About 1 out of 4 in the global population is a millennial. In the US alone, they are 72.1 million millennials – making up the largest generational cohort.

The interesting part? Because millennials are the most digitally connected generation, they’re influencing the buying behavior of other generations. 

To top that, over half of them have shopped products online in the past six months. Research from Ernst & Young makes the same point: Around 74% of Gen Y buys products online more than once a month.

Most of all, YPulse estimates millennials have a buying power of $2.5 trillion annually.  So if millennials are your target audience, you’ll want to refine your traditional marketing tactics to meet the generation’s expectations from brands — all while being present on the digital channels they use. 

Not sure where to start or how to market to millennials the right way? This guide has you covered. It walks you through:

Let's dive in.

Millennial marketing Millennial marketing

Part 1: The psychology of millennials

Let's get started.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y are people born between 1981 and 1996 according to the Pew Research Center.

They’re heavy email, social media, and text users. For a brand, this means these are the best channels to reach them. 

Of these though, email sits at the top. About 64% of millennials agree that email is their most preferred channel of community with brands. 

As for social media, millennials spend an average of two hours and 38 minutes on their favorite channels. So which social networks do they prefer using? 

 And, finally, SMS is another channel Gen Y prefers. In fact, 60% of millennials say SMS is a non-intrusive communication channel.

Millennial marketing: preferred channels for millennials Millennial marketing: preferred channels for millennials

How do millennials consume information

 

With it being clear where millennials spent their time online, let’s look at how they prefer to consume content. Briefly, the majority prefer engaging with email newsletters, social media posts, videos, and online publications.

Millennial marketing: how do millennials consume information Millennial marketing: how do millennials consume information

 

To begin with, millennials consume 2.4 hours of online video daily. Not only that but 85% of this demographic cohort has purchased a product after watching a video according to Brightcove’s survey.

In fact, 66% of millennials agree they’ve engaged with a business after watching their video content on social media. 20% have also visited a brand’s website. And another 20% have researched a business after consuming their videos.

About 75% of millennials also use social media to interact with brands according to SproutSocial’s survey. This means you’ve a lot of opportunities to gain millennials’ attention on social media – we’ll tell you exactly how to do that in a bit.

Lastly, millennials value long-form content such as in-depth blog posts. In fact, reading through blog posts is one of the ways they research businesses and their products/services. But keep in mind that Gen Y pays attention to content for 12 seconds only.
 

This makes it clear: your content needs to resonate with your millennial audience right away. In fact, it’s the only way to hook them in and get them to continue reading.

So, as you create content for this target audience, focus on making it as relevant to them as possible.

To this end, keeping an eye out on the trends that millennials follow, the influencers that inspire them, and the language they use is crucial. The reason? It’s all of these pointers that help you understand your audience better and create super-relevant content for them.

It’s also helpful to “pay attention to the trending topics on each social platform and join groups where millennials are to listen to their conversations, questions, concerns, challenges, etc.,” says Brooke Write, business coach and speaker.

Want to learn about how to market to millennials? The next section teaches you exactly how.

Part 2: How to appeal to millennials

Being present on channels that millennials use is not the only part of the millennial marketing puzzle. The other? Using marketing tactics and creating strategies that specifically resonate with them.

So let’s dig through the marketing tactics you should be focusing on:

 

Millennial marketing: how to appeal to millennials Millennial marketing: how to appeal to millennials

 

1. Inbound marketing

 

Nearly 57% of millennials block ad content whenever they can.

Translation: with over half of Gen Y blocking ads, inbound marketing can help you get their attention better than outbound tactics like online advertising.

In fact, this demographic group is used to taking to the internet to research facts and finding answers to their questions. It’s why 247% of millennials are more likely to be moved by a blog post than a traditional ad.

Keeping this in mind, take the following steps:

Design a visually-engaging and easy to navigate, search engine optimized website

This website is your business's digital home, the place where your audience can look you up, and the channel you’ll use to reach them online.

For this reason, it’s essential to update your site regularly. Plus, design is as per your visual brand identity. 

Create engaging content that speaks to your audience

Understand the questions that your target buyers are asking. Then answer those questions by sharing how your business can help. From there, create authoritative content that thoroughly answers these questions. 

 

2. Email marketing

 

A whopping 90% of millennials check their inbox at least once a day. This makes email marketing a crucial tactic in your millennial marketing toolkit.

