One Customer Segment You Must Target Assiduously Is The Millennials. They Will Lead You Towards Growth
Marketing your knowledge products to millennials can be both challenging and exciting. We are talking of the buzzing generation of those born between the years of 1982 and 2004, who are the most prolific online buyers of all kinds of products online.
When this generation was born and growing up, the Internet was already there – and so this is the first generation of “pure digital natives” we have on this earth. They are also often referred to as the “me generation,” “Gen Y” or the “selfie generation”.
It can also help you grow your Knowledge Commerce business with this generation of customers, if you target them and follow their path towards the future. Millennials have a voracious appetite for information and learning. They also have an unerring instinct for the right trends and technologies to follow. They are among the early adopters of anything worthwhile on the Internet.
Millennials are also believed to be the most influential generation to date, with buying power of at least $200 billion at their disposal.
1. Surprising Truths About Millennials And What They Really Value
Millennials have been sometimes labeled wrongly as lazy, temperamental, and lacking loyalty and satisfaction at work. This is absolutely not the way to judge them if we want to appeal to their extraordinary intelligence and passions for life. What they actually want is a full life, with lots of variety, and they move on fast if they fail to get the specific satisfaction they crave.
As content marketers we need to beware of being condescending or holding “holier than thou” views of millennials. It’s time to debunk the myths that surround them. They are such a huge force online now, that they demand their rights to a more realistic perception of their likes and dislikes, their driving motivations and their online behaviors.
a. What Millennials Don’t Like At All
Millennials don’t trust advertising – they trust online sources and social media friends instead
Let’s begin with some hard facts: as many as 84% of millennials just don’t trust traditional advertising. Closest friends online are ranked as the most trustworthy source. A mind-addling 91% of millennials buy things purely based on recommendations from friends. 35% of millennials cite websites as among their preferred sources of information before making any purchase.
In an interesting study by the McCarthy Group, nearly half (47%) of millennials said the Internet was the one thing they could not think of living without.
Another interesting bit of information for marketers: while scrolling through their Facebook News Feeds, for instance, millennials prefer scrolling right past the sponsored content and ads and don’t read these at all, let alone click on them. However, if they see a friend using a new gadget or trying a new restaurant, and they come across an ad for that, they’re more likely to stop scrolling to find out more. Behavior online is totally conditioned by “peer influence”.
Content marketers who are looking to buy Facebook ads need to think twice. They may need to co-opt “millennials-as-influencers” who will get seen by the rest as trying out new brands, so that follower-millennials will stop their Facebook streams to read the related ads, and not scroll past with disdain.
Millennials hate being referred to as a stereotype called “millennials”
Marketers make a huge mistake by referring to millennials en bloc, even when writing content for them. This grates on the ears of the millennials. They are highly individualistic and thinking young people with strong opinions and evolving knowledge. And they are open to reason and logic, and like to be respected as people with brains. The last thing you should do is to start your blog post, with a line like “Hey, millennials, I’ve got something here for you.” You get them angry as hell right then and there.
Margot Smythe, a millennial I once interviewed for a persona sketch, had a word or two of advice for marketers like me.
Do you all like being referred to as “marketers”? See how many different types there are, and we millennials are like that too. Just because it’s easy for you to see us as one brainless bloc, doesn’t mean you have the liberty to lump us all into the “low-responsibility, high energy” category.
There are many introverts among us, and I have just completed an article on “Why Psychological Straight-Jackets Suck”. I couldn’t have written those 2500 words on that topic if I wasn’t a data-driven, contemplative, and analytical person. I like having fun too, but please don’t hold my energy and my capacity to enjoy life against me. And don’t think all my friends are exactly like me either.
Forget the word millennials and try calling us people, and you marketers will all be OK, the whole lot of you”.
