Marketers, millennials have your number.
If you’re serving up traditional ads and hoping they’ll do the trick with this skeptical and incredibly influential generation, they’re not here for you.
According to new research, less than a third of millennials would be moved to visit a store after seeing an ad featuring the exact item they wanted, unlike their pro-advertising boomer and Gen X counterparts. That means two-thirds won’t darken your door, even when they know you are selling precisely what they want.
What a waste of marketing spend.
Marketers must find different ways to reach a generation that is rapidly becoming more powerful than any other in the U.S. right now. (For context, millennials will overtake baby boomers as the largest living generation next year and they have $200 billion in buying power at their disposal.) But they’re motivated very differently – that much is clear from this and other findings of our latest consumer survey, which asked 1,500 U.S. consumers about their shopping habits.
Here’s what else we learned:
No generation likes a deluge of marketing emails…in fact, 50% of all respondents indicated they’d unsubscribe to get away from a too-eager brand. But interestingly, at 44%, millennials were the least worked up about actively doing so (whereas 55 percent of boomers and 51% of Gen Xers would pointedly unsubscribe). That doesn’t mean overly enthusiastic email volume isn’t bothering them – it’s just more likely they just don’t care enough to expend the effort. If millennials are the cool kids, then these companies are the too-eager hangers-on, desperate for approval, but dismissed without a glance. It’s not that they’re considering these companies as they A/B test their marketing subject lines; it’s more like the outreach is entirely beneath their notice.
Lesson for marketers: Back off and think more creatively. Outreach that feels authentic, confident and minimal will likely produce a better impact. Look to Glossier as an example of light-touch marketing that’s nearly always pitch perfect.
Look for immersive experiences driven by technology…but that also mix in price and personalization. 51% of millennials love the concept of an in-store visit if a retailer used technology to identify a product that was relevant and personalized to their needs. In contrast, just 38 percent of Gen X and 23 percent of baby boomers agreed. Retailers could amplify the potential of millennial engagement by coupling these experiences with smart technology and competitive pricing. For millennials, price is a factor – one-third say great pricing influences in-store purchasing decisions.
Lesson for marketers: Shoot for a mix of old school and new school tactics to attract choosy millennials. High-concept, immersive experiences driven by technology might provide the “wow” factor that entices them in the door, while budget-friendly options close the deal.
Millennials are unmoved by your generous returns and exchange policies… or good wait times for checkouts, inventory availability, etc. Why? For them, these are “bare minimum” elements. The expectation – not unreasonably – is that all retailers should be doing these well. That’s why they’re not high on the millennial list of must-haves. For example:
- 34% said reasonable checkout times were a priority (as compared to 59% of boomers and 42 percent of Gen Xers).
- Just one-third prioritized a reasonable return and exchange policy, as opposed to 52% of boomers.
- 51% of Gen Xers said item availability is a must-have, versus 44% of millennials.
Lesson for marketers: Push back internally if you hear suggestions for marketing campaigns and outreach based on these types of fundamentals. Your company won’t get a cookie from millennials for executing well on the background elements that combine to make shopping a pleasant and convenient experience.
Remember millennials have two distinct shopping patterns. First, millennials are more social – 25% enjoy shopping with friends and family, more than any other generation. This underscores the notion that millennials enjoy immersive, shared experiences, offering marketers an opportunity to be more innovative around how they might bring a more inclusive and inviting touch to their outreach.
But millennials also prefer a get in/get out strategy when the time is right. They’re far more likely than baby boomers or Gen X to shop online and pick up in store, for instance. Forty-seven percent say they do it 40% of the time (versus 30% of Gen X and 13 percent of boomers). Millennials clearly recognize the benefits of the blended experience, even if they don’t think of it precisely in that way. Shopping online avoids lengthy checkout lines, annoying crowds, the uncertainty of item availability – all while saving time. Store pick-up means a fast return if an item is no longer needed and a faster credit back to a consumer’s account – plus there’s no return shipping hassle.
Lesson for marketers: Can there be a special kiosk or line for in-store returns of online items? Can you offer a special promotion or event that specifically invites a millennial social shopper and his or her friends? Create elements that appeal to the millennial who’s in social mode and in speed mode to expand your brand’s appeal.
Broadly, our research findings underscored that millennials are heavily influenced by personalization, convenience and connection. No surprises there – after all, this demographic grew up with the guiding influences of Amazon and Facebook shaping their expectations. But the data should serve, once again, as a reminder to marketers that treating generational demographics as a monolith is a waste. Cater to their preferences and they’ll respond in kind.