Want to Engage With Millennials? Don’t Forget to Email ThemThere are many myths and misconceptions floating around these days about Millennials, and many of them are downright negative. They’re entitled. They have been coddled by their helicopter parents. And they are tech-obsessed to the detriment of all else in their lives…okay, maybe that one’s true!

Millennials are definitely tech-natives. Having grown up with gadgets, they are savvy about what advances in technology can bring to the table, and, some would say, are social media obsessed. But are they so engrossed with their social and mobile tools that you need to throw your marketing budget in that direction to reach them? Apparently not. According to the latest research, when it comes to brands that are targeting the younger generation, it’s good old-fashioned email that often wins the day.

Millennial Communication Preferences

Although principally aimed at unearthing financial trends amongst Millennials, the Millennial Research Study from The Principal Financial Group revealed some fascinating nuggets about their communication preferences.

Email wins out for one-to-one contact. More than four in ten respondents said that their preferred method of one-to-one contact with companies is email. This rose to almost half (47 percent) for contact with retail stores.

Email tops social media and texting. This compared to just six percent that listed social media as their favored method from retail companies, two percent text message and five percent for both phone call and online chat.

Email is relied upon when doing product research. Email also scored strongly for research on products and services at around double the rating for social media. Unsurprisingly web search rated most highly for research but was the only method to beat email.

Is it Possible Social Channels are for Socializing?

So why should this be so for the supposedly socially media savvy, connected Millennial generation who, we are told, live out their lives on social networks? Over at Marketing Land, Steve Dille contends that the clue is in the title—with “social” being the key word. He suggests (and I agree) that the social networks dominate the social interactions of the generation who emerged after the digital revolution started. Since they were old enough to create their first Facebook, Twitter, or SnapChat accounts (or perhaps even before), social media has been the go-to way to communicate with friends and family. But social isn’t the only channel this group uses.

Let’s not forget, though, that email has also been a constant in their lives. After all, however, many bells and whistles a new social platform might have, you still need an active email address in order to set-up and maintain your social accounts. Millennials are also no different than the rest of us in that they have to use their email accounts for practical purposes such as notifications, account administration, product updates, and in some cases, even for work. Most will check their emails every day, and many, it seems, prefer email over social when it comes to direct contact with the brands, businesses, and other organizations they deal with.

The Impact of Mobile on Email

One big factor in the enduring appeal and use of email among Millennials is mobile. The latest figures from Pew Research show that by the end of 2014, 85 percent of the 18—29-year-old age group owned a smartphone; this compares to just 27 percent of over 65s. Mobile friendly apps and email provider upgrades are making it easier than ever to access email messages on mobile and tablets.

This is reflected in the rapidly increasing proportion of email opens on mobile devices, compared to desktops. The latest U.S. Consumer Device Report from Movable Ink suggests that more than half of all emails opened in the first quarter of 2015 were viewed via smartphones.

Email Opens by Device

With nearly another 17 percent being accessed on tablets, desktop opens fell to less than a third of the total. The rate of increase is illustrated by the comparative figures for Q3 2014, which show smartphones at 48.51 percent, tablets at 17.47 percent, and desktop at just over 34 percent. As with everything else in life and business these days, the pendulum appears to be swinging firmly towards mobile, the preferred habitat of the Millennial (and a whole lot of the rest of us as well).

How to Think About Email and the Millennial Audience

So despite any preconceived judgments we might make (or read) about Millennials, it appears they still welcome, open and read emails, a fact marketers need to take note of. When you think about it, what better way is there to directly and personally reach and engage with this valuable target audience, using the same authentic, personalized voice brands strive to attain on the more “hit and miss” social platforms?

As with many things, though, Millennials’ expectations and demands are different when it comes to the way email content is delivered and consumed. The traditional long-form email is less likely to be successful, and marketers should also keep these key points top of mind when targeting Millennials using email campaigns.

Content is still king. Content is (as ever) key as Forward Push Media’s Marc Apple explained to TNW News, “Content by far is what a Millennial is looking for when a business reaches out to them via email. It’s just not any content, it must be relevant and relatable content.”

Video is effective and easily consumed. The message should be in an easily consumed format and, when possible, integrate video into your campaigns. This cohort is a big fan of video that’s quick and easy to consume.

Keep content clear and concise for mobile viewing. As we’ve seen, messages are increasingly likely to be viewed on a mobile device, and the content in your emails needs to reflect that. Your message should be visually appealing and work in a mobile format, and the content must be crafted in such a way that it’s clear the value it delivers. Lastly, don’t waltz around, get to the point quickly and succinctly. As an aside, I’m pretty sure this advice rings true across all demographic audiences.

Make sharing easy. To ensure your message reaches the widest possible audience, makes sure it is easily sharable. Joshua Lingenfelter, director of marketing for Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University, told TNW News why this factor is especially vital for Millennials, “Older generations tend to click on ‘view as a webpage’ and review the entire email in their Web browser and then forward directly to friends. Millennials tend to review the email quickly on their phone, find the info they are excited about and then share on Facebook.”

As with so many aspects of digital marketing, the Millennial generation is demanding a new approach from the brands and advertisers vying for their attention. Email clearly still has a big role to play but not in its own silo, set apart from other campaigns. It needs to be integrated as deeply as possible across other channels as part of the continuing drive to deliver a more personalized and customer-focused approach.

Do you still see email as an effective marketing tool across all generations? Are you a Millennial that hates email? Are you a marketer who tries to segment your audience generationally and test email messaging accordingly? I’d love to hear about it if you’re doing that. Are you doing anything exciting with email that we’d like to hear about, c’mon, let’s hear it.

photo credit: 3 Emails your Business Should be Sending to your Subscribers via photopin (license)

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