The question now is: what sort of emails should you be sending? Personalized, mobile-optimized emails that focus on relationship building, not selling.

For example, to market the bullet journals that you sell online, write emails that share tips on how to better design and maintain these journals. Occasionally, send your email list discount offers too. 

The idea here is simple: engage potential buyers until they’re ready to buy from you.

Casper, a sleep products retailer and online shop, for example, takes such a value-first approach in the emails:

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Occasionally, they also send a discount code to encourage sales:

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With marketing automation tools, you can schedule these emails to reach your audience at a time convenient to them–ensuring it doesn’t get lost in their inbox

 

3. Social media marketing

 

We know that 86% of millennials use social media. Naturally, the next best channel to reach them is social.

 So here are three ways to tap into social media marketing:

Create a strong social presence

For this, you’ll need both a social media content strategy and a plan to engage your target audience.

 And to tie it all together, work out your posting schedule – how often you’d post and when. Ideally, post when your audience is active. This varies from platform to platform. For instance, the best time to post on Instagram is 11 am CST Monday through Friday.

 Use this time as your start-off point. However, as you grow your Instagram presence, keep a pulse on your analytics to learn when exactly your audience is active.

 Run targeted social ads

About 72% of Generation Y prefer personalized ad messages. This presents an excellent opportunity to promote your product(s). 

 When leveraging ads though, remember to keep it real as 37% of millennials like to see “real people” discussing products in ads. 

Your best bet? User-generated content (UGC) — we’ll talk about ideas and examples for sourcing it in the last section.

 

4. Influencer marketing

 

Millennials respond to micro-influencers. In fact, they’re 54% more likely to buy an influencer-promoted product or service as compared with previous generations.

The key to success with influencer marketing, however, is authenticity. This means people from this demographic won’t trust influencers if they sense unauthenticity.

On the flip side, more than half of them, 56% to be exact, are likely to purchase if the influencers’ show expertise or genuine interest in the products they promote.

 

So what does this mean for you? Carefully vet influencers you work with. And be sure they’ve a strong understanding of the product/service you offer so they can create authentic content.

Lastly, collaborate and “build connections with internet influencers that are already trusted by millennials [you’re targeting],” advises Lattice Hudson, business coach, leadership mentor, social sales expert, and founder of Lattice & Co.

 “Bloggers, content producers, YouTube personalities, and Instagrammers who are well-known are a great way to get into the millennial culture. If you can properly tap into that, you can swiftly and extensively spread your word of mouth,” Hudson points out.

 The same has worked for Lattice & Co. Says Hudson: “Younger customers were significantly impacted by the opinions of their friends and individuals that they followed and after being recommended by their favorite bloggers, we acquired their trust and their investment in our services.” 

Part 3: Seven ways to catch their interest and keep them coming back

Now, for proven ways to stand out in the sea of choices millennials have:

 

1. Personalize engagement with audience segmentation

 

Audience segmentation is the secret to growing your sales and conversions. So start with breaking down site visitors into segments based on their:

 By creating such audience segments, you can personalize your messaging for each group. This ensures your message better resonates with your audience, which, in turn, encourages them to convert.

Take this discount-offering popup from Sweaty Betty. It’s well targeted as it shows up only to a segment of their visitors who haven’t subscribed for their newsletter.

 

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2. Showcase reviews on your website, social marketplaces, and other platforms

 

Product ratings and reviews are now the most important factor affecting purchase decisions. In fact, they rank higher than free shipping, price, and family and friends’ product recommendations.

Millennials are no different.

When it comes to making informed shopping decisions, this generation looks to reviews and ratings no matter the channel. Almost 99.9% read reviews when shopping online with 57% reading them in-store. Nearly 85% even say they actively look for reviews on websites according to the same source.

But here’s the interesting part: glowing reviews don’t convince millennial shoppers.
Instead, they seek reviews that can help them understand a product and how a company resolves issues. This explains why 97% of millennials often search for negative reviews. 

 

The take home message? Showcase product reviews on your website, social media, and other marketplace and platforms. And don’t worry about negative reviews – if anything your audience is looking for them so there’s no point hiding them.

What you need to be careful of though is to ensure that you handle negative reviews carefully. This gives your potential customers an idea of how well you treat your customers and their concerns. 

