As a marketer, you’re probably very familiar with the buzzword ‘millennials.’ Otherwise known as Generation Y, they encompass anyone born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. As the largest population to date they’re often lumped into one generation cohort, but it’s important for marketers and businesses to recognize that there is never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution for reaching this audience. Millennials are individuals possessing their own unique values, interests, personalities, experiences, behaviors, and, well, the list goes on and on.

Yet there’s one commonality within this diverse generation. They’ve grown up in a technology-driven world and, as such, have extremely high expectations of technology. The user experience needs to be interactive, highly efficient, and provide instant results. And what technology provides this for millennials more than the smartphone? It’s become their device of choice.

Over the years, mobile phones have become an extension of ourselves. They’ve grown more portable and conducive to our lifestyles. While most generations have adopted mobile technology, millennials epitomize the digitally connected consumer. According to eMarketer 95.1% have a mobile phone, and of this percentage 88.6% have a smartphone.

Here are 6 reasons why smartphones have become the millennial device of choice.

It’s a Portable TV

Imagine your morning commute to work involves a 30-minute bus ride. How are you going to pass the time? If you’re under 25 then you’ve probably streamed a video on your smartphone. In fact, Netflix is streamed an average of 18 minutes a day while YouTube receives 14 minutes. Even at home, there is a growing inclination to watch movies and TV shows on mobile devices other than the TV.

Netflix has taken notice of the streaming popularity and is working to protect their members from data overage charges. They’re introducing a data saver feature that will give members the option to choose their video quality. Right now, members can stream more lower quality videos with a smaller data plan or they can stream higher quality videos with a bigger data plan. Here’s a company concerned about protecting their members, but they understand their technology still has limitations that won’t satisfy millennials. Therefore, they are working to develop new technologies that will meet each users streaming preferences. Eventually, members will be able to choose the quality level and type of videos they want to stream.

Marketers should take notice of this streaming popularity amongst millennials. Videos are a powerful way to capture their attention and drive engagement. Try creating a video ad on Facebook or even dabble in live video with Periscope or Facebook’s live video feature.

It’s More than Just a Camera

First, let’s establish the level of importance millennials place on the camera. The majority would find their smartphones almost useless if their camera didn’t work. They’d even go as far as to buy a brand new phone, which speaks volumes considering the average smartphone cost is predicted to be $267 by 2018.

As a marketer, you should also understand that the camera can be used for more than taking artistic pictures or selfies for Instagram. Many banks understand that millennials are the first generation to openly embrace using their mobile phones for digital banking – and have invested in improving this experience. You can take photos of checks and instantly make a bank deposit instead of trekking to the nearest bank location.

It’s the First (and Only) Stop for Social Media

When a millennial wants to engage online, they’re more likely to reach for their smartphone than fire up their desktop. In fact, half of the users on the world’s largest social network, Facebook, are mobile-only. To put this into perspective for you, Facebook has more than 1.49 billion active users every month, 655 million of which are only on a mobile device. That’s a lot of people! Even 63% of Twitter users prefer to use their smartphones for tweeting.

When Americans go online, 60% of their time is using smartphones and tablets. While the desktop is still relevant, it’s important to note that 1 in 5 millennials only use a smartphone or tablet to go online, which will continue to grow. As users consume content more and more on a mobile device, you’ll see businesses focus more on the mobile platforms. There are already companies recognizing this trend in how consumers engage with social media. For instance, Instagram, Uber, and Snapchat essentially offer mobile-only platforms while their desktop sites offer very limited functionality.

It’s a Growing Tool in M-Commerce

The online purchasing power of millennials is staggering and it’s only going to grow as marketers learn how millennials prefer to shop on a mobile device. They’re also more likely to abandon the online shopping experience if they cannot find an immediate answer. Here are some important facts that every ecommerce marketer should keep in mind when trying to target millennials:

  • 62% of millennials use mobile phones to shop
  • 30% make online purchases on mobile devices
  • 59% use their mobile device to check prices in the store

They’ve also learned how to trick the system. Millennials know that they’ll probably receive a discount from an advertiser if they abandon their shopping cart. They found a way to use it to their advantage, but on the bright side, at least you know that they’re interested in your products and can count on you to retarget them with reminders online and remarket to them via email.

It’s Still Used as a Phone

As you move millennials in and out of the purchase funnel, remember that they want real-people connections. More searches are now conducted on mobile devices, and the mobile search marketing we see will drive over 100 billion calls to US businesses this year (and it’s not slowing down). Millennials are the generation driving this shift to mobile – and they want to talk.

Marketers need to make it easy for mobile searchers to call. You should always have a click-to-call button on your landing pages (and try testing out call extensions or call-only ads in PPC). It’s also important to invest in call attribution technology. If you can’t attribute where calls come from you could be missing out on half of your conversions and have a hard time accurately optimizing your marketing campaigns.

It’s Now a Digital Assistant

Picture yourself on the go. You’re running errands on a hot summer day and you instantly start craving an iced coffee, but you have no idea where the closest coffee shop is located. You may ask a passerby, but you’ll probably whip out your phone to search for coffee shops near you. If you’re a millennial then you’re more likely to use voice search and ask Siri or Google Answers. Especially when they’re multitasking or in a hurry. Even at home, millennials are using voice search to learn new things in the moment, such as cooking.

Since voice searches are usually more natural and conversational, it’s a great opportunity for search marketers to work on keyword optimization. It should fit this new long tail landscape. Test variations on how people would naturally explain their needs in a query.

The growing functionality and innovation of the smartphone makes it extremely valuable to not only the millennial, but also to anyone that knows how to use it. Millennials turn to it first for everything: it’s their device of choice. They’re connected all the time and it would be an ordeal if they went a day without it. And as such, we as marketers need to develop a solid understanding of how they’re engaging with it. This understanding will be valuable, especially as we craft our marketing plans to target specific audiences within this diverse pool of tech-savvy individuals. There are many things you can do to reach millennial smartphone users, such as perfecting how you implement your paid search.