The Millennial Future: How Marketers Are Coming Of Age

Contributor Liane Dietrich shares tips on how brands are successfully tapping into the millennial market.

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Times change — and for marketers, that means a change in tactics, too. Everyone knows about the generation labeled “the millennials” (a.k.a. Generation Y), but understanding them goes beyond labeling them.

Millennials are a highly complex group. Unlike previous generations, they aren’t cleanly defined by a simple birth decade. Most researchers assign the term to those born from the mid 1980s to the early 2000s, though it varies depending on whom you talk to.

Like older marketing segments, millennials are a product of the world they grew up in. They are diverse, tech-savvy and educated; their shopping preferences and buying habits demonstrate significant variations in what they want and expect. Most relevant to us, they shop everywhere and have access to everything.

Who Are The Millennials?

Trying to figure them out can be perplexing; however, marketers can still make use of plenty of characteristics and qualitative information to get a better view.

Millennials spend about 14 percent more time on their mobile device than other generations. Checking their mobile phone is the first thing they do in the morning, and the last thing they do before bed.

The time they’re spending on their devices isn’t the only thing that sets them apart. Millennials are also using them in ways that traditional marketing methods don’t tap into. For example, in Q2 2013, 80 percent of smartphone users took part in showrooming (using devices while shopping), which represents a 25 percent increase from Q1 2012.

Customer data needs to be interpreted into customer insight, incorporating the motivations that drive a millennial’s behavior as a consumer.  To acknowledge the needs that lead to millennials’ buying paths, Experian Research offers up what they call the “Omni-channel Consumer Bill of Rights” specifically for millennials:

  • Recognize me
  • Treat me as an individual
  • Make it easy for me
  • Anticipate my needs
  • Give me a voice

Understand these few requirements, and you’ll be closer to understanding the basic millennial, enabling you to adapt your marketing and shopping experience to delight them.

A Segment Within A Segment

Most of the “Omni-channel Consumer Bill of Rights” is about knowing who you’re targeting. The point is that not all millennials are the same — especially when you consider that many are now parents.

Millennial parents (naturally) have different needs and priorities than other millennials. Yet, they must also be considered separately from “parents” in general, as they have their own specific traits and behaviors that call them out as a demographic themselves.

According to Mobile Commerce Daily, for example, millennial mothers are “58 percent more inclined to use mobile devices to research products and 5 percent more likely to use smartphones to access social networks” as compared to other moms. They shop in a social manner, by giving and getting advice about the best styles, the best comfort, and the best prices for their kids’ products.

Brands That Get It

Many major brands are getting it right when it comes to marketing to millennials. One of these is children’s footwear marketer Stride Rite, which saw the need to connect with millennial parents and took on the challenge.

Rakuten Marketing worked with Stride Rite to create its 2013 back-to-school campaign for mobile phones and tablets specifically for millennial moms.

Taking into account who millennial moms are and what they individually want through personalized targeting and optimization to reach all potential buyers, Stride Rite made collective use of all of the above information to build an execute a display campaign resulting in:

  • Multi-screen conversion lift: 5 percent
  • Multi-screen revenue lift: 5 percent
  • Multi-Screen return on ad spend: 8.6 percent

Another example of a brand that’s getting it right is Macy’s, which is in the middle of a three-year plan that aims to hone in on millennials that are thinking fashion forward. T

he market potential is enormous with millennials spending $65 billion on fashion merchandise in 2012. Macy’s knew that understanding the way its millennial consumers think and aligning their digital assets accordingly would be key to a successful plan.

Macy’s did a segmentation by lifestyle to get a better understanding of its consumers so it could give them a personalized omni-channel experience. It has launched new brands, started a reality television show, continually crafted its website and added new online and in-store technology to support the plan.

Macy’s millennial-targeted strategy has produced continued revenue growth (online sales alone surged 41% in 2012) and has secured its role as a top retailer for the tech-savvy generation. Macy’s is now the 10th largest U.S. internet company, by revenue, following Netflix.

What’s Next?

So, what happens next? For marketers, it’s about continuing to answer the unique needs of the consumer base and transitioning from traditional methods of marketing to pioneering new ones.

A millennial purchase path is far more complex — everything from their engagement on social sites, to where and how they consume media or shop. All of this makes for an exciting challenge for the marketers trying to reach them.

The good news is that this demographic is willingly leaving more data points behind — more data points which can be leveraged by brands to deliver smart marketing to each millennial. This smart marketing, focused on millennials and their unique browsing and shopping behavior, enables you to reach them via the medium and channels they care for the most.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Liane Dietrich
Liane Dietrich is Chief Operating Officer, and is responsible for the planning and execution of Rakuten LinkShare's vision to deliver world-class online marketing solutions. Since joining Rakuten LinkShare, now Rakuten Affiliate Network in 2003, Liane has contributed to the company's success in the areas of service delivery, strategic direction and international expansion in her roles as Director, Vice President and Managing Director in Chicago, New York, and London.

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