Has there ever been a more controversial generation than millennials?
Open-minded, civic-minded, and resourceful? Or entitled, narcissistic, and lazy? Who are these people born between 1981 and 1996?
Well, it depends on who you’re asking.
Love them or disdain them, millennials are impossible to ignore–especially if you’re a digital marketer. Millennials are today’s largest living adult generation in the US, comprising more than one-third of all US labor force participants, according to Pew Research Center. They are also more likely to use the Internet and own a smartphone than other generations:
Recent surveys have shown millennials spend roughly the same or slightly less than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers on online shopping. But as they continue to enter the workforce and adopt new lifestyle priorities, millennial’s online shopping activity is expected to surge and even far surpass the levels of older generations (KPMG).
Millennials have become–or are on the verge of becoming–the world’s most powerful generation of consumers. So it’s only natural that your marketing plan must include a dedicated strategy to attract these Gen Y consumers.
But where to start?
Here are 4 tips on how to approach this increasingly influential group and optimize for millennial marketing.
Tip #1 – Forget Traditional Marketing and Start Creating Experiences
Millennials have acquired a reputation for valuing experiences over products, and research appears to support this. A survey conducted by Harris Poll in the US in 2014 found that 78% of millennials would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying a product. These figures are driven partly by social media, where 60% of millennials acknowledged sharing their experiences, compared to roughly 30% among older generations.
Another factor is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) on what friends are experiencing–an emotion around 7 in 10 millennials reported having felt. Experiences in this context refer to things like parties, concerts, festivals, performing arts, and sports–in other words, things that would look good on a person’s Instagram feed.
A form of millennial marketing known variously as engagement marketing (or participating marketing) has sprung up in response to this trend. A good early example of an experiential marketing campaign using social media was the Red Bull Stratos campaign on October 14, 2012. On that day, 8 million viewers tuned in to Red Bull’s live YouTube broadcast of skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s 24-mile jump from the stratosphere:
Tip #2 – Spend Less Money on Brand Awareness and Focus on High Intent
Millennials have been spoilt for choice compared to older generations. As a result, they are less likely to stay loyal to brands. A Velocify study found millennials were 45% more likely than baby boomers to find their mortgage lender online while boomers were 87% more likely to stick with their current bank or lender. A 2017 InsuranceQuotes.com survey found that young millennials (the cohort born in the 90s) were the age group most likely to switch car insurance providers on a regular basis, with 42% saying they shop around at least once a year for a better rate.
We’ve recently looked at Google searches for auto insurance. The top 5 search terms for non-branded searches, such as “best car insurance” and “cheap auto insurance”, had more than 3.5 times the volume of the top 5 searches for Progressive Corp., the most searched car insurance provider in the US.
But how we, as marketers, can ride this trend?
Non-branded search terms signal that users are ready to purchase. The user knows they need the product or service but they haven’t yet decided which company to purchase from.
That’s low-hanging fruits all around you.
You can engage high-intent users—millennial and non-millennial alike—by providing content that helps them compare and understand their options.
Here’s a nice example for you:
We found that lenders that clearly display rates on their website are likelier to convert users than lenders that don’t. High-intent users want to compare. So the more details you give them, the better your chances to convert them.
Tip #3 – Recruit the Right Influencers, and They Will Come
Another way in which millennials are changing the game is in their rejection of traditional advertising. A 2014 McCarthy Group survey found 84% of millennials didn’t like advertising and 65% had a strong distrust for advertising.
Meanwhile, a 2018 Fullscreen survey found that 44.3% of people born between 1986 and 2000—a group comprising about two-thirds millennials and one-third Gen Zers—trust influencers more than brands. Interestingly, respondents were more likely to buy something recommended by a digital trailblazer (30.6%) than by a celebrity (20.4%). Fullscreen defined celebrities as people with 20 million-plus followers who became famous offline. Trailblazers are people with 1 million-plus followers who became famous online.
What all this tells us is that the days of the celebrity endorsement may be dying. These days, brands can do better by recruiting influencers that have built trust and rapport with their audience.
Tip #4 – Create Micro-Moments to Dominate Mobile Traffic
In a previous blog post, I talked about how Google began rolling out mobile-first indexing after observing that the number of mobile searches had exceeded desktop searches. Today Google uses mobile-first indexing for more than half the pages shown in search results globally. In the near future, all pages will be ranked by their mobile version–whether they are mobile-optimized or not.
Not surprisingly, millennials have adapted to smartphones quicker than older generations. According to the Pew study I mentioned earlier, 92% of millennials own smartphones, compared with 85% of Gen Xers, 67% of Baby Boomers, and 30% of the Silent Generation (people born up until the end of World II in 1945).
This brings us to something Google calls micro-moments: intent-rich moments when a person turns to a device to act on a need–to know, do, go, or buy. The idea is to be present at each of the 4 stages, inching the user closer to a purchase providing a relevant digital experience across all screens and channels.
Conclusion: Millennial Influence Will Grow. Will Your Business Grow with It?
The youngest millennials are still only 23 years old and just graduating from college and moving into the workforce. Over the next few years, millennial consumer power will only grow as most of the Baby Boomers head toward retirement and the Gen Xers move into their 50s. They will become by far the most dominant group among American adults.
If you want to stay successful, no matter the industry you work in, you must target them correctly. Spend some time understanding this generation, implement these 4 tips in your strategy, spend less time on traditional ads, and start focusing on user intent.
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