This year the millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000, surpassed baby boomers as the largest living American generation in U.S. history. With a buying power of an estimated $1.4 trillion, or 30% of retail sales, according to the U.S. Census and Standard & Poor’s, they have significant leverage to influence the product and service world that surrounds them.
Although stereotyped frequently as an irrationally optimistic, self-centered and monolithic market segment, millennials are, rather, a highly-educated, technology-embracing, well-diversified set of pragmatics that demand personalized engagement. Ignore them and risk market irrelevance. So how do today’s businesses differentiate themselves in a competitive media landscape to capture millennial market share? Here are three key digital engagement strategies to build lasting, meaningful and profitable customer relationships with the millennial generation.
Build Evangelists Via Mobile. It is no secret that millennials spend a significant portion of their day on mobile internet and communication tools. In fact, CreditCards.com states over 88% use a smartphone and 52% use it for online purchases. Embracing mobile engagement must be a strategic pillar of your greater digital strategy, not just to entertain this always-on market segment but also to build a community of brand evangelists. Of any traditional marketing channel, digital has the highest audience reach-to-cost ratio for brand awareness. Converting a single, well-networked social group of millennials to become brand ambassadors can dramatically increase your brand message’s reach. Digital content can be used across mobile channels including heavy video usage with first-person perspectives, easy-to-find and easy-to-share user reviews of products or services and incentive models with no strings attached.
Be Authentic. According to a 2015 Forbes survey, a compelling advertisement builds brand trust with only 1% of millennials it reaches. Millennials genuinely interested will engage your brand and exchange personal information for relevant content. But if this trust is broken, they may never return -- and they will tell their friends. An excellent example of strong brand engagement is Harry’s, the 2013 start-up company that looked past the shaving industry’s Goliaths to embrace authenticity with transparency into their origin, supply chain, manufacturing and growth plans. With successful engagement strategies, the brand recently valued at over $350M.
The ideal platform for trust-building with millennials is social media. A recent Edelman survey found 82% of millennials would have more faith in a company if it was involved in social media. Brands like Mattel’s American Girl Doll build trust with millennials exceptionally well by embracing Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to engage in active two-way communication with their customers.
Embrace the In-Venue Experience. In-venue or in-store experiences can drive substantial millennial engagement, increase brand interest and create new opportunities for revenue generation. Digital technologies allow customers to engage and have fun with your brand. For example, prestige beauty industry leader, Sephora, uses Apple’s Beacon technology to send make-up tutorials and coupons to a shopper based on where they stand in a store. On the interactive side, Adidas created a touchscreen Virtual Footwear Wall -- a digital display that allows customers to engage through a create-your-own athletic footwear application. Early metrics demonstrate customers spend more when using this tool.
Another means of engagement is one you can’t see: Wi-Fi. A Cisco report recently revealed that one in three college students and young professionals consider the internet as important as air, water, food and shelter. This changing demographic attitude is leading many retailers to offer powerful and reliable in-store Wi-Fi as a mainstay shopping tool. Providing this connectivity enables customers to make a point-of-sale purchase or to broadcast their experience. In a recent survey by IHL Group, 28% of retailers reported that offering customers WiFi has a positive impact on customer loyalty and report a 2% sales lift thanks to the service. Consider also that over 60% of small business retailers report that the average visit duration increases after Wi-Fi is made available, according to iGR Research. And, if the Wi-Fi is strong and reliable enough, millennials will engender so much “FOMO” (fear of missing out) that their friends may just want to see what all the fun is about; thus, creating future engagement.
Millennials are undoubtedly a critical target market for businesses, and by considering their digital engagement strategies and how to create brand ambassadors, increase transparency and engage, these businesses can more effectively grab their slice of the millennial market share.