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The New Face of Marketing to Millennials: What Retailers Need to Know

Posted, by Deborah Merkin
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Millennials are like marketing unicorns: tough to catch but oh-so-worthwhile when you do. Merchants are struggling with how to harness this power and use it to market to millennials, since the younger generation has tremendous spending power and is the largest growing segment of the American workforce.

So how can retailers reach millennials? Traditional marketing tactics don’t work. They don’t shop or participate in commerce the way baby boomers did - mainly due to personal tech advances. They spend differently than any previous generation - they came of age during the Great Recession and are careful with their money. With these points in mind, how can merchants reach them in an effective manner through marketing? We have a few ideas:

Word of Mouth Tactics

word-of-mouth-marketing-to-millennials.jpgMillennials want to spend their money with organizations that come from their trusted advisors, and with merchants who share their belief systems. 59% of millennials consult friends and/or family in a way that influences their purchasing. This is pure word-of-mouth marketing. What does this mean for merchants and their brands? Take online review sites seriously: Yelp is a great example of a site where millennials can find real user reviews on merchants and service providers with a few clicks. They are getting real word-of-mouth – and in real time.

Causes Carry Power

marketing-to-millennials-with-causes.jpgMillennials have grown up as conscious consumers. They know where their goods come from, and they are willing to divert their dollars if they don’t agree with the philosophy and deeper brand identity behind them: Clothes made on less than a workers’ living wage? Eggs that aren’t cage free? Saying no thank you carries power, and millennials know it. If they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you. From a marketing perspective, this demands an unprecedented transparency between merchant and consumer – a challenge (to get it right) and an opportunity (to win over a huge market).

Experiences Get Your Brand Noticed

marketing-millennials-experiences.jpgSo how do you create the right buying scenario? Incorporate experiences into your marketing materials: offer contests with giveaways, vacations, or unique, exclusive experiential opportunities. You could even go so far as to make your store into a shopping experience. To give you an example, I was at Nike Town in New York City last week, and as I wound through the 5 floors, I noticed that each set of equipment was organized by sport. The basketball section featured a mini-court, the soccer area had turf and a stadium motif, the running section had scenes from the New York Marathon. Nike took me through an athletic experience separated by escalator segments. It was executed perfectly - that is exactly what millennials are looking for. The secret is this: Put them in the situation they need the merchandise for - and they will find a reason to purchase it.

Social Interactions with Brands

marketing-to-millennials-with-social-media.jpgMillennials are the social generation. 90% of 18-29 year olds use some type of social media, and it’s not going away any time soon. According to a recent Infusionsoft study, today’s millennials will continue to consume social media at the breakneck pace they do today even when they turn 40. Contrast that with media consumption by today’s 40-year-olds, which is decreasing.

Currently the main barrier to social marketing for businesses is that there is no concrete ROI measurement for this type of spend. Sure, there’s referral traffic and brand awareness, but it is difficult to connect social media consumption to concrete conversions. Our advice? Use it for awareness and promotion of sales or special experiences. You have to be present on social platforms, because you have to meet the millennials in their natural habitat.

The Bottom Line

Millennials are a unique consumer, so merchants need to take unique approaches in marketing to them. In order to harness the purchasing power of the millennial, you need to become a trusted entity, provide them some sort of experiential buying option, and get social. Millennials might be the unicorn of merchandising and consumer marketing, but they are consistent and trackable. Merchants will be able to use these tools to capture their share-of-wallet.

Topics: Retailers & Merchants, Rewards & Loyalty, General Gift Card

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