Doug Scott, senior vice president of GfK Automotive, a market research group, says automakers who can give their buyers all-encompassing access to music, Internet search and GPS will make their customers feel like they are still at home. And that gives the carmaker a better shot at keeping those customers next time they're in the market for a car.
"At home, you're using your Facebook page, checking your email," Scott said. "People are going to want to hop in their car and be exactly where they were when they were connected in their breakfast nook or home office. It's the Apple experience."
Brand loyalty used to be a much bigger part of car buying. Families identified themselves as Ford or Chevy buyers (or some other brand) and that's the brand they stuck with, until they had enough money to move up the chain into a Lincoln or a Cadillac.
But that's changed.
Gen Y, the youngest generation buying cars today, buys from the same automaker only 32% of the time. That's compared with 55% of Baby Boomers, and 62% of pre-Boomers.
Kelley Blue Book recently released its top automotive loyalty rankings. Hyundai came in first, followed by Toyota, Subaru, Kia and Ford. Ford has been working diligently at offering consumers a bevy of in-car entertainment and connectivity, so it's no surprise it is the one domestic car manufacturer to make this list.
Consumers shouldn't mourn the loss of loyalty, though. When automakers could rely on a certain percentage of its customer base just coming back year after year, they got complacent and started making bad cars. That opened up the market to foreign brands like Toyota, which came in and started listening to consumers and making cars they wanted.
Younger customers don't feel the need to just buy the same thing they bought before. But Scott says they could get hooked on a brand if it offers them what they want.
And brands who have the best social media strategy may be the ones who are best at getting younger customers into the dealership. Getting them in the door is a huge step towards selling them a car.
A generation ago, buyers knew very little about a car before going to the dealership. So they relied on dealers to get 80% of the information crucial to buying their next vehicle from the dealer.
"The buyer experience is going to be dictated by how connected I was prior to going to the dealership," Scott said.