Smart phones. Social apps. Selfies. Questionable hairstyles. When it comes to millennials, it can be hard to keep up. Our advice? Keep up.
As early adopters of new technology and trends, millennials are a very specific audience that must be sold to strategically. Unlike older generations, traditional advertising methods such as direct mail and billboards won’t work with millennials. More so than any generation, millennials want to join the conversation — something that isn’t possible with outbound marketing.
Selling to millennials can be hard. It can also be incredibly rewarding if you win them over. Here are a few tips I’ve learned about how to market your brand or service towards millennials.
Gone are the days of interruption marketing. Millennials see right through it. Instead, create an emotional connection with your audience and engage them in an authentic and personal way.
Building authenticity starts with understanding your brand’s mission and defining your “why.” For technology giant Apple, their why is “think different.” For Tom’s, it’s “improving lives.” Know what your brand stands for and ensure that the tone or voice aligns with it.
On the flip side, misalignment in messaging will erode any credibility you have earned. For example, if a brand markets itself as a personable brand built on customer service, but doesn’t respond to a consumer’s email, the brand loses credibility. Millennials can smell nonsense from a mile away, so authenticity and consistency in your messaging are key.
Maximize Every Customer Touchpoint
All customer touchpoints, or interactions between your brand and the customer, are marketable territory. Don’t focus solely on traditional touchpoints such as in-store, phone, and email interactions. Recognize that every channel, including social media or even philanthropic initiatives, are opportunities to build relationships and brand advocacy with millennials.
Keep in mind that customer touchpoints are always changing. With the rise of mobile devices, interactions are becoming much more segmented. A person might interact with your brand eight times in multiple mediums, all within an hour. We live in an era where someone may see your brand’s tweet, perform a quick search on Instagram, google your site, sign up for your email newsletter, then purchase a week later. Ensuring that all touchpoints are aligned with your brand is critical.
Explore New Channels
Marketing to millennials is a constant fight for attention. How will you stand out? Be willing to insert your brand in emerging or unvetted channels, as these may ripe for a captive audience. Today, millennials are constantly engaged, checking their phones around 157 times a day. The idea of “down time” is pretty much gone. As the average attention span continues to decrease, relying on the same tired channels of social, email, and on-site experience won’t help you win new millennial customers.
That being said, you need to make sure to stay up to date with the ways millennials prefer to communicate or transact. Even if you don’t have the time or resources to build a formal marketing campaign around a new channel, you’ll earn points with millennials for experimenting. To stay in the loop on the latest and greatest, try culling sites like Product Hunt or The Hacker News, as well as monitoring trending mobile apps. These can offer great signals for newly relevant platforms, channels, or tactics.
Don’t Forget About Mobile Devices
It’s no secret millennials use their smartphones. A lot. Which means your mobile experience must be as good, if not better than your desktop presentation.
Merchants may believe that mobile responsiveness and reductive design suffices for a great mobile strategy. Although these are important, ask yourself whether adding a few uniquely mobile elements could further improve the experience. For example, we’ve had success in displaying mobile-specific “Call to Order” buttons on-site during our in-office hours to encourage customers to place orders when they’re on-the-go. From tweets to push notifications, make sure that you’re thinking about smartphones and mobile devices as a unique medium through which you can sell, not just a diluted version of your desktop site.
If It Makes Sense, Give Back
Millennials are an extremely socially conscious generation. According to the American Marketing Association, 70% of millennials will spend more on brands that support a cause they care about. If you can find a genuine way to give back, do so.
On the other hand, do not support a cause that doesn’t make sense for your brand. Just because it seems like every brand is doing it, doesn’t mean that you should too — millennials will see right through disingenuous initiatives. Corporate social responsibility should be used to support and uphold your brand’s mission. If it’s more of an add-on, skip it.
Keep it Personal
Personalized shopping experiences are no longer a “gee whiz” feature. They’re the standard. What’s important to call out here is that building a personalized shopping experience is not necessarily about messaging, but rather about customizing the experience to best align with their specific tastes and preferences.
If you collect data about a person, use it to recommend specific products most likely to appeal to that customer. One famous example is Target. The popular retailer made headlines when, through data, they predicted a customer’s pregnancy before that customer’s family members knew about the baby. Target tracks which products pregnant women are likely to buy together, and sends appropriate coupons to the customer. How’s that for personalization?
Selling to millennials can be difficult. The good news? According to this study, word of mouth goes a long way with millennials. So, if and when you do win them over, millennials will influence those in their network and amplify the effect. If you stay ahead of trends, experiment with new channels, and build a genuine relationship with your audience, you’ll find millennials might just be your strongest brand advocates.
Jon Corwin is the growth manager at Sunglass Warehouse.