They’re like exotic birds, the Millennials. We study their habits, and try to figure out how they communicate with each other, and what they like to do, eat and buy. As marketers, we’re obsessed with them—this generation of young people who quite possibly have never used a phone with a cord attached to it, and who may have no idea what life was like before the internet.
The truth is, we have to study them. They’re a force to be reckoned with at 87 million strong in the U.S. To put that into perspective for you, there are 76 million baby boomers. I know—hard to imagine.
So, Who Are They, Really?
Unlike other generations, there is no definitive start or end date for the millennials, however the generally accepted definition of a millennial is someone who was born between 1982 and 2004 (give or take). So, basically, people who are in the roughly 11-33 year age bracket today.
Millennials, also called Gen Y, are different than any other generation to date. They’re elusive and hard to reach through traditional marketing channels, because they’re suspicious of marketing tactics. They can smell a marketing pitch from a mile away and they’ll tune it out completely.
Millennials grew up on social media, and they rely on the opinions of their peers and the input of others when they’re making a decision. One of the benefits of this is that they are also willing to share and promote the things they like on social media—in fact, a study by Edelman determined that 90% of millennials will share their brand preferences online. However, in exchange, they expect to be able to communicate with companies, to be heard and acknowledged, and to be able to participate in product development and the brand experience. They also love reward programs. 60% of millennials are willing to switch brands if it means getting more benefits.
Millennials are deeply interested in social responsibility, and lean toward companies that support the issues they care about. Over 85% of millennials correlate their purchasing decisions (and their willingness to recommend a brand to others) to the responsible efforts a company is making (SquareSpace). Millennials appreciate and search out authenticity in a brand, which leads to their trust and loyalty as a customer.
Not surprisingly, millennials are tech-savvy, too. They have their cell phones with them 24/7 and use them to shop, compare and evaluate their options. In fact, 65% of millennials have abandoned an in-store purchase due to information found on their smartphone while shopping (eMarketer). On the flip side, in study after study, millennials have shown a strong preference for printed materials. In a digital world, to millennials, print is personal and special and is free of distraction. They like to receive print and move on to investigate further through the use of technology.
The challenge, of course, is to take all of these data points and preferences and turn them into powerful strategies that can lead to sales within this demographic. I’m addressing this topic in 2015 through printForum and the printForum conference in June. The theme this year is “Marketing to Millennials,” so, watch for more blog postings and promotions as we continue the conversation and build up to the conference. I hope to see you there.