Millennials: From Punchline to Powerful Consumers

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Author Bio

Greg Zakowicz is a senior commerce marketing analyst at Oracle + Bronto. With more than 10 years of experience in email, mobile and social media marketing, Zakowicz knows the retail industry and its challenges, staying on top of the latest trends by leveraging deep insight into the marketing spectrum. His subject matter expertise stems from his experience in providing commerce marketers — including numerous Internet Retailer Top 1000 clients — with in-depth analysis of their marketing programs, recommendations for improvement, best practice support and implementation guidance and execution.

Zakowicz is a frequent webinar speaker and presenter at ecommerce events, such as Fashion Digital New York, SIA Snow Show and ROI Revolution Summit. He has been published by top retail and marketing publications, including Power Retail and Inside Retail, and is a regular contributor to Bronto’s Commerce Marketing blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @WhatsGregDoing.

By now, you’ve heard the term “millennial” a million times over – and with good reason. They represent 25% of the US population and hold $1.3 trillion in spending power, which has turned them into quite a powerful consumer group.

Millennials have mostly been given the credit, for better or worse, for redefining consumer expectations. These expectations now go well beyond millennials, prompting retailers to change how they engage and market to consumers of all ages.

So, what do millennial consumers want? What do they care about? And how can retailers adapt?

It all starts with the smartphone. Thanks to the access these devices grant, millennials are consuming a lot of content. They read – and value – things like product reviews. They digest what’s happening on social media, both from brands and their peers. They watch videos. And yes, they communicate with their friends and family.

While content consumption is one thing, how brands drive action from them is another.

Building Millennial Loyalty

There is a notion that millennials are not loyal to brands, but this isn’t quite accurate. In fact, millennials are loyal to brands who clearly communicate a meaningful purpose and core values – and stand by them. They’re also more likely to stand behind a company that make philanthropy part of its mission. They’re not going to go with a brand based on name alone, no matter how long the brand has been around.

For this generation, convenience is not only important, it’s essential. And ultimately, the consumer, not the company, defines convenience. Your brand may think four-day shipping serves their needs, but in this age of two-day, same-day, and even two-hour delivery, it may not be enough. To some consumers, four days can seem like an inconvenient eternity.

Millennial marketing expert Jeff Fromm takes it one step further and says it’s not convenience they care about, it’s hyper-convenience. As a retailer not named Amazon, you should think of ways to create customer experiences that makes people want to engage with you and talk about your brand. After all, people don’t Google or ask Siri to find them an average restaurant or an average pair of shoes. To appeal to millennials, you need both a good product and good service. Here are a few ways to think about upping the experience you offer to millennial consumers.

Employees: Think about your frontline employees. Customer service representatives and store associates can help create an exceptional consumer experience. Train them to be advocates for the company. They are, after all, the face (or voice) of the business. If they’re unhelpful or treat people poorly, don’t expect repeat customers. In today’s age, news travels fast.

Content: The strategic focus here is to give consumers the information they desire when they go to look for it. Are your in-store product counts online accurate? Do you offer product reviews or how-to videos? Can I easily reach your customer service department to ask them a question? Providing easy-to-access content helps millennials navigate their customer journey.

Inspiration: Great brands inspire people to create great content. Does your brand inspire content creation, such as Instagram posts or product reviews? I don’t mean simply sending an email asking customers to review their purchase, but actually providing inspiration for doing so? Do you make consumers want to share with you on social media? Look at your messaging strategy – does it feel authentic or forced?

Email Marketing: Are your emails relevant and timely? Consumers, especially millennials, will quickly tune out generic batch-and-blast emails. Think of opportunities to send more targeted email, such as browse recovery messaging, or adding product recommendations and user-generated content to your messages. In fact, according to one of our recent studies, 60% of US millennials fully expect stores to provide recommendations based on their past online purchases.

The customer journey today is more fragmented than ever before, especially for digitally-native shoppers. Consumers today may still touch all four bases on a baseball field, but they may not do it in order. But if you can optimize your strategy and give them what they want at each stop, you’ll be a brand they remember and come back to time and time again.

For more information on marketing to millennials, check out episode 14 of the Commerce Marketer Podcast. Listen on Apple Podcasts on iTunes or Google Play.