 

3. Stay in touch with the latest offers on SMS and WhatsApp

 

About 54% of consumers are happy to receive promotions via text messages. Yet, only 11% of companies send them. In other words, SMS marketing is a relatively less competitive tactic that you can try.

Just be sure to be strategic and relevant. How, you ask? Take a page from Chipotle. They tapped into their strong social presence to funnel subscribers to their SMS campaign by offering a personalized Buy One, Get One (BOGO) code.

As with other millennial marketing strategies though, it’s essential you use text messages for more than just sharing promotions and discounts. Here are some ideas for using SMS for engaging Gen Y:

 

4. Handle cart abandonment

 

With 69.8% of folks abandoning their carts, seeing shoppers leave without completing their purchases is not uncommon. However, not encouraging cart abandoners to convert is leaving warm opportunities on the table.

So how can you reduce cart abandonment? Two solutions:

Optimize your checkout process

Long log-in processes, too many fields to fill, pages taking too long to load, and not offering auto-fill for previous information are some reasons why you could be losing transactions.

So study user behavior on your site using heatmaps to understand where users are getting stuck when purchasing from you. Based on what you find, optimize your checkout process for better conversions.

Retarget abandoners with recovery emails

An automatically triggered email drip sequence helps here.

Start off with a reminder email sent after two to four hours of a customer leaving their order incomplete. This helps convert those who left due to technical or internet issues.

For shoppers that don’t convert, send another email 24-48 hours later. Leverage social proof here, telling how popular the product is among other shoppers. You can also instill a sense of urgency here by sharing that the product is limited in stock.

If shoppers still don’t convert, get them to purchase with an incentive-focused email four days after they abandon their carts. These incentives can include anything from a discount to an offer for free delivery.

 

5. Focus on providing the best experience

 

Over 72% of millennials admit they’d spend more money on experiences than possessions. For businesses targeting them, this means you can’t discredit the experience you provide. 

From offering a great onboarding experience to planning out exciting unboxing experiences, there are numerous ways to improve customer experience with you.

Take FabFitFun, for example. The subscription company taps into providing a surprise-based unboxing experience. Similarly, Spongellé offers a self-care-promoting experience around their bath sponges, cleansers, and other products.

 

6. Offer state of the art customer support

 

A 2021 study reveals 54% of consumers share they’ve higher customer service expectations from brands than they did only one year ago.

Since providing customer support is a part of a great brand experience, you can’t lag behind here.

So here are two proven ways to provide customer-satisfying support:

Create an FAQ page on your site

Consumers prefer finding answers using knowledge base content and FAQ pages. This is not only true for discovery stage, but, also for repeat purchases.  

Subsequently, it makes sense to prioritize creating an easily navigable FAQ page and a help center. Begin with gathering questions your buyers typically have.

For example, questions related to shipping details, your return policy, subscription charges, and so on. From there, put answers to these together in an easy-to-read FAQ page.

Offer live chat

According to this study, 73% of customers admit live chat is the best form of communication with companies. In fact, 79% say they prefer it because it gives them immediate answers according to the same source.

So the best way to provide responsive live chat is to respond quickly to customers’ queries. It’s also helpful to leverage the right tools for offering streamlined live support across channels.

With Freshdesk, for instance, support agents can manage customer queries across different marketing channels from one inbox. It’s here that they can see all previous interactions with the same customer too. This gives them context to their problems, helping solve issues faster and more effectively.

What’s more, Freshdesk offers AI-powered chatbots too. These assist visitors in several ways such as by offering them helpful links from your knowledge base that answer their questions.

 

7. Be vocal about your social initiatives

 

Up to 87% of millennials expect brands to address leading environmental and social issues.

 Essentially, Gen Y consumers care a lot about pressing issues – from poverty to inclusivity and mental wellness. As a result, they expect the same from businesses they buy from.In fact, 76% of these young consumers want CEOs to speak up about issues they care about. And two-thirds of them have gone on to boycott brands that took an opposing stance to an issue close to them.

 

Sumeer Kaur, the founder and CEO of Lashkaraa, a US-based Indian wear fashion house agrees. “Millennials tend to care a lot about the story behind the products they buy. They want to know there is some form of social good behind it. That can mean things like Fair Trade, Human-Certified, a portion of profits donated to charity, or another social focus.”

Put simply, a brand-value fit is crucial for this target demographic. So it’s essential you “be mission-driven and include an element of social responsibility in your marketing,” Kaur suggests.

