How (and Why) to Market to Millennials

By Zofia Antonow on Jun 1st, 2017
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Let’s talk millennials.

They’re everywhere and anywhere, virtually and physically.

They’re smart, they’re savvy, they’re socially conscious...and they cannot be ignored.

Why?

Because they are the future of your business and the economy en masse.

These folks sprouted between the early 80’s and 2000’s, and make up roughly a quarter of the US population - that’s larger than the Baby Boomers and three times the size of GenX.

What’s more, millennials wield about $1.3 trillion in annual buying power, and they are estimated to have the most spending power - about $3.39 trillion - of any generation by the time 2018 rolls around the corner.

Are you persuaded yet?

Even if millennials don’t fall into your target demographic, they are the future - so if your company plans on sticking around, millennials will be valuable down the road. They’re worth the long-term investment of attention, energy, and resources - trust me.

Millennials are the biggest generation ever with roughly 77 million members. This is important for all business going forward, because the larger the population, the bigger its impact on culture, norms, expectations, behavior, trends, and so much more.

They also happen to be the best-educated group of young adults in US history, with over a third of older millennials having earned a four-year degree or higher.

So, like I said from the get-go, these people are smart.

In fact, they’re too smart for old-school, outbound marketing to be an effective means of grabbing their attention: 84% of those surveyed by The McCarthy Group say that they just don’t trust traditional advertising.

That’s a steep price to pay if your brand relies on old-fashioned tactics to reach not-so-old-fashioned prospects.

Even if you’re not trying to reach millennials now, chances are you will be in a few decades, so listen up either way.

How?

It can be intimidating to envision the perfect way to tap into this huge, powerful, and here-to-stay market, but really, it’s a matter of listening, researching, and giving millennials exactly what they want.

Let’s warm up to the strategy by hashing out the key wants of millennials in general; this gives us a sense of why you need to do what you need to do when launching a campaign, devising a strategy, or even updating your company website.

Most importantly, however, you should always remember that millennials are people. People are emotionally-driven beings that use a combination of pathos, ethos, and logos to make decisions.

Though this generation is more tech-savvy and ambitious than others, they are still very content supporting the brands that they think deserve their patronage.

So, what specifically do millennials want from a brand?

Privacy of their own information...but not the brand's

gate with lock

As more and more people hop on the DuckDuckGo bandwagon to protect their information online, an ironic twist occurs: consumers, and millennials especially, need to have access to all the necessary information about a brand that will help them determine if that brand is well-intentioned, truthful, and an overall good fit to their lifestyle and reputation - and worthy of their money.

So, any forms to be filled out in your sales process need to be simple and vague enough for millennials to want to complete - and for you to still get the data you need.

Interestingly, millennials are seven times more likely to give out their personal information to a brand they trust than to any other brand, so the key to gathering detailed information is to gain their trust first with some of the strategies in the sections below.

In terms of providing the information needed for a purchase, consider that a whopping 64% of millennials believe that social media is one of the most effective channels for reaching brands, or the fact that they spend an average of 25 hours online per week.

Much of that time is spent on researching new products or services before making a decision, which means that your brand needs to have clear, information-packed social media profiles and a website that covers anything else a consumer needs in order to buy.

Convenience, simplicity of life through technology

woman looking up from smartphone smiling

One word: smartphones.

Our whole world has been adapted for mobile because of the sheer convenience of having all the information, access, and other things you need in a sleek, compact device in your pocket. Millennials, always seeking out better ways to simplify their busy lives with tech, are a mobile generation: more than 85% own a smartphone.

To top that, 66% are confident that the information they find on mobile devices is the same as on desktop, which helps make research instant and effortless.

This means that your brand needs to have a seamless mobile site that offers all that the desktop version does - and maybe more - and that makes the purchase process literally a click of a button on the user’s end.

If you keep in mind that 30% of millennials make mobile purchases at least once a week, you will start to see the value of giving your customers the gift of convenience.

Authenticity, transparency

canoe over clear water

43% of millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

The best thing you can do for your brand is be honest and genuine in everything you do - or don’t do. People like to see the real brand, in the raw, with the real humans who make it happen, and luckily for you, that’s the easiest message to relay...because it’s the simple truth.

What gets a little trickier, however, is the transparency aspect of the deal: owning up to your brand’s mistakes, though seemingly a way to draw excessive attention to a negative situation, is actually a positive move. It shows that yes, your brand screwed something up, but no, you’re not afraid to admit it in order to keep consumers informed and in the loop.

They’ll respect you more for your honesty rather than judge you for being imperfect - we’re all humans, after all.  

Highly customized experience

smart watch on wrist

Meet your fans where they are - if ours are on Facebook, so are we. Instagram? On our way over. Twitter? Be there faster than you can Tweet “where are you?”

You get the point.

