8 tips for marketing to millennials online

Marketing and social media experts discuss the best ways to target and engage with consumers in their 20s and 30s.

More than 80 million millennials, people born between the early 1980s and 2000, currently live in the United States alone. And according to Accenture, these 30-somethings, 20-somethings and teens are spending some $600 billion annually. So how can your ecommerce business capture some of that billion-dollar millennial spend? And what is the best way to reach, or target, this highly social, highly mobile, digital generation?

1. Personalize the shopping experience. "Millennials like brands who get to know them and give them an opportunity to be part of the experience,” says Tink Taylor, founder of dotMailer. “Listening and engaging in a two-way dialogue is very important among these consumers. [And] finding ways to … engage [millennials] in a personalized way can come in many forms, from [greeting returning customers by name] to [offering] live chat to [personalized] email. The key is to build interactions that capture their attention in a human way.”

“Millennials demand personalized experiences,” says Tony Bartel, COO, GameStop. And brands can (and should) use customer data to personalize, and improve, the customer experience.

“Data from GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards loyalty program helps personalize the shopping experience down to the individual to understand millennials’ interests and how they prefer to engage,” he says. For example, information the company gathered from its loyalty program “showed that 80 percent of GameStop customers visit a physical store to purchase a product seen online.” So GameStop developed ‘pick-up at store’ and ‘Web-in-store’ programs, “which allow customers to purchase products online while in the store and determine when they can pick up their purchase at the store.”

2. Incorporate and promote user-generated content (UGC). “Given millennials’ penchant for posting their opinions publicly, consumer-generated content is increasingly a factor in their decision-making process – [with] 54 percent of shoppers between the ages of 25-34 cit[ing] consumer-generated content as having some influence on their in-store purchase,” says Sara Spivey, CMO, Bazaarvoice. “Add to that the fact that millennials spend nearly five hours per day with consumer-generated content (CGC), [and] there is an incredible opportunity for brands to get in front of this audience. Those who embrace CGC increase the potential to convert millennial consumers.”

“User-generated content is like a magnet to [millennials],” agrees Dimitrios Kourtesis, CEO at Goodvidio. “They trust UGC more than mainstream media because it looks more authentic. To cater to their taste, place UGC at the heart of your offsite and onsite marketing,” he says. “Collaborate with Instagram influencers to create interest for your site. Then when they land on your pages, use UGC, such as… reviews, to continue the storytelling about your products. Millennials appreciate the sincerity.”

3. Create and share videos. “Create videos that will move your followers,” says Allison McGuire, marketing director, PaperMart.com.I don’t mean move them to tears (although that can be good too), but make them smile or inspire a reaction that makes them want to share. Focusing on short, engaging videos has certainly become the norm for millennials with Snapchat and Vimeo leading the way.”

Millennials “relate to authentic product videos that tell stories of how other shoppers used products in real life,” says Kourtesis. “Millennials are 1.5 times more likely to watch videos while shopping online before they decide if a product is a good buy. [And] about a third buys products directly as a result of watching product videos.”

Millennials “are also more interested in consumer-made how-to, unboxing and haul videos than overly stylized brand videos,” he explains. So “be proactive and add this content to your product detail pages to inspire purchases and make the experience more realistic. We [have seen a] 37 percent increase in conversions on ecommerce sites that feature product videos.”

4. Leverage social media. “Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, this is where millennials are spending their time,” says Mike Satterfield, creative director, Satterfield Group. So it’s important to “creat[e] relevant content in those spaces, [content that provides] value to [that] audience…with subtle calls to action.”

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