Ouch! Phew! After I heard that diatribe, I would never have the guts to call a millennial a millennial, to his or her face (even if we, the marketing lot, think of them as such for the sake of our own shorthand).
b. What Millennials Really Like A Lot
Millennials love the brands that give them 4 things – entertainment, attention, connection and experiences
Millennials want a far more holistic experience from companies – beyond just good products and services. This becomes evident from several leading studies. A study from Casual Living found that a brand’s ability to make a millennial smile is 33% more important than it is to an older generation. Bringing smiles to millennial faces seems like the new content marketing goals we all need to include!
Another study from Bazaarvoice says millennials want brands to allow them to make their own voice heard. Nearly 60% feel that companies should offer more ways for them to share their opinions online. Content marketers have to get used to this idea, without fearing brickbats along with the bouquets.
More interestingly, millennials seem to see “shopping” as a social activity – part of the joy of shopping with friends is spending time in their company, browsing together, agreeing with, or vetoing mutual choices, having fun. Added to this, nearly 78% of millennials say they would prefer to spend money on “experiences” than just goods.
As a content marketer you have to be careful how exciting you make the shopping experience. For example, can you make collaborative shopping online possible, can you foster “chats-with-friends-while-shopping” as a standard way to buy …it takes a bit of different thinking to get away from tactics like price discounts and up-sells and cross-sells, to start designing “experiences into ecommerce”.
Millennials are conscious of health and the environment – and they love brands supporting worthy causes
Among the products that millennials seem to spend more money on are good health, fitness, healthy foods, environmental solutions, and eco-conscious products. This is on one side. It confirms the perception of millennials as a “responsible generation”.
On the other hand, simply giving a great value proposition or offering a unique product won’t do. You need something extra. And that extra must most likely be “support for a compelling social cause”. Millennials feel very strongly about supporting causes with the money they spend.
Providing them with an additional “social cause incentive” there is a chance that millennials will love your brand and begin to see it as an extension of the good in themselves. Cause marketing is a very beautiful way to get millennials to buy for a good reason, and feel bonded to your brand as you give them a platform for this.
c. What Millennials Do When They Shop Online
Millennials hate splurging money wastefully, despite having such immense buying power
Okay, here’s a bit of a shocker. You would tend to think that a generation with so much love for good living, and the endless itch to buy, is actually never savings conscious. But millennials are so savings-oriented, it would surprise you.
Why is this so? Perhaps it’s because millennials are earning 20% less than their parents did at this age in their lives. The average salary of someone between 25-34 years old is about $40,000 less than what their parent earned at their comparable age. Millennials also own less property, and they’re mostly renting a home. They hire cabs rather than buy cars.
At the same time, since the Internet is rife with choices of products that satisfy their taste for novelty, innovation, fun, entertainment, and living the good life, they have to make less become more. They’ve learned to develop the ability to stretch money into a fine art.
One of the ways they make money go a long way is to save a lot more than their parents did. They save so much, in fact, that one in six millennials have already saved $100,000. by the age of 28 years. All in all, even as they like to spend a lot, they don’t spend recklessly. They are conscious of buying “value”.
As a content marketer, you’d do well to appeal to this instinct of millennials to be “value-responsible”, even as they buy a lot. Show them both the short term and long term value of the things you sell, so they see the full value they are getting with the purchase. Don’t use buying-baits. Use buying arguments that are sound. They are young people but with wise heads.
Millennials read lots of blogs before they buy … they educate themselves and are not impulse-shoppers
With access to such truckloads of information online, millennials research and self-educate voraciously. 23% of millennials say they like to research before they buy something. 80% of millennials research via use their smartphones, while 68.9% go on to read and digest a lot of product reviews. 33% of millennials say they prefer to read detailed blog posts before they buy (reading long form content is not what we would associate with them, but we’re wrong.)
On the whole, millennials are definitely not impulse-shoppers. They like to research and read, to feel empowered before buying. They like to get information from many different sources. And in the end, what tilts the balance is peer-validation on the social media.