At Lashkaraa, for example, Kaur comments, “One of our missions is to provide work opportunities to women in India. While women may have difficulty finding jobs in the textile industry, we prioritize hiring female staff and teaching the trade to female craftswomen.”

Such a mission-driven endeavor behind their product is an effective way to stand out to millennial customers according to Kaur.

And here’s another example: Patagonia. It’s an environmentally-friendly company that donates 1% of its sales to environmental organizations.

You can also show your values in the marketing campaigns you plan. Not only does doing so help you increase sales but assists in building long-term customer relationships. 

Take it from NAKEDCASHMERE’s effort for spreading mental health awareness. They launched limited-edition masks reading “be kind to your mind.” For each mask sold, they donated $5 to a non-profit organization, Silence the Shame, that educates on mental health.

 

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Part 4: Best practices for marketing to millennials

 

Finally, before we wrap this up, let’s walk you through best practices that can help you win at millennial marketing.

 

1. Invest in storytelling

 

Millennials love authenticity. It’s what makes brand storytelling an effective tactic to win them over.

Take Warby Parker, for example. They share their inspiring story the following way:

 

Note that the opening line of the story is relatable to the audience who struggle with the same. This shared struggle helps customers connect better with the founders – helping increase conversions.

You can also leverage storytelling to stand out on social media. Business coach, Lattice Hudson, has had success using this tactic. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that millennials like a story,” Hudson observes.  

“With the help of Instagram, I was able to set my brand apart from competitors with unique content that brought our brand’s ideas to life through a story or message.”

Explaining further, Hudson writes: “Due to the sheer overabundance of conventional advertising and the abundance of alternatives available to them, millennials have learned to shut out unwelcome disruptions. They go out of their way to find the information they want [so using storytelling to hold their attention] has huge marketing potential.”

What’s more, storytelling helps you show your brand’s human side. A simple yet effective way to do this is to get your founder to share their experience on any channel of your choice – the company blog, social channels, or newsletter.

The ex-founder of Sendible does this well. Gavin Hammar often talked about his founder’s journey including wins, struggles, and what he was working on as he built the social media management tool.

 

Now as Hammar is working on another tool, Storyprompt, he’s doing the same.

 

 

2. Make sure all campaigns are mobile-optimized

 

Nine in 10 millennials own a smartphone. And they’re using it not only to discover, connect, and shop from brands on social media but also to read through reviews before buying.

Put simply, millennials actively surf the web using their phone. So nothing can be more off-putting than a website, email header, or social media carousel that isn’t optimized for mobile.

Since your aim is to provide excellent experiences to your millennial customers, make sure all your campaign marketing materials are optimized for mobile.

 

3. Share user-generated content (UGC)

 

User-generated content (UGC) helps hit two targets at once. 

One, it leverages social proof to get people to buy from you. This works because potential customers see others like them buying from you, which makes it easy for them to trust you.

Two, it encourages other customers to contribute content as well. Thus, increasing brand awareness.

One simple way to source UGC is to reshare complements or reviews that your followers share on social media as Starbucks did here.

 

Another way is to plan UGC-specific campaigns. Trello, a project management software, for example, created a #WhereITrello campaign to pool UGC. The idea? To encourage users to share their Trello board using the hashtag. It’s a great campaign example for grow brand awareness too. 

 

 

4. Make it about your audience

 

Where Gen Y appreciates a good founder’s story, they also like it when the focus is on them. So how do you go about doing that? Talk about things that matter to them. Take a page from Recess, a beverage startup.

Instead of making it about their product, the team talks about daily stress, anxiety, and self-care. All of these are issues millennials struggle with in their day to day, giving the brand talking points to connect with their audience.

 

5. Make things instagrammable

 

Not only do millennials discover brands on social media but they also connect with peers and love capturing their lives. This presents yet another opportunity to get on your audience’s radar.

How? By putting thought into product packaging to get your customers to share it on Instagram. Sending a personalized note with your product also makes it worth sharing on Instagram.

Market better today

In a nutshell, marketing to millennials isn’t a tough nut to crack.

With all that we’ve covered today, you should now be having a strong grip on their buying behavior, where to find them online, and how to get their attention. 

All that’s left to do is to keep an eye on their preferences, interests, and trends. Plus, get the right tools so you can start marketing today.

Multichannel marketing next steps Multichannel marketing next steps