Unlike Gen Z, millennials are not digital natives. They remember a world before reliable internet, and when hanging out at the mall for fun was the cool thing to do. But as technologies improved and the internet took a central role in commerce, millennials quickly adopted digital as a means to better inform their purchase decisions based on price, quality, and social responsibility.
They are a decisive group, confident in their likes and dislikes, and unafraid to share their opinions with friends on social media. For retail marketers to be successful in reaching them, brands must present their value in an authentic way that meets millennial expectations.
Confident, Spendthrift Purchasers
Despite coming of age during the Great Recession and being faced with student debt, 60% of millennials identify as “spenders” or “big spenders.” This isn’t to say they throw their money around, as many also identify as savvy shoppers who price compare and monitor their favorite retailers to exclusively shop sales. They’re willing to shell out more money on meaningful purchases or on brands that demonstrate value through efforts like innovative design or environmental consciousness.
Because of these preferences, many retailers are struggling to stay relevant as younger shoppers move toward brands that are more affordable. J.Crew turned to aggressive markdowns and “super sales” to attract more price-sensitive shoppers after the brand was deemed overpriced, and inadvertently trained its customers to wait until products went on promotion to make a purchase. This tactic failed to change customer perception of the brand’s value, and reaffirmed that its products are never worth purchasing at full price.
But for brands like Apple, whose identity has become synonymous with aspirational creativity and individuality on the back of its sleek design and powerful operating systems, millennials won’t hesitate to purchase new merchandise at full price. As long as Apple’s brand is perceived with that same inspirational cache, it will continue to find success within the cohort.
Millennials do their research to find products that meet their very specific needs at the right price. Brands that clearly demonstrate their value, either through reasonable price points or by creating value through a unique brand identity, will connect strongly with the demographic. For marketers, this means clearly demonstrating what a brand brings to the table in a way that’s relatable, entertaining, and fosters loyalty.
The Friend Factor
Brands that demonstrate value and have a relatable brand story must next reach millennials in a way that feels authentic. Eighty percent of millennials reported they appreciate ads when they’re done well, and will even share an ad they find amusing with their social networks. Viral marketing resonates with millennials as truthful; friends helping friends by sharing a product they like or a message they find amusing or aspirational.
Reaching millennials where they share news and advice with friends on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat brings your brand into the context of their social lives, and creates a dialogue with your customer. For those brands that bring personality along with a unique story to the table, the sky is the limit. Millennials will share products that resonate with their friends, allowing viral marketing to become a legitimate aspect of your marketing plan.
That feeling of relatability and authenticity must resonate beyond your brand’s social media channels, however. In order for millennials to truly trust your brand, the message must be clear and consistent across everywhere your product shows up – this means in store, in advertising, and on mobile. Without this consistency, millennials will perceive your brand as pandering and inauthentic.
Feel Good Purchases
Millennials are also interested in social responsibility, and appreciate knowing products are designed, produced, and shipped with the welfare of employees and the greater good in mind. Brands that have made a unique commitment to a specific social cause, like being environmentally friendly or giving back to the community, foster goodwill with millennials who are proud to vote with their dollars.
Perhaps most notably, footwear brand TOMS shoes started a simple “one for one” promise, donating one pair of shoes or eyewear for every item purchased. The brand’s popularity allowed it to grow its business and philanthropic efforts to support disenfranchised communities worldwide. By making information about socially conscientious initiatives available in-store or online, brands can ensure millennials are aware of their social positioning, bringing them into the fold of the mission of the company, and giving them a feel-good story they can tell their friends.
Creating a Unified Brand Experience
Brands that take the time to be transparent about the value and benefit of their products, while also authentically working to make the world a better place, will create an experience that wins the admiration, and spending, of millennials. Marketers must remember to establish a consistent, targeted brand story that communicates value, authenticity, and open-heartedness to see true success with this demographic.
Tyler Douglas is Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Vision Critical