A small brand I am associated with tried a small experiment to validate this millennial purchase behavior. When they added a system by which friends could comment on the wish lists of millennials who wanted to buy things, the percentage of sales went up by nearly 34%. Allowing them to put their buying choices into a wish list, and then getting all their friends to give a thumbs up to their choices, made such a huge difference.
2. Millennials’ Psychology, And Their Fascination With User-Generated Content And Instagram
Lots of experts write about millennials and their psychology. These days we also have to mention the fascination that millennials have developed for user-generated content and Instagram. If there was a social channel just made for millennials, it would have to be Instagram. And on Instagram, it’s not what the brands put out, it’s what other users put out that gets the millennials gushing.
If you need to know what makes millennials tick, read on and you’ll find the reasons below.
a. The Psychology Of Successfully Marketing To Millennials – An Infographic
One of the best infographics I came across, is this one below from University of Southern California, on how to market successfully to millennials, using a deep psychological understanding of them.
Every pixel of this infographic is truly insightful, don’t you think?
Infographic courtesy: University of Southern California
b. The Connection Between Millennials And User-Generated Content
We must thank Lexy Wright for her excellent article “The 50 User Generated Content Stats You Need to Know” where she has compiled some eye-popping statistics on the way millennials are attracted to, and strongly influenced by, user-generated content (UGC) of friends and peers online … rather than by brand-created content. Just look at these numbers!
- 59% of millennials claim that they use UGC to inform their purchase decisions about major electronics. That’s followed by cars (54%), major appliances (53%), mobile phones (46%), hotels (45%), and travel plans (40%).
- 65% of social media users from ages 18–24 evaluate information that is shared on social networks when making a purchasing decision.
- Millennials (ages 25 and above) are the biggest content drivers — contributing over 70% of all UGC.
- 84% of millennials report that UGC on company websites has influence on what they buy.
- 68% of millennials say that user-generated content is generally a good indicator of the quality of a brand or service.
- 86% of Millennials say that UGC is a positive indicator of a brand quality.
- 71% of Millennials engage user-generated content daily.
- Millennials find UGC to be 35% more memorable than content that came from mainstream sources.
- 64% of millennials say companies should offer more ways to share their opinions online.
- User-generated content is 20% more influential to millennials in their choice of purchases than any other media.
- 74% of Millennials said that UGC inspired a purchase decision when booking travel – over professional photos.
- 83% of Millennials said that UGC inspired a purchase decision when buying electronics – over professional photos.
- Millennials use 2 to 3 devices at least once a day to consume UGC.
- 98% of millennials are more likely to engage with a friend’s post over a brand post.
- 64% of Millennials recommend a product or service on social media at least once a month.
- Millennials spend 18 hours per day with media, and 30% of that time is spent looking at user-generated media.
c. Why Millennials Survive And Thrive On Instagram
Iconoqsquare report that Facebook apparently commissioned a survey of people aged between 13 to 24 years old that live in these 7 countries – Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, France, and the United States – to see where people leaving Facebook were going. They discovered that teens and young adults were quitting Facebook, to go on Instagram (which Facebook now owns).
There are more revelations in the Iconosquare study.
- 73% out of the 300 million active Instagram users worldwide are between 15 and 35 years old.
- 69% of millennials check Instagram at home, 39% while going to sleep whereas 33% of them when they wake up i.e. they are on Instagram the whole day.
- 48% of millennials follow a brand on Instagram because they find content interesting or funny, 62% of them follow a brand because they love the brand, and 54% to discover new things.
- 65% of millennial users say they feel honored if a brand liked one of their posts in return.
I personally think there could two other psychological reasons for the love between millennials and Instagram.
- One, visuals speak faster than words. Visuals also express a brand’s values without words. The speed of content consumption that a visual channel like Instagram allows could be one important reason.
- Two, there is a community feeling that is better experienced on Instagram than any other social channel. It’s a beautiful world and the people who gravitate towards it are bonded by their taste for exquisite beauty of images, the love of aesthetic innovations, and the selfie-filled pages that express how people live – or like to be seen living. Instagram is both authentic and aspirational at the same time.
