Capturing the Millennial Market

The Boston Consulting Group reports that Millennials – people between the ages of 16 and 34 – are now the largest generational group in America (79 million) even exceeding the Boomer generation (76 million). Currently, Millennials make up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases (1.3 trillion dollars in direct buying power), and they wield a large (and intentional) influence on other generations as well. Capturing the Millennial market is anyone’s game at this point, since Millennials are currently in a transitional and exploratory time of life, but the window of opportunity to connect with this generation is fleeting. Forward-thinking retailers who connect and build brand loyalty with this generation now will be well-positioned in ten years when Millennials enter their peak spending years.

So, how do you reach Millennials? Advertising through traditional mass media sources (television, newspapers, and radio) often misses Millennials because, as the Wall Street Journal reports, they don’t receive their news and entertainment from these sources. For the most part, Millennials prefer time-shifted television (via Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, or DVR) over live television, rely on blogs, online publications, and social networking posts to access news and current events, and listen to music on their phones or subscribe to online streaming sources such as Spotify or Pandora. Furthermore, Millennials are aware that companies are mining their personal data and preferences, and they are resentful when marketing comes across as fake, forced, condescending, or irrelevant.

Here are a few tips about how to re-shape advertising, mall experiences, and brand loyalty to reach the Millennial market.

  1. Have Millennials come to you. – Create humorous, clever or challenging advertisements that Millennials will re-post for you and spread through their social networks, like these popular YouTube advertisements that went viral. Offer rewards for Millennials who share or promote your product on their social networking sites through “elite” membership status or discounts.
  2. Advertise to Millennials online where they already are. – Although this can be challenging because Millennials quickly abandon and adopt new media platforms (goodbye Facebook, hello Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine), the rewards are worth the effort.
  3. Avoid retailer-specific “apps” for mobile devices. – Millenials only actively use an average of ten apps regularly, and store-specific apps won’t be one of them. Save marketing dollars for a more effective advertising tool.
Mall Experience:
  1. Serve groups of shoppers. – Millennials shop in groups and consider the opinions of others more than other generations. Retailers should provide roomier store lay-outs and appealing places for companions to lounge, charge their phones, and offer advice to the shopper.
  2. Make way for men. – Male Millennials spend twice as much on apparel per year than men of previous generations, and this difference is consistent among all ethnic groups, incomes, and household types.
  3. Employ fashionable, knowledgeable sales assistants. – Millennials value sales associates who are trendy, wear store merchandise, and are able to offer fashion advice significantly more than their non-Millennial counterparts (45% of Millennials vs. 22% of non-Millennials).
  4. Integrate online and in-store shopping experiences. – Millennials will comparison shop, check prices, and research products while in the mall, so retailers should accept this and accommodate Millennials’ desire to incorporate their online habits with their retail shopping. Some retailers may even want to incorporate easy processes for picking up or returning online purchases or arranging at-home delivery.
Brand Loyalty:
  1. Articulate an authentic higher purpose. – Millennials want to know an organization’s mission, and they want do business with companies who believe what they believe. They would rather purchase a product (even at a higher price) if they know their dollar is doing something meaningful. Some recent advertising campaigns by Always – “Like a Girl” and Nike – “Lace Up, Save Lives” highlight brands communicating their beliefs.
  2. Interactive Marketing. – Brands must interact with consumers and allow them to be a part of the marketing with opportunities for user reviews or letting consumers vote on advertisements by providing an “unlike” button. Also, Millennials will “crowd-source” – tap into the collective intelligence of the public or one’s peer group – before making a purchase, so retailers should be prepared for that and monitor their online presence.
  3. Don’t slow Millennials down. - Provide loyalty rewards without a sign-in and offer easy promotional code entry. If it takes too long to buy a product, Millennials will abort before making a purchase.

Members of the Millennial generation are entering their peak earning and spending years, and retailers have an opportunity now to shape the shopping experience of Millennials to capture their share of the market.

Related topics: Retail, Retail Sales