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Marketing to Millennials: How Online Retailers Can Sell to This Generation –– Without Going Crazy

Millennials, individuals born between 1980 and 2000, are now of an age where their spending habits — roughly $600 billion a year — can significantly contribute to a company’s bottom line. This selfie-taking, hashtag-obsessed, text-o-holic generation is all the buzz these days. After all, they’re leading the charge on our ever-increasingly connected world. Yet, how to get this demographic’s attention is the million-dollar (or should we say $600-billion-dollar) question.

Millennials are quick to flock to the latest and greatest device and spend more time on social media. Just look at poor MySpace and BlackBerry. Putting together a marketing plan for such a here-today, gone-tomorrow type of consumer can seem hopeless –– but isn’t.

Millennials’ spending habits — roughly $600b a year — can significantly contribute revenue.

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Retailers, we’re going to let you in on the secret to success: be agile.

Let’s face it. Even millennials don’t know what their preferred purchasing method will be in ten years, five years or three years. Stay on top of the trends that attract millennials and position yourself as a business ready to adapt to the next hot thing.

There’s no magic bullet for capturing and marketing to the millennial consumer, but understanding the overarching trends can help you build your strategies accordingly.

Millennials are Multichannel

Technology has made a parallel progression with the lives of millennials. As millennials grow older, technology advances and more devices are introduced. This generation grew up playing with digital gadgets (throwback to the Tamagotchi, Game Boys and Spy Ears) and most likely started using a cell phone at an age that was still countable on two hands.

These days, consumers have increasingly longer, varied paths to purchase.

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These days, consumers have increasingly longer, varied paths to purchase — and millennials are leading this charge. Implementing a multichannel ecommerce strategy and making data-driven decisions about where to allocate your advertising dollars should be the foundation of your online business.

Here are ways to stay agile and be everywhere your consumer is:

  1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: A successful multichannel strategy means implementing both digital marketing and marketplaces strategies. As smarter technology emerges and the number of touchpoints for consumers grows, a diverse multichannel strategy ensures that you and your products will be visible throughout a shopper’s increasingly fragmented buying process. It increases exposure for you and provides convenience for your potential customers.

  2. Optimize your webstore: There’s nothing worse than investing a lot of money in a variety of digital marketing channels that drive visitors to your website, only to have them take a couple of clicks around your site and then head for the door. If you’re experiencing more than your fair share of browser flight, your site navigation could be to blame. Make sure your webstore is hospitable to your guests, and that those potential customers have a clear path to purchase and a smooth checkout process.

  3. Use a unified ecommerce platform: Don’t waste your time juggling inventory among disconnected online channels. A robust, multichannel ecommerce platform provides a springboard for expanding to additional channels.

Millennials are Interested in Brands

Social media and technology enhancements have helped bridge the gap between consumers and brands. Ultimately, people want to buy from people, not a corporation. The more consumers relate to your brand, the greater the chance that they’ll become returning customers and you’ll be able to sell on social media. In fact, 65% of millennials feel that they’re as loyal to brands as their parents are. Hear that, brands? If you market your brand right, you have the opportunity to become boss.

65% of millennials feel that they’re as loyal to brands as their parents.

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Now’s the time to get in on the ground floor, as millennials shopping habits are still being formed. Facilitate easy points of purchase and opportunities for deeper engagement.

  1. Keep your online reputation intact: Millennials do their research. Poor reviews will get you in trouble with your potential customers, but they’ll also get you into trouble on marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. Negative feedback can lower your seller performance metrics, get you suspended from the marketplace or even kicked off permanently. So, make it easy for customers to return items, and encourage them to write reviews. Many of them will be just as quick to write a good review as read one.

  2. Consider loyalty programs: Millennials love a good loyalty program. In fact, 78% of millennials are more likely to choose a brand that offers a loyalty or rewards program over a brand that doesn’t offer one. This behavior is further proof of millennials’ desire for an open give-and-take with a retailer. They want the relationship, but they also want something in return. They’re loyal, and they’ll be your advocates, but loyalty and free advertising come at a price.

  3. Always adjust your shopping campaigns: Product Listing Ads (PLAs), the image-based ads powered by Google’s Shopping campaigns, are a natural way to reach consumers who hear about a brand and want to learn more. You can organize and structure your campaigns however you like, based on keywords such as brand name. You can also organize them around sales, seasonality or any other way you see fit. Millennials are highly visual, so having an image-driven ad show up on the Google results page when they search for a brand or product is key.

Millennials are Trendsetters

Ultimately, millennials aren’t some big mystery. In the world of ecommerce, they’re simply a window into the future. The buyer behavior they initiate is often just an early indicator of the buyer behavior that ripples out into other generations. The internet has leveled the playing field in that regard. Trends, limitless product information and the newest social media platforms are available to anyone with an internet connection and the initiative to engage. Older generations assimilate the behavior of younger ones.

Still, trends change fast, and as a retailer you need to stay agile. If you refuse to clue in to the early behavioral trends of the millennial demographic, you’re setting yourself up to become obsolete — if not this year, then shortly down the road.

For a deeper dive into the consumer habits of the millennial generation, download this free eBook.

Jordan Nowlin avatar

Jordan Nowlin is the social media & blog manager at ChannelAdvisor, a leading provider of cloud-based ecommerce solutions.