3. Three Ways To Do Effective Marketing To The Dynamic Millennials
Millennials are a zippy energetic generation – extremely savvy with technology and devices, but with short attention spans and fleeting interests. When they like what you have to say, they really go for it. When they dislike what you have to say, you will surely hear about it. They don’t seem to leave much for marketers to wonder about, because they tend to upfront and forthright.
One thing to remember when marketing to millennials with your content is that you have to follow them, because they follow their bliss. Here are 3 ways you can nail your content marketing to millennials, by being where they are, and giving them what they are looking for.
a. You Absolutely Have To Get Your Mobile Content Marketing Right
The millennial generation aren’t a TV-addicted group. Instead, they get almost all of their information on their smartphones, tablets and any other new wearable devices. Millennials and their mobiles are, in fact, inseparable.
Since about 85% of U.S. millennials own smartphones (and it’s much more in the Asian countries) it goes without saying that you have to improve your mobile marketing strategy to target this generation.
Some ways to do this are: ensure your blog posts and pages are mobile-optimized; don’t let over-heavy graphics bog down mobile content; create clear calls-to-action that are touch-friendly; use gaming if you can, as a tactic for creating interactivity; and remember that millennials love phone apps.
b. Millennials Can Smell Fakeness From A Distance – Be 100% Authentic
Millennials will steer past you if you’re not 100% authentic. They are believed to spend about 25 hours per week on the Internet, and they don’t hang around idly – they consume vast amounts of content in the time spent online. They are constantly browsing social media, blogs, and websites because “knowing things” makes them feel tremendously “empowered”.
Similarly, the ability to speak out is also “empowering”, which is why they love commenting on information, forwarding bits of information with their two-bits added, and handing out feedback and opinion, at the drop of a hat, when allowed. Get two of them together arguing with a third one, and soon you have a special interest group or community of 15-20 millennials forming around this nucleus.
To appeal with content to the millennials, therefore, you have to be very interactive yourself, and not a mere spectator content marketer. You need to speak their language – and most of all you need to be transparent and authentic. If you try masquerading on the forums as a participant, while surreptitiously trying to drive self-promotion, you will be discovered and shunned.
Since millennials depend so much on public opinion as their sources of genuine and reliable information, authenticity is the basic minimum they expect to be able to get from you in return for some trust in you. And their trust is really hard-won.
c. Make Sure Your Site’s Ecommerce Is Protected Against Cyber Hacks And Attacks
Groups like the millennials, who spend an awful lot of money, purchasing all manner of products online, tend to take cyber-security for granted – and if they come across glaring technological safety glitches, or compromising practices in online commerce, it makes them go crazy mad.
Many a seriously good brand has suffered a reputation-shredding online, after a seemingly small informational confidentiality setback.
I cannot emphasize this point enough. You get only one chance with the millennials to make a good first impression. And blaming technology is never accepted as an excuse by this digital generation, that believes you should have had a BUFU (that’s “backup for the f**kup).
In Summary …
- Millennials are the buzzing generation of those born between the years of 1982 and 2004, who are the most prolific online buyers of all kinds of products online.
- Millennials have a voracious appetite for information and learning. They also have an unerring instinct for the right trends and technologies to follow. They are among the early adopters of anything worthwhile on the Internet.
- If we target the millennials, without feeling intimidated by their scale and energy levels, they will show us the way to grow with them.
- Millennials don’t trust advertising – they trust online sources and social media friends instead. They hate being referred to as a stereotype called “millennials”. They love the brands that give them entertainment, attention, connection and experiences.
- They hate splurging money wastefully, despite having such immense buying power. They educate themselves and are not impulse-shoppers. They are fascinated by user-generated content and Instagram.
- To do a great marketing job with millennials, you absolutely have to be on mobiles and smartphones, be authentic to the core, and make your site and ecommerce privacy and safety paramount. Blaming technology is never accepted as an excuse by this digital generation.