More than 80 million millennials, people born between the early 1980s and 2000, currently live in the United States alone. And according to Accenture, these 30-somethings, 20-somethings and teens are spending some $600 billion annually. So how can your ecommerce business capture some of that billion-dollar millennial spend? And what is the best way to reach, or target, this highly social, highly mobile, digital generation?
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1. Personalize the shopping experience. “Millennials like brands who get to know them and give them an opportunity to be part of the experience,” says Tink Taylor, founder of dotMailer. “Listening and engaging in a two-way dialogue is very important among these consumers. [And] finding ways to … engage [millennials] in a personalized way can come in many forms, from [greeting returning customers by name] to [offering] live chat to [personalized] email. The key is to build interactions that capture their attention in a human way.”
“Millennials demand personalized experiences,” says Tony Bartel, COO, GameStop. And brands can (and should) use customer data to personalize, and improve, the customer experience.
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“Data from GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards loyalty program helps personalize the shopping experience down to the individual to understand millennials’ interests and how they prefer to engage,” he says. For example, information the company gathered from its loyalty program “showed that 80 percent of GameStop customers visit a physical store to purchase a product seen online.” So GameStop developed ‘pick-up at store’ and ‘Web-in-store’ programs, “which allow customers to purchase products online while in the store and determine when they can pick up their purchase at the store.”
2. Incorporate and promote user-generated content (UGC). “Given millennials’ penchant for posting their opinions publicly, consumer-generated content is increasingly a factor in their decision-making process – [with] 54 percent of shoppers between the ages of 25-34 cit[ing] consumer-generated content as having some influence on their in-store purchase,” says Sara Spivey, CMO, Bazaarvoice. “Add to that the fact that millennials spend nearly five hours per day with consumer-generated content (CGC), [and] there is an incredible opportunity for brands to get in front of this audience. Those who embrace CGC increase the potential to convert millennial consumers.”
“User-generated content is like a magnet to [millennials],” agrees Dimitrios Kourtesis, CEO at Goodvidio. “They trust UGC more than mainstream media because it looks more authentic. To cater to their taste, place UGC at the heart of your offsite and onsite marketing,” he says. “Collaborate with Instagram influencers to create interest for your site. Then when they land on your pages, use UGC, such as… reviews, to continue the storytelling about your products. Millennials appreciate the sincerity.”
3. Create and share videos. “Create videos that will move your followers,” says Allison McGuire, marketing director, PaperMart.com. “I don’t mean move them to tears (although that can be good too), but make them smile or inspire a reaction that makes them want to share. Focusing on short, engaging videos has certainly become the norm for millennials with Snapchat and Vimeo leading the way.”
Millennials “relate to authentic product videos that tell stories of how other shoppers used products in real life,” says Kourtesis. “Millennials are 1.5 times more likely to watch videos while shopping online before they decide if a product is a good buy. [And] about a third buys products directly as a result of watching product videos.”
Millennials “are also more interested in consumer-made how-to, unboxing and haul videos than overly stylized brand videos,” he explains. So “be proactive and add this content to your product detail pages to inspire purchases and make the experience more realistic. We [have seen a] 37 percent increase in conversions on ecommerce sites that feature product videos.”
4. Leverage social media. “Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, this is where millennials are spending their time,” says Mike Satterfield, creative director, Satterfield Group. So it’s important to “creat[e] relevant content in those spaces, [content that provides] value to [that] audience…with subtle calls to action.”
“Millennials are the first ‘digital-first’ generation, so when they are looking for opinions and information about products to buy, they are three times more likely than boomers to turn to social channels like Facebook and Twitter,” adds Spivey.
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And while it’s important to not turn your social pages into static ads for your products or services, using them more as interactive ways to engage with followers, don’t discount social media advertising.
“With one of our clients, we’ve seen great success by marketing to millennials through Facebook and Instagram advertising,” says Brian Stumbaugh, digital marketing manager, The Startup Garage. “These are particularly successful [channels] because we can segment different target groups by age and interests, which allows us to create ads specifically for them on the platforms they use most frequently.”
Also, when crafting your social media campaigns, “take the time to design lifestyle photos specifically for your social channels,” says McGuire. “Millennials won’t relate to static product pictures or repurposed website photos. They want something that is more creative and engaging.
“Incorporate popular, trendy products into your images,” she suggests. “For example, mason jars are really hot right now. At Paper Mart, we frequently incorporate them into [our] photography, creating a modern look for each theme or season,” she explains. “Focusing on lifestyle, seasonal and event based themes has really brought out more engagement from our millennial followers.”
5. Utilize influencers. “Tapping influencers – or social media users with a large following and expertise on a certain topic – is a great way for brands to market to millennials,” says Brendan Lattrell, founder & CEO, Grapevine. “This is especially effective considering that 70 percent of this demographic values endorsements from influencers that they consider peers vs. celebrities, according to a recent Collective Bias report. Fortunately for brands, there are plenty of social influencer marketing platforms and social listening tools available to help hone in on the right influencer for a particular campaign.”
6. Embrace text messaging. “Got text? Some of the top retail brands (Express, for example) do, and it’s driving revenue through the roof,” says Danica Jones, marketing manager at ConsumerAffairs.com. “Texting is the highest rated contact method for CSAT [customer satisfaction], scoring 90 out of 100 points (Phone 77, Facebook 66). [And] a loyalty program delivering offers with a strong CTA [call to action] in a format millennials love gives your business a better chance of being heard and having customers act on your outreach, all with a lower cost point.”
7. Don’t forget about email. “Despite conflicting reports that email is dying, especially among younger generations, the truth is that millennials aren’t ditching email,” says Marie Homne, senior marketing strategist at Yesmail. “Email is a simple and effective technique to reach millennials because they can easily view it on their smartphones.”
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“Despite the rise of social media, email is still the best way to connect with millennials,” says Dan Buckstaff, vice president of Marketing, Jetlore. However, “with 68 percent of email opens now done on a mobile device, it’s critical to provide fresh and relevant emails that capitalize on mobile’s limited real estate.”
8. Finally, be sure to reward millennial customers for their loyalty. Everyone likes a reward, especially millennials. And, “according to a recent survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Ambassador, 95 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds say they would like some sort of incentive for sharing a product via social media or email,” says Jeff Epstein, founder & CEO, Ambassador, a developer of referral software. So “get creative and reward repeat purchases or referrals with cash, credit, loyalty points, early access or swag.”