The golden rule of marketing is to know your audience. To date, no generation has been as exposed and as researched as Millennials. Luckily for you, as currently they make up 25% of the U.S. population, and their spending power sums up to approximately $600 billion a year, which makes them the most influential consumer group and marketers’ prime target.

Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials are the first digital natives, who grew up in the era of infinite choice yet worst economy; which, in turn, has imposed a certain mark on their purchasing habits and patterns.

Millennials are often being generalized and perceived as financially dependent teens, self-centered gadget-addicts with an attention span lower than of a goldfish, but in fact they are no uniform group, as they form a huge and diverse generation with a significant age-range (from 17 to 37), marching into absolutely different stages of adulthood and approaching them in less than traditional ways. Millennials face harsh economic realities, with milestones of adulthood not being as affordable as before. But it’s not that they don’t spend anymore – due to circumstances they just start spending selectively; they don’t lack loyalty like some would say, yet due to the shift of values you may need to reconsider the ways to gain it.

There are lots of obstacles that make marketing to Millennials tough; still, the generation has its common traits to use as hints, so in this post let’s dive into who Millennials are, and what they expect you to be.

1. They Are Educated and Cost-Conscious

Millennials are known to be the most educated generation ever. Education is now being treated as an investment into future and as an expensive yet necessary consumer good; respectively, student loan payments are taking up a growing share of postgraduate Millennials’ income. According to LinkedIn survey, 61% of Millennials have student loans, and the average value of the debt is $20-25K, which forces Millennials to postpone buying a home, getting married and having a family. In addition, first time ever most part of post-graduates from 18 to 34 tend to live with parents. Millennials might want to, but don’t really have too much to spend.

Keeping that in mind, you can melt a cost-conscious Millennial heart with all kinds of small treats: they happily participate in giveaways (which can increase your brand’s exposure with the power of reposts and retweets), fall for deals, use the reward apps and validate their special ‘get the 5th latte for free’ cards (such kinds of deals also encourage them to return). The research shows that 56% will even switch brand for coupons.

2. They Expect Great Customer Experience

Apart from being selective in spending, they expect the buying experience to be flawless, and you to be helpful and attentive.

When it comes to how technology performs, they expect convenient integration between all digital platforms and your accessibility on all social media networks; when it comes to your brand – it’s important that it has a human face. This stands for everything: from content being meaningful, funny and relevant to who they are, to thoughtful and supersonic support from your side. To provide that you’ll have to get to know them, and to monitor their feedback carefully. Good news is – they are defining themselves in social networks and happily share their outlook and feedback online.

To be on top of what they say about your brand, what they like and what they lack – you might need a helping hand: luckily, social media listening tools like Awario, Mention, and Brand24 are getting pretty popular now – using one can help you stay in touch with Millennials, monitor and react to what they say, and engage with them, without it getting overwhelmingly messy. Just do your best to make any aspect of buying easy, ensure that you’re at hand in case of any issue, and be personal.

3. They Research and Value Transparency

The other reason why it’s crucial to master social media listening – is that the Millennials tend to extensively research the products online before buying. Having a tone of options to choose from, they rely on all kinds of reviews and ratings (influencers’ and user-contributed), friends’ advice, and overall buzz around retailers. Surveys back up the fact that user-contributed content matters ‘from somewhat to a lot’ to 84% of Millennial consumers while making purchasing decisions, so you really should keep it neat: if there’s a complaint – be the first one to react, if there’s nice feedback or a reasonable request – never ignore that either. Think of ways to encourage your customers to leave reviews, make it as easy as possible for them, and don’t forget to embrace what you get – your brand’s reputation can be your most valuable asset.

To gain Millennials’ trust you should also do your best at being honest and transparent, especially if you promise a lot. To increase the transparency and to share the excitement of doing your thing with your consumers – you can use trendy live video streaming to invite them behind the curtains of your business, or you can provide the insights any other way: create how-it’s-made videos, arrange virtual tours to your facility, office space or a supplier’s farm, share your corporate culture or internal events – these are all proven ways to help a user feel related to the brand and trust it more.

4. They Need You to Ease Their Everyday Life

With all those sorts of challenges on the way to stepping full-force into the adulthood, Millennials seem to have enough on their plate; to get some rest they expect the products and services to make their life easy and no-fuss in any possible way. The best you can do is to help them solve everyday quests and offer something truly efficient and convenient. There are lots of various brands to take example of: Proctor & Gamble with the commercial for Tide Pods showing off the innovative technologies used and focusing on product’s ‘no-time-and-effort’ qualities, Pizza Hut providing visible promise time even before you order, or Uber app showing a real-time car map for your convenience. Even if you can offer a monthly subscription for razor blades, but show innovative approach to pricing and top it up with hilarious commercials – that may work (it did for Dollar Shave Club).

