How to reach out to millennials: Straight talk from one
Surveys don’t tell the whole story.
Millennials. Those narcissistic, lazy, entitled…wait, stop. Hold the smartphone.
You know, for a generation that is supposedly so self-absorbed, I get the feeling that older generations talk about us more than we do ourselves, and then contradict each other in their complaints about us.
With the amount of data floating around out there about us, you’d think we were another species being monitored for any slight fluctuation in behavior. “Millennials are materialistic — no wait — they don’t have any money. They’re selfish — oh, look, there they go caring about social justice and their friends. They like kale; let’s sell them more kale!”
But not all of it’s bad, and some of it, I’ll admit, rings true. Check out Five Strategies for Reaching Millennials from The Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
According to the article, millennials spend about $600 billion a year, which I’m guessing consists mostly of college tuition, smartphone plans, and Jimmy John’s delivery.
At 21 years old, I’m at or near the cutoff of the millennial age bracket. Still attending college, I’ll be starting my senior year at Illinois State University, and departing from my summer editorial internship at Candy Industry Magazine, in August. (Insert sad face emoticon.)
After realizing how much millennials are taken seriously (and studied) as a target audience in the candy industry alone, I had to have my say.
The five strategies the article lists are below, paired with thoughts from me, your resident, real-life millennial.
Take a multichannel approach
The article wisely notes that a combination of digital marketing and marketplace strategies are needed to engage a generation of shoppers that have varied and nonlinear paths when making purchases. They shop everywhere and all the time.
What this actually means: We randomly decide things are cool, Snapchat it to our friends, then get distracted by something else. We’re shopping everywhere because life is too short to commit to any one store for more than three consecutive shopping trips.
Improve the mobile experience
According to the article, 96 percent of millennials stated in a survey that they consider their phones the most important product in their daily lives, while another study found that they are on their phones about 15 hours a week on average. Therefore, a responsive, mobile-friendly web design is necessary to reach them.
What this actually means: We sleep with our smartphones cuddled up next to us, and we will probably just go somewhere else if your website doesn’t have a good mobile version.
Focus on price
Millennials are money-conscious, the article points out, with one study showing that a third of them purchase only items they deem necessary. Free services and promotions will catch their attention.
What this actually means: We don’t actually have any money, but when we do, we buy food. Give us free food.
According to the article, social media is becoming a popular channel for consumers to interact with one another about purchases. A ChannelAdvisor 2015 Online Retail Survey found that the top reason retailers are using social media is to increase brand awareness. Getting your brand involved in social media is necessary to succeed.
What this actually means: If you don’t have a Facebook page, a Buzzfeed presence, and/or an Instagram account, we might forget about you. But seriously, we like to see our favorite brands on the web and we will “like” your Facebook pages and comment on your Buzzfeed articles and “heart” your Instagram photos!
Increase brand recognition
Keep your reputation intact, because millennials do their research. If incentivized, millennials can be great brand ambassadors for you, according to the article.
What this actually means: If we learn that a company has unethical business practices, in moments we will have looked it up, shared it with our friends, and vowed to not shop there again. But if we know that your company is committed to sustainability, ethical sourcing, or whatever issue is important to us, we will love you forever and go out of our way to buy your products.
If it seems like some of these traits contradict each other, well, they kind of do. Because guess what? All generations, not just millennials, are more complicated than any survey can pin down.
Millennials are as spontaneous as we are predictable, as dedicated as we are distracted, as thrifty as we are indulgent.
So, examine the survey results, chart the best course, and maybe get on Snapchat. But know that in the end, the best way to understand a millennial is to talk to one. You may find we’re not such a strange species after all.