A look at five of the most distinguishing characteristics that define today’s Millennial generation.
By Bob Klein, ICA Research Director
Millennials are the largest generation group in the United States — with an estimated population of 72 million in 2022 — and as they reach their prime working and spending years, their impact on the economy is going to be huge. Millennial-led households have a mean disposable income of $85,000 and they spend $209 more per day, on average, than any other generation.
Millennials, who range from 27-42 years old in 2023, have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization and economic disruption. That’s given them a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents.
Through the lens of our 2023 ICA consumer research, we have a unique opportunity to look at car wash consumers who are Millennials (aka Generation Y, born 1981-1996). By contrasting these Millennials with their Baby Boomer parents (born 1946-1964), we unearth actionable, business growth insights into their attitudes, beliefs and motivations when it comes to washing their car.
Before we look deeper into what makes these car wash consumers unique, it’s helpful to ground ourselves in five of the most distinguishing characteristics that define today’s Millennial generation.
1. Millennials are often optimistic about the future. They are confident, highly motivated, believe that things will eventually get better and that they can accomplish anything if they only set their hearts and minds into it. 2. They love social networking. They can reach out to almost anyone to share their opinions on anything and everything, from politics to fashion to local restaurants and, yes, even local car washes. 3. They are tech-savvy. They adapt better to technology because they grew up with it (sometimes referred to as “digital natives.”) 4. They want recognition. Millennials feel valued when recognized, whether it’s for their achievements at work or their loyalty to a business. 5. They like adventures. Millennials want to see the world, make memories, try different things, meet new people, eat new food and experience unique cultures.
Each of these themes are evident in our ICA car wash consumer research. Here are five thoughts on how you can customize your car wash options to address how Millennials differ from Boomers and to capitalize on the huge business opportunity Millennials present.
1. Play to their passion for washing. Millennials make the cash register ring. Transactional customers (non-subscription members) wash 50% more often. It makes sense. Millennials are 39% more likely to drive a vehicle less than three years old, and it’s a fact that consumers wash newer vehicles more often. Plus, they drive longer distances (half drive over 100 miles per week), so their vehicles get dirtier. 2. Sign them up. Millennials are three times more likely than Boomers to be subscription wash members and non-members are more than twice as likely to join in the future. Then there are lapsed Millennial members who are 50% more likely to re-join. Couple this with the fact that they are much less price sensitive than Boomer members, and you’ve got a very sweet business opportunity. 3. Time is their most precious commodity. There are two important opportunities. First, Millennials are much less willing to drive far to visit their favorite wash. So they’re 80% more likely than Boomers to say they want their favorite wash to have multiple locations (evidence that they don’t view the market as over-saturated). Second, they’re impatient. Nearly half of Millennial washers want a mobile application that lets them know the wait time at their car wash. 4. They appreciate quality. The best example of this is their desire for value-added products and services. Millennials place significantly greater importance on almost every service, from air freshener to ceramic/graphene coating to dashboard wipes, leather cleaner and mat racks. What seals the deal of this opportunity is their far greater willingness than Boomers to say they would pay more for nearly every single value-added service. 5. They love an experience. Simply getting the job done is table stakes. Millennials are five times as likely to say they want an app for their smartphone that lets them create a customized light show while they ride though the wash. That ties into their six-times greater interest in a children’s interactive play area versus Boomers.
So ask yourself: Is your business ready for the new Millennial economy?
Trend analyses and data come from ICA's Pulse research, a member benefit that includes consumer and industry studies, The Pulse Report and The Consumer Pulse.
The Consumer Pulse More detailed findings are available in The Consumer Pulse March 2023 edition, which is available for purchase at a significant discount for ICA members: www.carwash.org/pulse.