Every retailer, it seems, wants to attract millennial shoppers. The numbers back up the notion that this is a good strategy: According to Accenture, the approximately 80 million millennials in the United States spend $600 billion per year. That number is expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020, representing 30% of all retail sales. Retailers realize that missing out on this demographic is devastating to the bottom line.
How do you engage with these digital native shoppers? Millennials do not hesitate to pull the trigger and spend money when they see something they want at a fair price. They expect every step in the buying process to be seamless and are unforgiving when anything stands between them and the perfect shopping experience. That means if your web page is slow to load, they’ll find a faster one; if your employees are inattentive, they’ll walk out of the store; if you don’t accept their mobile payment, they’ll find someone who does.
Millennials have tons of retail options, they know it, and they are fast to act on it.
Though millennials are demanding, they tend not to be more fickle than other demographics. Retailers can, and should, cultivate their loyalty. Doing so requires engaging them in different ways. These tips will get you on your way to capturing the Millennial market:
Communicate often and specifically
When it comes to marketing automation, many retailers worry about how often to send emails. Millennials expect and want the brands they are interested in to communicate with them, so don’t worry about sending too many emails. However, the messages that you do send should be relevant; that’s why audience segmentation is so important for this group. Get as granular as you can and segment based on preferred brands, price points, styles, etc.
Segmenting appropriately is based on how much data you have and how good it is, so make sure to track all shopping history and browsing patterns. The best way to engage with millennials is to prove that you truly understand them, that you know who they are and what they like. Generalized coupons and promotions do not work well with millennials to attract trials, but customized discounts work very well to build and keep loyalty. In fact, when a millennial wants to buy something and can’t find a coupon for it, you risk losing that customer — so make sure they always have active discounts for items or product categories that they are likely to want.
Monitor workflows to trigger actions
Actions performed by consumers in the shopping journey like placing items into a cart, purchasing items, and returning merchandise are workflows. Think of workflows as dynamic and cyclical: a consumer performs an action which triggers a response from you, and that triggers a new action from the consumer. A good example is if a consumer places an item in a cart and then abandons it, that should trigger a reminder email or perhaps a discount code offer. If that email triggers a conversion, the workflow was successful.
Think about what types of engagement are appropriate for each workflow. Millennials love to review products, so every purchase should be followed up with an invitation to review the merchandise. Incentivize them to do so with a coupon or discount code; that way, when they come back to write the review, they are motivated to shop as well. Give customers the ability to engage as much as possible by doing things like uploading photos of how they are using the products you sell.
Be Device Agnostic
By now, every retailer knows the importance of mobile. So much so that many are starting to believe that millennials do everything on their smartphones. Mobile has indeed become vital to success, but it is an additional step that does not replace older shopping behaviors — millennials use smartphones, tablets, computers, and visit brick-and-mortar locations. The way to keep them engaged is to make sure that all of these channels are connected.
Timing is Everything
Think about the connected world that millennials live in. They are getting assaulted from every angle with messages from brands, bosses, friends, and family. As a result, they have developed excellent filters and when a message isn’t relevant or engaging, it’s like it never even happened — they just don’t see it at all. Once you acquire the email address of a millennial, you have a very limited time to engage with them. If you haven’t reached them within 90 days, they are probably lost forever.
Once you have an email address and have done some segmenting due diligence, opt them into relevant newsletters. Keep your emails event driven: If they open the email, that’s an event. If they click on a link, that’s another event. Each of these events will help you segment further and should trigger additional communication. Also be sure to use click rates and every event to A/B test your messaging and optimize how you are talking to each segment.
Engaging with millennials is highly dependent on proving that you understand them. These shoppers are enormously service driven and price sensitive, so you have to bring your A-game at every level. They are also vocal advocates of brand they like and critics of those they don’t. Building the right strategies and tactics to capture this group of shoppers takes investment, but the dividends are large.
Zeke Hamdani is Director of Web Services for Celerant Technology