Millennial Consumers … 8 Ways to Target and Engage Them
And it is essential to know who those customers are, isn’t it? Businesses that put a priority on understanding their customers and improving consumer targeting know most of them. And they are trying to figure out the questions behind the millennial generation. What motivates them, and what drives their attitudes and behaviors. In this blog, we will share some of the insights to help target and engage millennial consumers.
Your best customers are worth far more than your average customers.
Mostly emerged from the shadows of Gen Xers, a majority of millennials are now in the workforce. But study after study has shown that Millennials are different from Gen Xers and even from Baby Boomers, the generation that raised them.
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As millennials enter adulthood, it is critical for marketers and researchers to have a deep understanding of this generation since they represent a growing segment of the market (more details to follow). When engaging millennials in marketing or to gain consumer insight, here’s what you need to know:
Who are the millennials?
While millennials are widely talked about in the media, a universal definition of who belongs to this generation doesn’t exist. Depending on the expert you’re talking to, it could mean anyone born from 1982 to 2004, or from 1980 to 1995. Most experts agree that millennials encompass those born from the early ’80s to the early 2000s.
Millennial shopping behavior … basic facts about millennials
Millennials are largest, most diverse US
Millennials now represent the largest generation in the United States, comprising roughly one-third of the total population in 2013. What’s more, the largest Millennial one-year age cohort is now only 23. This means that the Millennial generation will continue to be a sizable part of the population for several decades.
Millennial consumers … millennials shaped by technology
The past few decades have witnessed astounding advances in technology and computing. Since personal computers were introduced to schools in the late 1970s, technology companies have innovated at startling speed, often rolling out a groundbreaking new platform or computer model every year. Because much of this period of innovation coincided with Millennials’ childhoods, it has shaped the ways that Millennials interact with technology and seems to have affected their expectations for creativity and innovation in their work lives.
Millennials are more connected to technology than previous generations and a quarter of Millennials believe that their relationship to technology is what makes their generation unique.4
Millennials value community, family, and creativity
Millennials are not just virtually connected via social networks; they value the role that they play in their communities. For instance, high school seniors today are more likely than previous generations to state that making a contribution to society is very important to them and that they want to be leaders in their communities. This community-mindedness also includes a strong connection to family. Millennials have close relationships with their parents, and as high school students, roughly half say that it is important to them to live close to their friends and family, compared with 29 percent of Baby Boomers and 40 percent of Generation Xers.13
Millennials have invested in the human capital more than previous generations.
More Millennials have a college degree than any other generation of young adults. In 2013, 47 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds received a postsecondary degree (associates, bachelor’s, or graduate degree) and an additional 18 percent had completed some postsecondary education. Also, because the rate of young workers with some postsecondary education but no degree has been flat while the share with a degree has risen, more students are completing the degrees they start after high school.
Millennials tend to get married later than previous generations.
Since 1950, the median age of which both men and women have married has steadily increased. In 1950, men first married at age 22.8 and women at age 20.3; by 2013 the median marriage age increased by more than six years for both genders, reaching 29.0 and 26.6 for men and women respectively. As more young adults delay marriage, the fraction of young adults who are currently married has fallen. Millennials have continued on this path and are marrying later, with more of them remaining unmarried in their 20s. In 2013, only 30 percent of 20 to 34 year-olds were married, compared to 77 percent in 1960.51
Millennials less likely to be homeowners than young people in previous generations
Entering adulthood during the Great Recession and recovery has affected not only millennials’ schooling and employment decisions but also their housing and household formation patterns. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the share of 18 to 34 year-olds living with their parents increased from 28 percent in 2007 to 31 percent in 2014. Correspondingly, the pace of household formation is low and the “headship rate” among millennials – the rate at which millennials head their households – has fallen. With fewer millennials as independent renters or homeowners, the demand for housing and the pace of residential investment is likely lower than the level implied by more typical rates of household formation and headship.
Key millennial characteristics
Research suggests that the millennial lifestyle is mostly about multitasking, accelerated communication, constant connection, and immediate gratification. It is noteworthy that it is a lifestyle that typically contradicts traditional marketing and research methods.
Many younger millennials are screenagers, multi-tasking consumers who utilize multiple screens and multiple devices at the same time.
This is a generation that grew up with the Internet. Many of them don’t even remember what it’s like not to be connected to the web. This generation is used to checking online before buying something. And now with the ubiquity of mobile, millennials expect a seamless online experience regardless of the device they’re using.
Short attention span
Several studies have shown that one of the defining characteristics of Millennials is their short attention spans. This trait is apparent in the dominant communication tools that millennials use: text messages, Twitter, and BBM all encourage concise messages.
Millenial consumer trends … like collaboration
Another consequence of growing up with the Internet is that millennials prefer democratic, collaborative processes. Millennials love being part of a team: they want to participate, and they want their views to be heard.
