Prokup says women want dealers to show them respect and most important, be authentic. Ask for input, listen and respond to it.
“When I walk in the door of your dealership, don’t ask me where my husband or boyfriend is, I’m your customer,” she said. “But yet this happens all the time, in car dealerships and in the powersports industry. Don’t tell me what I need until you ask me what I want and what I’m looking for.”
Prokup says it also helps to package your products together so the buying experience is as stress-free as possible for the female consumer. From the bike, to the gear and accessories, the more you can streamline the buying process, the easier it is for both parties.
“Many women are intimidated the minute they walk into a dealership,” she said, “and others don’t have the time to have to wade through 100 different products at once. Make things as simple and comfortable as you can, and you’ll have much better success with a female customer.”

Lessons from the Studio
Prokup mentioned the success of the Women Studio, which is an event held by DTM in partnership with Advanstar at three IMS shows in 2007. The studio features bikes on display for women to sit on and get a feel for them, an opportunity to talk about them with knowledgeable female riders, and even mirrors in front of each bike so the women could see what they looked like on the motorcycle.
Also available was the Honda Smart Rider, a simulation program featuring real motorcycle controls that allows a user to drive in a realistic traffic environment. There were also Moto Makeover sessions, where professional makeup artists would do makeovers on only a woman’s eyes. The event also featured educational seminars regarding clubs, starting a business in the industry, basic riding, etc.
Prokup says many of these same elements can be applied to a dealership, especially when it comes to female-to-female comradarie, the training and most important, the comfortable environment that women need when going into a dealership.
“Think of how much more comfortable a woman walking into your store would be if you had a knowledgeable female salesperson they could talk to,” Prokup said. “Everything we did at the Women Studio events are tailored to make women feel comfortable, and that’s the same thing you should be doing in your dealership, even if it’s something on a much smaller scale.”
Prokup says women look at four things when they’re evaluating product: Is it entertaining? Does it help take away stress? Can it change with me? And is it practical? As a dealer, it’s your job to relay why your product can accomplish all four of those goals, and it should be the first thing you talk about to a woman customer.
“If I’m a woman who walks into your store and am looking to buy my first bike, you don’t want to first talk to me about chassis and power-to-weight ratios,” she said. “You should be telling me that buying that bike is going to change my life forever, and it will give me some of the most incredible experiences I’m ever going to have.”
Prokup says women are passionate about the products they buy, and if you let your passion for motorcycles and powersports come out, they’ll be that much more interested in the product.

Understanding Gen Y
Prokup says Gen Y is less understood than most consumer groups because of their young age, but their buying power and unique sense of community awareness cannot be ignored.
“Gen Y is a powerful force because they’re not just making their own buying decisions, but they’re affecting the buying decisions of their parents, too,” she said. “And on top of that, they’re heavily influencing other generations like Gen X, which are still trying to be ‘cool’ by following what’s trendy.”
The most important aspect of Gen Y, Prokup says, is the fact that they’re constantly connected, and they have more information at their fingertips than any generation before them. Studies conducted in recent years have shown that nearly 80 percent of all Gen Y members tend to filter their interactions through social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook.
“Gen Y is a very socially driven group, and that’s important because those are values that will remain constant throughout a person’s lifetime,” Prokup said. “This is a generation that loves to give back to the community and want to feel like they’re contributing.”

The buying experience
Another point Prokup says is key to remember when trying to attract a Gen Y consumer is that they’re keen on choosing a product based on the entire buying experience, not just on the product alone.
A great example of one company that has mastered this concept, she says, is Apple, which has designed its stores more as a destination point for this group to socialize, and in the process they are trying out product at the same time.
“If you get the chance, go to an Apple store and watch the social interaction that takes place there,” she said. “It’s ingenious how Apple has connected that aspect of it with the simple process of buying its product.”
Another important aspect of Gen Y is it wants to be involved with the brand it’s buying, and in the case of powersports dealerships, it wants the feeling that they are co-creators of the products they’re buying. Prokup says it’s an easy transition for a powersports dealer to make.
“The minute you give them options on accessories for their bike, or which gear to wear, etc., they immediately feel a sense of ownership in that product, and you’re doing nothing more than selling extra accessories to them,” she said. “So anything you can do to give them that feeling of being involved will be a big plus in their minds.”
Although it might be tough to connect to this generation, especially if you’re an older dealer, Prokup says the effort is worth it if you can make the buying experience a pleasant one for them.
“The best thing about this group is they are so socially plugged in, if they have a positive experience at your dealership they will immediately relay that to all their friends and family,” she said.
What’s most important to both groups, Prokup stresses, is they know they are being targeted by retailers, and that they want to be thought of as your customer first, instead of a representative of a group you want to target.
“These groups both feel like they have big, red targets on their backs, and they’re ultra sensitive to that,” she said. “If you learn to understand the needs they have as consumers first, then give them a comfortable and exciting area to learn about your product; you’re setting yourself up for great success in the future.”

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