Successfully marketing to Millennials means realizing this is a very different generation and accommodating how they think and consume.
Millennials, usually defined as being from 18 to 34 years old, make up the largest demographic in the United States. Currently they are about a third of the country’s population, and in 2013 they accounted for a whopping $1.3 trillion in consumer spending.
But they don’t only outnumber the Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers that came before them; they also tend to think and purchase very differently. Having grown up in the worst economy since the Depression, they make work, spending and family choices that are not what marketers are accustomed to targeting. And they don’t respond to the hard sell; this is a group of people who intend to make up their own minds. Advertising pitches that worked for Boomers and Gen X-ers are not generally effective with Millennials.
Although Millennials are not a homogenous group – forty-three percent are non-white and about 25 percent speak a language other than English at home – they do have some shared characteristics. Here are several ways you can adjust or reconfigure your marketing to best reach Millennials.
Optimize for mobile and tablet
Make sure your company’s mobile experience is top-notch. Millennials use digital technology far more than previous generations. Eighty-five percent own smartphones and if your content doesn’t translate to mobile you’ve lost them. Optimize your landing pages for mobile, so they load quickly. Even on a small phone screen, there should be a clear call-to-action. Try to eliminate downtime.
Show brand personality, and engage
Millennials are the world’s first generation of digital natives. They didn’t know life before the web and social media, and they are used to doing online research and finding what they are looking for. Be relevant or you risk being ignored.
Members of this age group don’t want to interact with your social media department; they want to talk to a real person. Give your brand a human face, be personable and transparent, and make it a two-way conversation. Monitor customer feedback and respond quickly, make changes as necessary and then let your customers know what you’ve done because this creates more positive feedback.
Also, write your content conversationally. And if your social media only focuses on your products and self-promoting your brand, Millennials aren’t going to hang around. These savvy consumers are looking for genuine service and engagement.
Go where they are
Engage in social media where the Millennials are. Nine out of 10 Millennials surf the web on their computer while watching TV on a television, and they watch an average of 5 hours and 49 minutes of online video per week. Consider creating video content and building a YouTube presence with well-produced short, informative videos and tutorials. Advertising Age says consumers in their 20s move between communications devices and platforms 27 times an hour when they are not working. Have people monitoring social media everywhere and responding promptly and conversationally. Build an online community around your brand.
Highlight user-generated content
Make sure your website has plenty of user-generated content (UGC) to help Millennials make their decisions. Millennials are more than three times more likely than Boomers to turn to social media for opinions on which products to buy. And they trust and take tips from other people – even strangers – far more than from the brands themselves. Millennials put about the same stock in advice about online products whether it comes from friends and family in real life or from UGC on a company website. Ask your customers for feedback and then make it easy to find online.
Target social groups, not stages of life
Millennials don’t move through life stages in the traditional ways we are accustomed to. They marry later, fewer buy homes than Boomers did at the same age, and many don’t settle into jobs for the long-term. Marketers need to adapt to Millennial buying patterns or risk failing with that enormous demographic. Rather than marketing to a stage of life, a better approach is targeting a population segment of Millennials that relates to a specific social identity. Consider aiming your marketing at, say, members with an alternative lifestyle, or perhaps those who follow a social cause or a certain social media celebrity.
Take a stand
Being socially conscious, charitable and environmentally friendly goes far with Millennials. Almost 50 percent are more willing to buy from a company if their purchase supports a cause they believe in. And Millennials want the brands they buy to reflect not only their beliefs, but also their style and personality. Forty percent say they will pay more for a product that reflects an image they want to convey about themselves.
When surveyed about how brands can engage them, the top two Millennial answers were by rewarding loyalty with promotions and discounts and by “being authentic.”
Help Millennials to believe in your company and its messages and they will invest in your product.
And then they’ll tell their friends about it on social media.
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