Marketing to Millennials: How to Reach and Convert Gen Y

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Full disclosure: I fall squarely into the millennial demographic, so I’m hardly an impartial judge on this subject. But I’ve also got a lot of experience with this generation, since I’ve worked hard to market to them, and also know what it’s like to be marketed to as one of them. There are a lot of brands doing it right, and a lot of brands that completely miss the mark.

First off, we don’t like to be called the “selfie generation,” and we’re not ignoring your content because we can’t stop watching Grumpy Cat videos. We are using our devices but are not glued to them, thank you very much. We are smart, careful consumers who look for deals, and we know that our friends and family give better advice than celebrity-stuffed TV ads. We’re 27% of the US population, so even if you think your market isn’t millennials, you can’t afford to ignore us (unless you’re AARP, I guess). The stats on this demographic are in, and they say a lot – not only about how we should be marketing, but also about how we should be facilitating their needs in the sales funnel and purchasing process.

Word of Mouth Matters

Hubspot recently released a great infographic about how the millennial consumer shops, lives and interacts, and it really highlights one of the central characteristics of this generation: their reliance on word of mouth when it comes to purchasing decisions.

marketing to millennials

You almost can’t overstate the importance of reviews and referrals for millennial buyers. Almost 70% couldn’t care less about celebrity endorsements, because they’d rather read reviews and talk to friends and family. 93% of millennials (including me!) read reviews before buying; for me it’s because I know I can find out more about the real quality of a product from reviews than from that dazzling, buzz-wordy product description at the top of the page.

How to Help Millennials Shop Your Stuff

So what does this emphasis on WOM mean for businesses that want to bring in millennial customers? My takeaways from this come down to three things:

1.  Make reviews a big feature of your product or service pages, and encourage or even incentivize review-writing for your current customers when they buy.

2.  Make sure that reviews are easily viewed on mobile devices – millennials prefer to browse that way, but they won’t stick around if they can’t access reviews on your mobile site.

3.  Proactively include testimonials and reviews in your marketing content and social media activity, and make it easy for customers to share and review your products or brand on social media. Almost 60% of millennials will make product recommendations when they have a very good, or very bad, experience.

Sale-Savvy Browsing and Shopping

Millennials came of age during the Great Recession, and believe me, it hasn’t been easy for us! But it has made smart shoppers of my generation; we are technology natives who know how to find a deal online, and care more about price than brand loyalty for the most part.

According to CMSWire, 55% of millennials will switch brands for sales, and 63% will purchase brands that aren’t favorites if they’re on sale. You can include me in those numbers as well – online shopping makes it easy to compare prices across brands, and even marketplaces like Amazon, so as shoppers we have more information than ever before about value.

marketing to millennials

Millennials are also at the forefront of tech-shopping trends like showrooming to get the best prices (2 out of 3 millennials use mobile apps while shopping in-store), and reverse-showrooming to research the best options before buying in person (71% of millennials).

How to Sell to Sale-Hunters

Three steps that can help you draw in millennials looking for sales or savings:

1.  Make sure you promote your sales where millennials are – on social media like Facebook (almost 90%), Twitter (nearly 60%) and even Instagram (34%). (Stats courtesy of AdWeek.)

2.  Don’t just write an update about a sale on your Facebook Page – create a sharable image or video that grabs more attention in the feed, and ranks higher in Facebook’s content algorithm.

3.  Know your price is better than the competitor’s? Say so. Are your products comparable to a fancy brand name but much less expensive? Market that fact.

Coupons, Vouchers & Social Shopping

After shopping online for a few years, I have pretty set habits. A crucial step before I decide to buy? Browsing around for coupons or voucher codes that will knock the price down a little. I learned this behavior because it works, and many millennials have too; in fact, 60% of millennials follow brands on social media to get deals and coupons.

marketing to millennials

I check the brand’s Facebook Page and Twitter feed to see if they’re sharing any discount codes, and failing that I sign up for the mailing list. That first welcome email usually comes with a 10% off code, or free shipping code, or something similar. Sites like RetailMeNot and Groupon offer discounts on popular brands, and millennials know where to look. In total, deals account for 31% of millennials’ shopping dollars.

How to Tempt Millennials with Vouchers

If you’re not already capitalizing on the millennial weakness for coupons, here’s how to start:

1.  Give them the content they want through your social channels: coupons. It’s a great way to reward users for connecting with you socially, and they’ll take note.

2.  Make it clear that there’s a discount incentive for connecting with you on social media, or signing up for the mailing list. Have a homepage header declaring 10% off when you join the mailing list, or offer voucher codes for the next 20 Twitter followers.

3.  Consider offering your products or services through Groupon or similar social buying platforms, to reach new audiences and tempt deal-hunting millennials.

Millennials have high expectations for your marketing, whether it’s email, social, or more traditional means. They’ve learned to love customized, targeted marketing that meets their needs, and they want content that speaks to their concerns, like cost and personal recommendations. If you want to bring this blockbuster demographic into your customer base, you’ll have to meet them on their ground, and check all the right boxes first.

Want to learn more about targeting millennials in your marketing for maximum effect? Check out this OMI class: Targeting Millennials on Social & Mobile.

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