Thanks to an abundance of data and sophisticated analytics software, gathering the right information about your target market has never been easier. It’s important to know the behavior patterns of your customers, too, since the millennial generation doesn’t all stick to one network.

In fact, the younger the millennials, the more they use Snapchat due to the appeal of temporary media. Meanwhile, millennials over the age of 25 generally find this media delivery style less appealing.

Another area where customizability pays off is in emails and browsing experience: if a prospect checks out some items on your website, then you send them a generic newsletter, they may tune out because, ugh, another salesy email.

But, if you send them a newsletter catered around the products they’re interested in, they have a reason to stick around and keep their eyes on the screen - and they will probably like your brand more for keeping the experience unique to their needs.

Then, come purchase time, your brand will be in the running because you recognized their unparalleled singularity and catered to them with products selected especially for those individuals.

Appeal to their values & be sold on a brand’s mission

heart shaped waffle

We’re living in the era of the Revolution of Consciousness, where consumers don’t just buy from a brand based on products and services - but on company values, too.

You shouldn’t focus on selling your products or services; rather, you should sell your mission. Don’t tell people about how what you’re selling is great - tell your story and focus on the purpose and benefit that your company brings to society.

Consumers want things that makes their lives and society better, so if your business exists for all the right reasons, you just need to shed light on how your brand is making the world a better place and they will appreciate it.

75% of millennials say it’s fairly or very important that a company gives back to society instead of just making a profit; that’s a big number that simply cannot be ignored.

Do the right thing and then shout it from the digital mountaintops, and consumers - after doing some quick research to verify it’s true - will respect your brand more and be inclined to support it.

To be understood, listened to

girl holding up teddy bear

The best way to find out what your customers want is to ask and then listen. You can conduct interviews to determine what millennials want from you, what they’d like to see or hear, and any other useful information - in return, they will feel valuable and appreciated.  

42% of millennials are interested in helping companies develop future products or services, which is like getting free help from the people that your business is designed to cater to. Awesome!

Currently, however, more than half of millennials feel that companies should offer more ways to share their opinions online in the future - and they’ll continue to participate when it happens - so just making it simpler for your customers to add input can put your brand way ahead of the game.

Share-worthy content for their social media audience

girl holding coffee and smartphone

Your brand, when added to your customers’ social media presence, is an addition to their (virtual) life story. This means that your content cannot be just alright, for millennials will not be inclined to share your content out of fear of looking less cool amidst their peers.

The most shared posts out there all include content that reflects positively upon the “sharer” because it’s hip, educational, shocking, interesting, or otherwise reaction-inspiring.

People can’t help but click “share” on posts that they think will improve their social media community, so your goal is to create branded posts that incite the right emotions and lead to a share.

Then, when other users see your content floating across their newsfeed, their perception, and oftentimes first impression, of your brand is a great one - one worth following, in most cases.

Your company (or marketing team at the least) should take time to brainstorm engagement tactics based on cold, hard research around your target audiences’ interests and habits, then create content that is fun and easily shareable online.

Collaborating with influencers that millennials look up to is the best (and fastest) way to establish authority and appeal to the interests of your followers. Influencers influence, after all, so they’re a great way to leverage your brand and establish that it’s cool in the community.

Real connections & conversations

girls having a conversation

Forbes paired with Vanity Fair to bring you this statistic: 62% of millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer.

Let’s break that down: if your brand talks to people online, they already have put you in the running for their next purchase decision.

And since we’re (generally) social beings, this bit of advice is so easy to put to use.

Millennials are disillusioned by all the overly salesy, confrontational tactics that used to be the gold standard for advertising, and instead crave a relationship with brands - but on their terms.

That’s why you need to put in the time and love to answer customers’ needs, get to know them, and keep them coming back to show that your brand cares about their success.

Social media is the perfect place to start connecting with your customers - ask them questions, respond to mentions of your brand, and just let your peeps get to know your brand on a personal level.

Earn their attention, don’t just demand it

man with shirt that says whatever

Outbound marketing doesn’t work with millennials - practically shouting “look at me! Buy me!” in flashy, disruptive ads just annoys these people.

Millennials just don’t like the hard sell that used to work wonders, which means that your brand needs to make an effort to earn their attention amidst a cluttered and chaotic market.  

The beauty of gaining millennials’ attention is that they’ll reward you with follower loyalty: 5 out of 6 millennials connect with companies on social media networks, and 43% have liked more than 20 brands on Facebook (meaning there’s enough love to go around...to the best brands, at least).

The Bottom Line 

Millennials are the powerhouse generation of now and the future.

millennials gif

It’s risky to shirk any effort of marketing to them because of their sheer numbers and buying power, so it’s best to master the art of appealing to millennials right now.

Down the road, when millennials are all grown up and spending even more moolah on the brands they love, you’ll be glad you did.  

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How (and Why) to Market to Millennials
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