Millennials are often maligned for being an entitled group of young people who all want participation trophies just for getting out of bed. The reality, of course, is more nuanced.
Millennials are actually quite a large group, encompassing anyone from the ages of 21 to 37. That covers college kids working their first internships all the way to mid-career professionals with families and two car garages. If you are going to be selling to millennials, it’s critical to remember that context.
I am 31, and thus part of the 56 million strong cohort of working millennials.
That makes us the largest generation in the labor force, even bigger than the baby boomers. Love us or hate us, the fact that we spend 600 billion dollars per year on avocado toast and fancy coffee shopping makes us a force to be reckoned with.
As big a group as we are, there are certain threads that tie millennials together and broadly define our spending habits. If you want to sell to millennials, you have to understand what we really want and market to us in a way that resonates with our core values.
Curious about how to sell to millennials? Remember these 5 tips:
Provide a Digitally Native Experience (or Don’t…)
One of the many threads that runs through the millennial generation, despite the wide range of ages, is that they are a tech-savvy bunch. For the most part, millennials grew up with the internet and are used to buying things online. They expect brands to provide an elegant and intuitive online buying experience. There’s a reason they’ve been labeled the digital consumer generation.
That said, it’s no surprise that they support companies that are known for their lightning-fast tech and slick user interfaces.
Millennials are big fans of brands like Apple, YouTube, Google, and Netflix. And if you want to get their attention, you’ve got to bring a high level of tech sophistication.
Take Venmo, the online payments app, as an example. They made it as simple to send money with your phone as it is to send a text, and millennials quickly started using it for billions in transactions every month. Their ads play up how it can be easy and even fun to send money with your phone.
Or consider, Ally Bank, the company that built up its reputation as an easy-to-use and safe online bank, and millennials flocked to it in droves. Many young consumers no longer care about using physical banks as long as they get competitive rates and a superior customer service experience.
Helix, the online mattress retailer, is another example of a brand that gained millennial loyalty without having physical stores. Or, quite possibly, primarily because they don’t have physical stores.
As with banking, when selling to millennials, it’s important to remember they would rather do their shopping online if the experience is seamless, familiar, and easily customizable. They want a mattress store that uses algorithms to find the perfect mattress for their body types.
Despite all that, a key thing to note about selling to millennials is that while they demand digital excellence to buy most products, that doesn’t mean they are only solely enamored with digital products.
In fact, the sales of physical books and vinyl records are both on the rise. This shows a craving for tangibility and real experiences in an increasingly online world.
If you want to tap into the full millennial market, you have to fulfill this desire.
Snap Inc. expertly played on this trend when they unveiled exclusive pop-up shops to sell their spectacles. The shops got a ton of interest, but the hype didn’t build because the specs have amazing tech (spoiler: they didn’t). Millennials flocked to the pop-up shop because it allowed for a fun, real experience in an increasingly disconnected world.
Tap Into Their Social Networks
Millennials are the first internet generation and tend to be early adopters of all social media. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat (all companies built by millennials, by the way), they tend to dive into new social media tools hard and fast.
Not only that but many work at these very same companies. And those that don’t often still have to know how to optimize social media posts for their job or have to use LinkedIn to even find a job in the first place.
With jobs in tech and social media as an ever-present force in their lives, it makes sense that millennials want to see what their peers are buying before making purchasing decisions of their own. It’s just part of their who they are, and the stats are there to prove it: 8/10 millennials check reviews before buying online. Selling to millennials with online reviews can be a great tactic for your business.
Forward-thinking brands leverage the social nature of buying even further by using social proof to encourage buying decisions. Take American Airlines, whose checkout page clearly shows you how many other people bought flight insurance so that you feel like it’s the right thing to do.
And if we do say so ourselves, Proof is the industry leader in increasing conversion rates by building trust and utilizing the power of social influence. Try it today for a 10-15% lift on your conversion rate.
Make the Sales Process Quick
One downside of growing up immersed in technology is that it seems to have shortened the millennial attention span. They get distracted quick and they are not the greatest at recalling the ads they see.
Compounding this problem is the fact that millennials are, according to the American Psychological Association, more stressed than any other generation. That one-two punch makes them crave buying processes that are fast and easy.
The e-commerce site Threadless understands these trends. I recently bought a t-shirt from them, and they did a great job of keeping the sales process moving and my stress levels down.
Once I clicked “buy” I was seamlessly moved through an intuitive purchasing process, so I didn’t get lost or distracted along the way. They also made sure to prominently offer me the option of creating an account or using PayPal to speed things up even more. In short, it was a perfect, millennial-approved buying process.
Many millennials came of age during the great recession of the late 2000s. This had a dramatic and lasting effect on their earning power.
In fact, millennials are the first recent generation that could possibly earn less than their parents. Compounding the issue is that millennials are being dragged down by debt, especially by onerous student loans.
All those factors have created a consumer that is intensely driven by value. If you want a millennial buyer, you have to make them feel like they are getting an amazing bang for their buck. The key is to offer a lot at a good price without seeming cheap, which can be a fine line to walk.
One brand that does value well is the New York Times. They offer a digital version of their paper for two bucks a week. But, they make sure to provide many special perks, such as offline access and exclusive wine club memberships, and they do so via a beautiful and easy-to-navigate site. It’s perfectly geared to sell to the millennial who wants to stay informed.
Play Up the Social Good of Your Brand
If you want to succeed at selling to millennials, you are going to have to hit them in the heart. B corporations, such as Warby Parker and Patagonia, are popular with millennials because they balance profit with purpose."In fact, 75% of millennials recently said it was important that the companies they support give back to society in some form."
Warby Parker gives eyeglasses to those in need, Tom’s does the same with shoes, and Nouri Bar does the same with meals. All three brands do big business selling to millennials — and they are part of thousands of companies taking this philanthropic approach to business.
But millennials aren’t just focused on giving back. They also value transparency in the brands they support. Companies that highlight their honest and above board strategies are more likely to attract millennial buyers. The clothing company Everlane makes a point of being extra-transparent with how their supply chain works and how much of a markup they apply to their clothes. They are rewarded with millennial devotion and over a hundred million dollars a year in profit.
Remember These Things When Selling to Millennials
When selling to millennials, remember they prefer to support companies with smooth, efficient buying experiences that provide major bang for their buck. They also spend more time researching than older shoppers so that they can see if their friends like the same things and find out whether or not a company has good values. These tactics are mainly actionable for a B2C experience, but these same generational qualities apply when B2B selling to millennials.
If you can customize your marketing to check the boxes millennials are looking for, you’ll find yourself with happy and loyal customers — and customers who will be the economic driver for the next several decades.