Being born in 1979, I exist in the no-man’s land between an aging, settled generation—Gen X—and a technically proficient group defined by youthful exuberance and robust buying power—commonly referred to as “Millennials.”
My unenviable status as an in-betweener affords me a bird’s-eye view of both worlds. The Millennials (folks born between 1980 and 2000) are the new belle of the consumer ball, and ageing Gen-Xers (born in the ‘60s and ‘70s) are straining every sinew trying to successfully market to them. And the results are not always pretty—there’s a steep learning curve inherent in marketing to this new audience.
So here are seven truths businesses need to understand in order to reach that most coveted of demographics in the new millennium.
1. They are not homogenous!
Where many marketers fall short these days is in assuming that this demographic is, well, a demographic. Millennials are more diverse than many give them credit for. They’re comprised of parents, students, affluent professionals and those drowning in student-loan debt—and they can be found in nearly every social and economic class.
That means marketers need to think in segments instead of demographics. You could even take this a step further and market to Millennials not as a generation, but as individuals.
This is the most ideal tactic, and it can be achieved by communicating with them via their preferred technological method. Which brings us to our next point.
2. They’re (really) plugged in
It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that Millennials are connected 24/7. Data suggests that they are using two to three tech devices every day, and many feel naked without constant access to the Internet.
Never before have brands had such an opportunity to open a direct line of communication at almost any time of the day or night. And believe it or not Millennials want nothing more than for brands to take advantage of this. In fact, they are turned off if a brand isn’t available to them 24 hours a day.
That means those organizations without a solid mobile and social-media strategy are all but dead in the water. And speaking of social media…
3. It’s a sharing culture
You don’t need to be an analyst at eMarketer to see the trend: Millennials are spending more time on social media than they are flipping through magazines or looking at billboards. And forward-thinking businesses have reaped the benefits of this generational touchstone to wildly successful results.
But not all social-media sites are created equal. While some marketers lag and focus on Facebook “likes,” others have recognized the power of YouTube as one of the most dominant social-media platforms around. All it takes is one look at their marketing success stories and you see what’s possible when you serve the needs of an audience just itching to log on and seek out the hot new product or service or to decide which product to buy. Which brings us to hard and fast rule number four.
4. The hard sell turns them off
Millennials value authenticity above all else. So when they see a commercial, they skip over it on the TiVo and go back to checking out what their friends and peers are buying on social media. Any brand worth its salt realizes this, and you can draw a direct line to their success from this modern sharing culture.
To further buttress the point, nowadays Millennials are more swayed by influencers than even celebrities. That means a popular poster on YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook, now has more power to influence than even supermodels and A-list celebrities. That’s no small thing.
5. They move fast
Millennials go anywhere and everywhere with their mobile devices, and 85% of them now use their smartphone to research products and services. That means shopping in the new century is an omni-channel affair, and retail strategies need to reflect this.
In-store, online and mobile have merged into one, so considering that Millennials rely so heavily on their smartphones, it only makes sense to utilize smart selling to reach them.
6. They engage at every point in the purchase path
Just like every brand without a mobile strategy is dead in the water, those without an omni-channel approach to sales and marketing are goners as well. Millennials are fickle and require constant engagement. The good news is that seven in 10 respond to digital marketing tools such as product finders, gamification and mobile rewards programs and other savings incentives.
Therefore brands should develop and implement Guided Selling solutions in their operation. Doing so is the best way to replicate the runaway marketing success of high-street heavyweights like Burberry and powerhouse beauty brands like L’Oréal, Clinique and Estée lauder that all invest in Guided Selling technologies to ease the path to purchase.
7. The brand is the consumer—and vice versa
Above all else, Millennials view the products they buy and the services they hire as an extension of their own personality. Never before has the playing field between marketers and consumers been so level. One could even make the argument Millennials have more influence over brands than the other way around.
The goal then becomes for marketers to reflect the image, status and beliefs of this fiercely individualist target right back at them. Millennials demand their brands show personality, are environmentally responsible and, above all else, are authentic.
Ultimately, the reason brands are so desperate to reach this generation is because of their $200 billion in annual buying power. Combine this with the fact Millennials are due to inherit some $30 trillion from the Baby Boomers, and that means they will be the dominant driver of e-commerce for some time to come.
It’s up to you to rethink the paradigm and be right there with them at every touch point.
Happy to hear your thoughts! Sound off in the comments below.