Generational gaps are nothing new. Baby boomers faced parents who didn’t understand the Beatles and then turned around to become frustrated by their slacker Gen X kids, who in turn had millennials who they now present with participation trophies.
Those stereotypes may be pretty far from reality, but the generations do differ in their attitudes and behaviors. Closing those gaps is critical to retailers, especially when considering the largest growth generation: the Millennials. Already representing 25% of the U.S. population, the spending power of this group is $200 billion. Embracers of social media and information sharing, the millennials exert more influence over the marketplace at large than any other generation before them.
Reaching millennials is critical to success for most retailers, but tried and true tactics do not always work well in attracting their business. In a study of over 1300 Millennials, Elite Daily discovered that advertising has little to no impact on them. Raised with the ability to skip commercials on DVRs, only 1% of Millennials surveyed said that a compelling ad could influence how much they trust a brand. This is a generation that craves authenticity and is highly sophisticated at differentiating it from spin.
So what do you need to know in order to appeal to this powerful generation?
Millennials are Spenders
All the stories about millennials living in their parents’ basements and working menial jobs are turning around. Improvements to the economy and their high education levels have landed more of them in high paying jobs, but they still prefer to spend on items and experiences that enhance their lives over traditional ideas of saving to buy a house or for their retirement. “Fear of missing out” and “you only live once” are defining mantras, and this is a generation of spenders — but only when the spend reinforces these attitudes.
The Era of Instant Product Research
Marketers have long known that word of mouth has more influence over consumer behavior than any other form of messaging, and technology like social media and smartphones have amplified that exponentially for millennials. Mass consumers of information, they read peer reviews, blogs, and specifications on just about everything they buy. Any shopping experience that does not offer detailed information in the form of reviews, accurate product descriptions, FAQs, and images will be quickly abandoned.
Instant Gratification Matters
While millennials will take necessary time to conduct product research, they become quickly bored with barriers to conversion once they have made decisions. That means things like clunky checkout processes and lengthy forms are all tickets to losing their business. Single click purchasing is the gold standard for millennials, and they prefer to sign up for automatic reordering for durables that they like over having to manually reorder them. Speed is of the essence when closing deals with this generation and when they are satisfied, they become brand loyal quickly.
Social Responsibility is Not Going Away
The millennials have put an end to Gordon Gekko: Greed no longer works. Distrustful of corporate America, 75% of Millennials say that it is important for brands to give back to society, and they put their money where their mouths are. Brands like TOMS, who donates a pair of shoes in Africa for every pair sold, are popular with millennials and even mega giants like McDonald’s have recognized this need and pledged to switch to cage-free eggs. Retailers that visibly support charities and stock the brands that appeal to these sensibilities will get larger slices of the Millennial pie.
Falling Behind is Death
Quick adopters of new technology, millennials rapidly drop experiences that fail to meet their expectations. If your site doesn’t work with a hot new browser, or a new tablet screen size doesn’t display content properly, they are gone. It is vital not to fall behind the technology curve, as doing so indicates a business that has lost touch with desires and needs. There are simply too many choices out there to lose customers to which is why you need to be easily accessible and understand how they want to engage.
At the core, millennials are active consumers that prefer to spend on items that enhance their lives, expecting a painless shopping experience with brands that are socially responsible and technologically progressive. One thing however that hasn’t changed is the value in listening to customers. In fact, millennials want to interact with you in person and on social media, and they expect their feedback to be heard and acted upon. All you need to do is listen carefully, and they will tell you how to win them over.
Zeke Hamdani is Director of Web Services for Celerant Technology