These days, it’s almost impossible to read anything in the media without coming across some mention of millennials, the generation of Americans born between 1980 and roughly 2000 or so, also sometimes referred to as Generation Y. It’s not really surprising, when you consider their numbers: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that they’re already the most populous generation, making up a staggering one-third of the U.S. population. Even more significant perhaps for business purposes are the numbers on their part in the economy. According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, millennials account for $1.3 trillion in direct spending. Yes, that’s trillion with a “tr”. And of that, $430 billion is non-essential, or discretionary spending.
So even those of us who are part of another generation need to stop and reconsider. We can’t just view this generation as a mass of selfie-taking hipsters. They’re definitely a significant demographic in the economy now, one that marketers can’t afford to ignore. Still, they tend to do things differently from their counterparts in older generations. If we overlook those differences, we’ll be missing the mark, and missing a ton of potential business.. Let’s consider what this means to us in the context of marketing to millennials.
First off, millennials are immersed in technology, in a way unlike people of earlier generations. While it’s true that almost Generation X-ers and many Baby Boomers are computer literate and internet-savvy, there’s a big difference when we talk about millennials. They’re the first generation that, for the most part, can’t remember a time when the internet, and the wealth of information found there, was not readily available at their fingertips. Hence, it’s where they live, chat, meet people, learn, and most importantly for us - shop. They can be legitimately called “digital natives”. You’ll need to have a strong online presence when you’re marketing to millennials. If you think they’re going to find you through a yellow pages ad or other print media, you’re wasting your time and marketing dollars.
Let’s take that a step further. It’s not just technology, but mobile tech that’s most important here. Late in 2014, a study by Nielsen revealed that 85% of millennials own smartphones. For this generation, even more than the desktop or laptop, it’s become their primary source of information and communication. You’ll need a web presence to reach them, but more specifically, if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, they’re likely to move on to a competitor whose site works well on their phone or tablet.
Millennials don’t make their purchasing decisions in isolation, either. They shop online, read online reviews before they make a purchase, and then share their experiences. In other words, if they have a good buying experience, they’re likely to post about it on social networks. A few well-placed, likes, +1’s and retweets will go a long way toward giving you added credibility with this demographic. Overwhelmingly, millennials consider their friends to be the most reliable source of information about products they purchase.
And while we’re on the subject of social networks, if you don’t have a presence there already, it’s time to establish it. And make sure you’re an active participant. Millennials not only want to see current, fresh content in place of stale, static print ads, but they expect you to interact with them online. Don’t just give them viral content. Be prepared to have a dialog about it.
With an estimated population of 79 million, it’s crucial to understand how to market to millennials. You’ll need to take the time and make the effort to understand how this generation thinks and does business to achieve the brand recognition and success you’re looking for.