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Marketing to Millennials

Drew is on the beat with the latest developments in the eCommerce world.

Slacker. Entitled. Capricious. In Debt.

What do you first think of when you hear the term "Millennial?" Depending on what you have seen or where you've heard it from, Millennials range from hard working up-and-comers to lazy couch potatoes looking for a hand out. Don't believe the headlines you see about Millennials "killing" so-and-so industry, because they just simply are not true. While Millennials may hold a record amount of debt, they also wield the largest amount of annual spending power of any generation today—a whopping 600 billion dollars in 2019 and an estimated 1.4 trillion dollars in spending power come 2020, which would represent 30% of total U.S. retail sales. Whether you love them or hate them, the fact stands that Millennials are the backbone of the retail economy, so if you are looking for ways to market to this generation, stick around and keep reading for some interesting concepts and ways to engage Millennials.

Just Who Are Millennials?

Just who are Millennials? That's a good question. The term "Millennial" is often used to describe any young person, but most Millennials have already graduated college, started families, or are a mainstay in the workforce. The generational years for Millenials differs slightly depending on who you ask. Typically, the accepted range for the Millennial generatoin is from 1980 to 1996. Millennials, in 2020, will be 24-39 years old, and account for roughly 80 million people in the United States (that's larger than the 75 million Baby Boomers in the U.S). As you can see, most Millennials are well into their adulthood and in their prime earning years, which makes them the key target for marketing campaigns. Millennials grew up during a technology explosion and have been around since the Walkman was playing portable cassette tapes for people on the go, rotary phones were still being used, and the internet was in its infancy. Ah, nostalgia. Since growing up in that climate of fast paced technology changes, Millennials have become accustomed to adapting to new technology when it is released. However, Millennials are not as digitally-based as one might think. 61% of Millennials are still inclined to shop and purchase in brick-and-mortar stores as opposed to online.

Online. Amazon. Shopping.

While Millennials may not be the most digitally dominated generation living today (that title goes to Gen Z), they are still quick to adapt to technological change and embrace it. 46% of Millennials buy products online at least once a week and 25% say that they make purchases everyday. That is quite impressive! The key to the reason Millennials are frequent online shoppers? Amazon—have you heard of it? Amazon is no doubt the biggest powerhouse of online shopping in the United States and offers a huge selection of products thanks to its platform of allowing 3rd party sellers to sell products to consumers. Amazon delivers on the Millennials' need for cross-platform access of smart phones, computers, and even voice assisted shopping. With access to new technology, Amazon hits one of the many Millennial desires with offering voice assisted shopping. Although voice assisted shopping is in its infancy, it is expected to become a more prevalent shopping method in the 2020s. With this in mind, sellers should begin to optimize their content on Amazon product pages with keywords that are used in voice search in order to stand out from competitors.

Mobile on the Move

In 2018, Google announced that mobile searches had surpassed desktop searches as the preferred mode of searching online. With this trend, by 2019, Google had geared its search platform to become a mobile first indexing system that promotes mobile first websites (websites that are optimized to fit onto smart phone screens) over traditional desktop only sites. If you go onto Google today, search results displayed to both mobile and desktop Google searches will feature mobile first websites instead of websites designed solely for desktop. If you have not optimized your website to be either a responsive layout (website layout that optimizes content to be shown on either desktop or mobile phone) or a mobile first layout, I would highly recommend doing so. You are only hurting your business's chances of being found online by not optimizing for phones. While 49% of Millennials still prefer to do their product purchasing on a desktop, 42% prefer mobile shopping because of ease of access with their mobile phone and the mobile shoppers should not be overlooked. I needed to take a good look into whether the website I help maintain is appropriate for display on desktop as well as on mobile. It was no short task. Most website platforms for businesses like BigCommerce or Shopify already offer mobile-first websites that you can customize with your own color scheme, logos, and images. You do not need to know how to code HTML or CSS if you go this route of utilizing a website provider to serve your website for you. However, coding is not a task to take lightly. A complete redesign can take months if you are working on your own or can get very expensive if you hire someone professional to do it for you.

Are Millennials Brand Loyal?

Contrary to popular belief, Millennials are extremely loyal customers when provided with excellent customer service (duh), given great consistent deals/prices (duh), and are valued as a customer (duh). A brand that can offer these points to a Millennial shopper will have a better chance at having that person be a repeat customer (even if they are just a seller on Amazon!). We'll take the eCommerce giant Amazon as an example again. Amazon offers Prime to all customers for a yearly fee. Prime enables multiple perks to the customer, included free 2-Day shipping (sometimes 1 day), access to Amazon Prime's streaming service, eBooks, and more. With all of those perks, it is no wonder why 65% of Millennials are current Prime members. If you sell on Amazon, I recommend you enroll in the Amazon Prime program for sellers in order to get your products into the Prime pool. If you do not sell on Amazon, you should consider getting into the Amazon game and find ways to create customer loyalty like offering a discount code to buyers on their next purchase or free shipping on certain products, or in store specials on certain days.

