These days we always seem to be hearing about millennials and how they impact the current workspace and economy – whether the general consensus is good or bad is up to the individual. The jokes at their expense are plenty, but not nearly as much as the buying power they yield as they enter and thrive within their peak spending years. As small business owners, we would be wise to tune in and pay attention when it comes to marketing to Millennials.
What is a Millennial?
Before trying to reach this group, we should probably first know who they are. The Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y, includes individuals born between 1981-1996 (although both ends of that timeline aren’t absolute).
There are about 72 million of these consumers – about 25% of the total US population to be exact – making this segment larger than Baby Boomers and Generation X. And they like to spend some money—$600 billion annually, in fact, in direct and indirect spending. Some of their spending habits include the following:
- Millennials spend two thirds the amount spent by Generation Xers and baby boomers on entertainment.
- 91 percent of millennials prefer to shop online, with only 9 percent choosing to shop in-store only.
- 42 percent of millennials complete online shopping transactions on their smartphones.
- 40 percent of millennials refer to online reviews and testimonials before purchasing a product.
- 84% of millennials report that user generated content on company websites at least somewhat influences what they buy.
- 52 percent of millennials prefer to shop at retailers that align with their values.
- 89% of millennials trust recommendations from friends and family more than claims by the brand.
But Who Really is the Millennial Generation?
Millennials are an interesting breed seeing as they are some of the highest educated individuals, have grown up in a world that has developed significant technology — especially in regard to smartphones, have a strong nostalgia streak, are driven by values important to them, are interested in self-improvement, rely heavily on their parents (especially when it comes to finances), read heavily, and LOVE to champion small business. Hop online and you’ll find all sorts of additional data points related to this generation separate from their direct spending habits.
A report by Barkley called “AMERICAN MILLENNIALS: Deciphering the Enigma Generation.” came to some interesting conclusions regarding this unique generation. Along with their conclusions are questions we believe you should start asking as a business owner.
- Millennials include some of the earliest “digital natives.” How can you best engage these early adopters of new technologies and emerging social tools? Find out where they are investing digitally in both their time and money.
- Millennials are interested in participating in your marketing. Has your brand built a listening and participation strategy that will help you connect with your brand advocates? Today’s marketing requires strong and creative calls to action.
- Millennials are known as content creators and users. Have you enabled their creation needs in new product, marketing and customer experience design?
- Millennials crave adventure—often “safer” adventures. Can you design a sense of adventure into your brand experience? Sure, you may not selling rock climbing gear, but there are still ways to entice them into participating on a journey with your brand.
- Millennials strive for a healthy lifestyle. Have you looked at how you balance taste with nutrition or exercise with entertainment? We’re seeing these trends swell across the country with this generation.
- Millennials seek peer affirmation. How, when, and where can you engage their peers?
- Millennials are “hooked” on social media in much the same way that older generations are “hooked” on email at work. Does your brand enhance or detract from their social media experience? If you have no kind of social media presence or strategy, it’s going to be much more challenging to target this group.
- Millennials are not a homogeneous cohort. Who within this group is your most influential core target and what is their mindset?
- Millennials believe in cause marketing. Is your brand authentic and transparent or just using a cause to sell them something in a disingenuous way? Stay genuine always.
- Millennials are in many ways similar to older generations. Have you identified the common threads that connect them to their parents? Don’t disregard or disengage this group just because they might not fall within your generation.
What Do Millenials Mean for Your Business?
Considering the consistent spending habits mentioned above and the conclusions by Barkley, here are some of the greatest takeaways for your small business to consider when it comes to marketing to millennials.
- Get online…now. With 91 percent of millennials preferring to shop online, it’s more than time you made your products and services available to them. Providing an engaging website with a seamless experience can make your brand stand out from competitors. Small businesses who fail to have some form of an online presence will be left in the dust.
- Get on social media…now. Social media is how millennials follow one another, businesses they like, and causes they care about. According to Clever, 54% of them are more likely than older generations to purchase a product recommended by a social media influencer. Not only that, nearly half of millennials are willing to promote products or services through social media in exchange for rewards. It’s important to have a robust social media campaign seeing as Millennials aren’t the only generation on social media today. If you’re already posting to social media, make sure you optimize the content with short posts and captioned videos. If you’re not posting at least to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, you may be missing out on key demographics.
- Make your website responsive. Since millennials live on their phones (along with their younger generation counterparts), it’s important for you to make your website responsive for both desktop and mobile devices. The easier you make your content to find and read, the more likely they are to engage and follow your company.
- Let your current customers participate. When marketing to millennials, they don’t just want to hear what YOU have to say about your product, they want to hear what your customers have to say about it. If no user reviews are readily available on your site, they’re likely to hunt them down elsewhere. Not all reviews are bad. In fact, you may be surprised at the loving gestures happy clients are willing to provide online. Give clients the opportunity to share their experiences directly on your product pages.
- Let potential customers participate. Millennials want to participate in sharing and spreading the word about products and services they like, especially those that have strong values or support important causes. 61% of millennials are worried about the state of the world and feel personally responsible to make a difference. If your company supports or stands behind valuable efforts, make those visible on your website and social media platforms. In addition to sharing your values, make it fun and easy to talk with them online. Provide opportunities for them to share opinions through polls or interactive “stories”.
- Be authentic. Millennials have a very strong BS detector. Authenticity is worth its weight in gold and the content, message and videos have to be real. If it looks like an ad, they’re gone. This includes responses to questions and comments made on reviews and through social media. It’s important to not only respond, but do so in a way that is transparent. This generation has nearly any information at their fingertips and are constantly being bombarded with content. Being able to cut through that noise and meet them where they are is vital. Whether it’s how you share information about ingredients or the testing of products, keeping things simple, real, and honest is how you market to the Millennial who craves that holistic experience.
The key topic on everyone’s mind right now is how to effectively and efficiently market to Millennials, but the real problem is that very few businesses truly understand this impactful group.
The amazing thing about marketing to Millennials is that they are so good at telling you what they love and hate. If you’re listening-truly listening-they can be incredibly helpful. Every decision you make should be informed by listening to your customers.
Talk to this group and see how they feel about your business and what you stand for. This way, when Millennials purchase, they are not just in love with your product or service but they feel like they are a part of something special that they helped to create.