Very diverse group
It’s dangerous to look at millennials as one cohort. While they belong to one generation, millennials fall on a wide spectrum of tastes, behaviors and income levels.
Not as brand-conscious
Some studies are challenging the stereotype that Millennials are brand- and trend-conscious consumers. Barkley, a Kansas City-based advertising and marketing agency, found that older Millennials, in particular, suffer less from gadget and brand name envy, usually taking a more pragmatic approach to their purchases.
Techniques for engaging millennials
As a big generation of consumers, the millennial market represents billions of dollars for brands every year. But marketing to this media-savvy generation requires an approach that marketers have traditionally not embraced – an approach that’s more about authenticity and transparency, and less about the interception.
Here are some best practices when engaging Millennials:
Capitalize on social media
Millennials are heavy social media users, spending large portions of their time managing their profiles, communicating with friends and family and keeping up with those on their social media networks. If you already have active Facebook and Twitter pages, use these networks as a starting point to tell people about your insight community.
When in Rome … utilize their lifestyle.
Having a mobile responsive platform isn’t optional anymore if you want millennials to stick around. Keep your surveys short and sweet: if people can’t finish it within four bus stops or while waiting in line for their latte, your survey is probably too long. Millennials look to fill idle points in their days, always wanting to optimize their time. Your survey and other engagement activities, if programmed right, can help millennials fill this time.
Do activities that are fun, visual, and social.
Millennials use technology and social media to express themselves and connect with other people. They use Pinterest boards full of wedding aspirations to express the hope of the perfect wedding, viral memes that seem to embody complex emotions in one image, and Instagram photos that communicate what they’re doing and who they’re with. They are already adept at communicating in 140 characters or less; they can even condense their communication down to a couple of emoticons.
Millennial consumers … create experiences
Painfully, more companies are discovering that millennials don’t want to buy stuff. Or more accurately, they are buying stuff for reasons that are different from previous generations: they buy things they can tell others about; they buy things because of what those purchases say about them.
This shift explains why millennials spend more money on experiences and less on things like cars. Instead of the traditional advertising route, some brands now shift their marketing dollars to events where millennial consumers can experience the brand. In 2011, Chipotle launched Cultivate, a food and music festival that attracted more than 17,000 people in its first year. The event featured live music and chefs from around the country while incorporating educational elements that let attendees see how food is raised and grown. Chipotle’s unconventional marketing approach, which also includes creating content that takes on industrial farming, continues to play a huge role in attracting millennials.
Support causes that are important to them
Millennials expect companies to take a transparent, authentic, organic and sustainable approach, according to Coca-Cola.
Coke believes it can be a voice that advocates for positive change and healthy progress. This helps explain why Coca-Cola has taken on a leadership role in more social issues, including the dialogue on obesity.
Just like Coca-Cola, brands need to figure out the social issues that millennials care about – and take a leadership approach in helping address these issues.
Provide variety and customization
For many brands, offering a wide range of customizable products is key to attracting millennials. From packaging to the actual product or service, brands are offering things that are tailored to the millennial consumer.
Many millennials consider themselves adventurous, and this is encouraging some quick-serve restaurants to introduce unconventional items in their menu. According to QSR Insights, restaurants such as Chipotle and Smashburger have added craft beers to their menus in some markets to appeal to the millennials. Similarly, McDonald’s introduced McWrap after millennial customers told the company that they expect more variety, more choices, and more customization.
Encourage engagement with each other
While there have been many studies about millennials – some of them seemingly contradictory – one insight that has been consistent is that teens have the need to share a part of their lives online with friends, family, and the general public. Millennials, studies suggest, have the need to connect with each other – both digitally and in person.
One company doing this is Starbucks. Campaigns like Tweet-a-Coffee and the Starbucks app allow millennials to use social media to share coffee and connect with each other. The environment in the company’s many locations also encourages face-to-face interaction as the family-style seating, cozy couches, and high-top tables all incite a community feel. Starbucks’ efforts paid off: the company ranks highly among millennials regarding brand equity, according to Goldman Sachs.
Since some of the millennials are still in their teens, their attitudes and behaviors today are still subject to many changes. Looking at their social media usage, for instance, millennials have moved from MySpace to Facebook to more niche websites – all within ten years. As Millennials grow older, and as their lifestyles change, it will be crucial for marketers to continue to talk to these consumers using insight communities and other engagement tools.
Have you added this target segment to your business strategy yet? What are you waiting for?
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So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is completely up to you. But believe in the effectiveness of collaborative innovation. And put it to good use in adapting to changes in your business environment.
It’s up to you to keep improving your learning and experience with innovation and creativity efforts. Lessons are all around you. In this case, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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