Deals, Dates, and Discounts

Even though Millennials wielded 600 billion dollars of spending power in 2019, they are still smart and savvy shoppers who are looking for the best deals online as well as in store. It makes sense, since Millennials are settled with an ungodly amount of credit card, auto loan, and student loan debt. Online Millennial shoppers typically begin their shopping journey on Amazon as a means of finding the "base price" of a product, seeing the shipping rates, and then continuing on with their search on other websites like Walmart, eBay, and seller websites. This process can take as little as two minutes to as long as a few days. 67% of Millennials say free or low shipping is a big factor in determining whether they purchase a product from a certain website or not. This also means that Millennials trust Amazon in giving them a good deal on a product and why they like events such as Prime Day, Black Friday (insert "Millennials are killing Thanksgiving" headline here), and Cyber Monday so much. Millennials also follow their favorite brands on social media as a means of getting deals, discounts, and promotions through their pages.


The Proof Is in the Reviews

To your business, one lone bad review on a product or service may not seem so consequential to you now, but it very well could be detrimental to that product's longevity. It is important to sell quality products and offer exceptional customer service. Remember: the old adage of "all press is good press," is not true. 51% of Millennials always read reviews of products first before making a buying decision and 35% more say they often read reviews before buying. Amazon's product reviews allows consumers to say how great a product was, how terrible the customer service was, or even to warn other buyers about how they feel about a company. Amazon reviews alone can make or break a product. If you read a string of bad reviews or an item has a 2 star rating out of 5, how likely are you to still order it? Some items have notoriously hilarious reviews that are written by consumers and just add to the sense that this product is a good buy. I remember reading reviews for a unicorn mask that were so downright hilarious that it makes the product page even better and does most of the selling work for it. Positive product/company reviews are great selling points for any buyer, not just Millennials.

On another note, you should not offer anybody payment to review your product on Amazon as it is against their policy and you could be suspended. Also, I have just recently learned from a customer representative that works at Amazon, that you should only use the automatic system to remove negative customer feedback and do not open a case directly to remove any negative customer feedback, or else you could have your account suspended. Amazon is trying to automate the negative feedback removal process. This move is unfortunately another negative hit to sellers.

Get Social With It

It is no secret that social media is an ever existing presence that businesses leverage to pull in buyers to their sites and products. This is where even more candid reviews of a business or product can be found. Amazon's review system is good, but cannot compete to the level of someone showcasing an entire product review on their account with videos, pictures, and text. Some businesses offer higher profile people payment or free product in return for a product review of it. For example, a YouTube Channel called Ryan's Toy Review shows product advertising "play videos" in return for some monetary sum. Young children between the ages of 2-8 are particularly interested in this play style video and watch them on YouTube.

Facebook groups or a Facebook business page is a good starting point to getting your brand out into the social media world. From there, you can continue onto Twitter, Instagram, and even TikTok. It is important to answer questions within a timely manner on your social media accounts. Conversation with someone before or after they buy is crucial to your success and public relations. Think of this interaction as crisis management. You can potentially stop a negative review from happen by being kind and courteous to a harsh customer.

Future Business Growth

Millennials have disrupted the traditional shopping methods that Gen X and Baby Boomers have consistently used. It is important for you to develop your business both online and off in order to satisfy Millennial needs and wants when it comes to shopping. Having a brand story worth telling, deals and discounts, an online presence are important in delivering a shopping experience to Millennials. By meeting these expectations, you'll be setting the groundwork for Millennial loyalty as well as for another upcoming digitally inclined generation, Gen Z, but that is another article for another day. Stay wary of changes in the digital world so that you do not fall behind on internet updates and appease your customer base with the latest and greatest technology and convenience possible.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Drew Overholt


Dominique Cantin-Meaney from Montreal, Canada on December 21, 2019:

Great article! Lots of great points, which I feel have a lot of truths behind them. Thanks for sharing!

Kevin Rhodes from Connecticut, USA on December 20, 2019:

Great Hub! You are so on point and you offer great statistics! As a newly arrived baby-boomer who works in the digital marketing space, I come in contact with many Millennials. I love the fact that this generation was born into the digital age and are utilizing it to it's full advantage.