Millennials' Technology Habits Will Change Direct Marketing

Millennials are now the largest working generation in the U.S., and their habits are very different than those of earlier generations. Direct marketers who have constructed an email program to address earlier generational cohorts will find that their campaigns increasingly fall flat without some key strategic changes.

Social and mobile media are much more popular with Millennials than with older generations. However, marketing to Millennials isn’t as simple as just upping the ante on social media or mobile marketing. Social media marketing simply doesn’t get the same response rates that email or search gets. And while your website and messages need to be mobile-friendly, you won’t succeed by simply ditching email in favor of SMS messaging. The most dramatic direct marketing changes required by the rise of the Millennials generation are about speed, convenience and relevance, not about which channel they use to communicate.



As they start to dominate the adult population, Millennials’ daily behaviors will change typical communication styles. They check email around the clock from many devices, they shop online from their phones while they’re at another store, and they’re much more likely to chat with customer service via text or instant messenger any time of day.

Millennials judge the speed of response rates on text or email very differently because they use these forms of communication in place of a phone. Slow response to an email or text is akin to having your call ignored or even hung up on.  Imagine the importance your call center puts on making sure call connections aren’t lost. This same attention should be paid to responding quickly to emails, texts and chat requests from a Millennial.  A “mobile strategy” is not what will get you the speed you need. Rather, it’s a consumer-first strategy that requires that your relationship marketing team works together with mobile, social and even customer service.

The expectation of convenience for Millennials is also at a much higher level than for other generations. Many companies are improving the convenience factor of their products so that they can be used on the go and creating self-service solutions to meet the real-time demands of Millennials.

 If you’re marketing to a Millennial, it’s just as important to increase convenience.  The last thing you want one to do is jump through hoops. Allow her to redeem discounts on her own time, through the channel of her choice.  By making it easy for her to choose when and how she spends her hard-earned money with you, you can empower her on her terms.

Similarly, you’ll need to update your thinking around message relevance. It’s not enough to just use a first name in an email message. Think of message personalization as social media marketing blown up across all of your marketing channels.

Millennials expect that you really know them. They are comfortable with brands tracking all of their online activity and warehousing their information. They rarely worry about online privacy.

And because of this, they want you to use their data to their advantage. Millennials don’t want to have to remember a login code or tell you what their order number is. They expect you to remember it for them. What’s more, they expect that if they’ve heard about something new, that you have too, and that you know that they like it. Knowing your customers requires focusing on the most important aspects of your interactions with your customers using data across your company, from CRM to social media.

As you get to know Millennials, you might try involving them in a shared, community-oriented engagement to increase your relevance within their world. For example, a national restaurant chain targeted Millennials with a “social promotion.” If you buy a hamburger, you receive a code that you can share with someone else to give them a free burger of their own.  

Most companies still haven’t totally sorted out their social media marketing strategy or their mobile marketing strategy, which presents an opportunity to change them both. If social and mobile marketing became better integrated with direct marketing, marketers would have more flexibility to create the fast, convenient and relevant experience across channels that Millennials demand.

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