Engaging A Generation Of Visual Buyers

We’ve heard a lot from the media about millennials being a generation of narcissistic, lazy and entitled people. But considering there are 75 million millennials in the U.S. alone, I believe it’s unfair to lump them together so readily.

These consumers’ lifestyles vary so drastically that it’s nearly impossible to produce far-reaching marketing content. In the fall of 2014, Exponential Interactive released the results of a study they conducted with 4 million young adults. Those who were surveyed self-identified with 12 different sub-groups of millennials – from the “Brogrammer” to the “Millennial Mom.” This substantiates that millennials do not see themselves as a homogenous group.

Marketers shouldn’t see them as such either. 

A more comprehensive depiction of this group is that they are avid users of digital devices. Some 85% own smartphones, a reality that has shifted how millennials are influenced by content and by one another.



The ubiquity of digital devices has made it easier than ever to consume loads of content, and that’s exactly what millennials are doing. It comes at a cost, though. The wealth of articles, photos, videos, social media posts and blogs is contributing to everyone’s minimized attention spans. According to a study conducted by Microsoft in 2015, the average attention span is 8 seconds, down from 12 in 2000.

This calls for an easier way to consume even more content. With over 2.6 billion images shared daily, visual content is what seems to be making waves. Indeed, platforms dominated by images are seeing the most growth. Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram were the three fastest-growing networks in 2014, according to data from GlobalWebIndex. Images are certainly the new “language” of the millennial consumer.

Capitalizing on the Growth of Images

Though a one-size-fits-all marketing approach isn’t likely to perform well with this demographic (or any demo as smart marketers already know), there are specific strategies marketers can adopt to capitalize on the growth of this vast image consumption. Here are my top three I’d recommend for your consideration: 

1. Make it easier to for consumers to take action on your images.

Millennials spend more money online in a given year than any other age group, according to Business Insider. On average, these consumers spend some $2,000 on ecommerce per year. The takeaway for marketers is to make it as seamless as possible for them to shop for the products they love on platforms they frequent. On Instagram, for example, many brands have turned their Instagram feeds into shop-able galleries, and in turn, they are driving qualified traffic and revenue to their websites. One online retailer found that mobile visitors referred from Instagram averaged 19% more page views than the brand’s average mobile user, while another saw Instagram become a top revenue driver.

2. Harness user-generated content.

Gen Y consumers can be just as effective as the world’s top marketers when it comes to influencing other shoppers. Some 68% of millennial social media users in the U.S. reported in a 2014 Webby Awards survey that they are at least somewhat likely to make a purchase based on a friend’s social post. User-generated content is tremendous. The consumers of today love celebrating new purchases and experiences on image platforms. Marketers should use that to their advantage. 

Fan images can be harnessed to drive engagement on social sites, ecommerce pages, emails and other channels. The use of fan images has earned one luxury retailer a20% click-through rate online and an 11% increase in time-on-site. It pays off. 

3. Tap influencers.

A survey conducted by Variety in 2014 found that YouTube stars are more influential with U.S. teens than are mainstream celebrities. Though millennials are slightly older, the idea isn’t far off base. Brands are already benefitting from tapping the self-made Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube influencers. An online beauty retailer, for example, sees more than 16,000 image submissions per month from fans. The inclusion of these photos on the brand website have contributed tonearly a four-fold lift in on-site engagement.

Turning Pictures Into Points of Purchase

To the visual consumers of today, images go beyond aspiration and celebration. Photos are becoming the point of purchase. Always-on shoppers expect every image they encounter to be actionable in some way. Brands who don’t take note will miss out on valuable relationships with this crucial demographic.

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