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What are millennials and how can you market to them?

Millennials are an economic force, spending at least $600 billion annually and growing. Their sheer numbers and spending habits make them an important target audience for all businesses, including online stores.

Millennials are the generation born between 1980 and 2000, also known as Generation Y. This generation came of age along with the Internet, smartphones and social media. As such, this age group is very comfortable using technology and is a key target audience for ecommerce stores. Effectively marketing to this tech-savvy group is instrumental to growing an online business in 2015 and beyond.

Multichannel approaches and customized experiences

With ever-changing technology and social media platforms of choice, a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing won't be effective for engaging millennials. Ultimately, this generation is highly loyal to brands, but they prefer to buy from people rather than corporations. Online brands need to come across as human to connect with Gen Y. Using social media to bridge the gap is beneficial for creating lasting relationships with millennials, but just maintaining a profile on Facebook is no longer enough. Here are some other ways to connect with this key demographic:

  • Offer compelling rewards and loyalty programs: Because millennials put a lot of stock in brands, it's important to facilitate this connection. Many retailers offer loyalty programs, but they need to have tangible benefits to be effective. Millennials named banks' cash back rewards as their favorite type of program benefit, despite the relatively paltry returns. Loyalty programs don't need to be complicated to work as long as rewards are regular and relevant to customers' interests.

  • Respond to customer service inquiries more quickly: Millennials excel at solving their own problems, especially online. They only reach out to a brand if they can't solve an issue on their own. Responsive support makes this generation more likely to trust a brand. Because millennials seek a truly multichannel experience, it's important to be accessible through more than one channel. Social media, phone, email and live chat are all options for ecommerce stores. If customers contact a brand through social media or email and there won't be an immediate response, be sure to inform them when they can expect to be contacted by a representative.

  • **Maintain a strong online reputation:**Millennials research brands before making purchases, and since they grew up with the Web, they're highly likely to read reviews before buying anything from an online seller. If previous customers have encountered problems with shipping or damaged items, Gen Y is bound to know about it. Poor reviews have the potential to scare away new customers, but they can also lower seller scores in marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. Encourage happy customers to write reviews. Embed reviews into product pages to enhance credibility.

Millennials tend to set trends when it comes to online shopping. Older generations follow the patterns of younger ones. Tech-savvy millennials have always been pretty comfortable with ecommerce. However, trends change quickly and ecommerce store owners need to be flexible to meet shifting needs and preferences. Understanding how this generation uses the Internet is crucial for getting a good sense of their preferences. This allows online brands to create more relevant marketing campaigns.

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