5. They Are Socially Conscious and Care About Self-Image

Millennials do show empathy and care about things. Driven by personal life outlook more than by any specific ‘norms‘, they value kindness, acceptance and open-mindedness, and are not so brand-obsessed anymore. 37% of them surveyed by MillennialMarketing confirmed that they would prefer spending to support a cause they believe in (even if paying more), and nearly 50% said they would be willing to purchase from a company supporting a good cause.

To reach Millennials for real real, you’ll have to speak to their values, be it ethical buying, charity or just accepting themselves and others. Such campaigns resonate well among Millennials, as this also makes them feel that your brand helps them convey the desired image of themselves. Great example is Dove’s ‘Beauty Confidence Mission’ that took roots from a survey showing that only 2% of women claimed themselves to be beautiful.

You can make a serious statement, like Airbnb with campaigns appealing to acceptance or supporting refugees.

You can put it in a more playful manner, like Uber’s collaboration with shelters for #UberKITTENS, that offered on-demand kitten delivery for a 15-minute snuggle (with most kittens eligible for adoption).

But the point is – if your brand stands for more than just products, it will be more worth supporting.

6. They Are Willing to Belong and Prefer to Be the First-Hand Experiencers

For Millennials, happiness isn’t about possessing anymore: according to the survey conducted by Harris, 55% of Millennials say they’re spending more on events and live experiences than ever before. Same survey shows that 78% of them value it over ownership and would rather spend money on a desirable experience/event than on a material thing. Apart from that, Millennials show positive and open-minded outlook on life with an emphasis on exploration, self-discovery and self-improvement. Airbnb nailed it by embracing Millennials’ crave for adventure and making the ability to ‘belong anywhere’ their main message. Nike nailed it by creating a motivated community and by selling the experience of improving yourself on top of just sportswear.

You can do, too – by thinking of an experience aligning with your brand, be it a community behind your product, a sponsored music fest, an outdoor event, an in-shop presentation, or a marathon for charity.

7. They Are Keen on Self-Expression

Expressing your identity is in your nature; however, Millennials are the first generation that has a complete set of tools to do that – they make tattoos and color their hair, they express opinions online, wear the clothes of brands that reflect their lifestyle and buy products that align with their principles. So it’s worth thinking of how your brand can reflect their self-image and correspond to their outlook on life.

Apart from spending on experiences and being in a community, 40% of Millennials claimed that they want to participate in co-creation of products and brands, as they feel they have more control though direct involvement. You can think of a way you can let your consumers feel involved: you can personalize a product from your side, like Coca-Cola did by swapping their logo with names to give a global product a bit of a personal touch; or, you can let your consumers customize their experience with you from their end – take example of Lego setting up a Mosaic Maker booth to let people make own portraits out of Lego.

8. They Are No Fans of Commitment and Averse to Making Big Decisions

In the modern era, when the moto is ‘you only live once‘, and when ‘norm‘ is a rather vague concept – it’s no surprise Millennials are averse to commitment, knowing there are many alternative options of how the adulthood may look like.

This pretty much explains the growing popularity of so-called ‘sharing economy’ allowing to rent a home, a car, a special-occasion suit or even a song through Apple Music. And it’s not only that renting is cheaper than buying: firstly, possessing a thing that you only need occasionally or once – is nowhere near as efficient; secondly, it goes well with the temptation to try as much as possible before settling. While accessing, you are also exempted from maintenance responsibilities.

To keep pace with the new mindset you should think of a sharing potential of your product or service, offer flexible pricing and short-term commitment options. Or, you can go the other way around and think of a collaboration like realtor.com did: teamed up with Airbnb for the #trybeforeyoubuy campaign to let people book a stay in their potential neighborhood and get a feel of the local community – that’s a creative example of offering a test-drive to ease the process of making a huge decision.

Bottom Line

As you may have noticed – there is no ‘one size fits all‘ with Millennials, and almost no point in targeting them according to any specific life stage, as they go through different ones and choose different ways. Still, you should focus more on their personal traits and lifestyles, cause if you find a matter to unite them around, detect an everyday concern you can help them get rid of, if you share their outlook on life and don’t take everything too serious – you can totally win quite a few Millennial hearts.