By Jennifer ShaheenMillenialBuyers_Body.jpg


In April, the Pew Research Center reported that millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the largest generation. There are 75.4 million millennials between the ages of 18 and 34, and their expectations are profoundly shaping the way small business owners promote their offerings and operate on a daily basis. While the millennial generation is incredibly diverse, they do have some traits in common that are important for small business owners to understand and act upon.


Instant accessibility is non-negotiable

The millennial generation is always connected, and they expect the brands they do business with to be as well. Even if your physical location is only open for a portion of the day, these shoppers want to be able to find out more information, research potential purchases, and even buy from you whenever they feel like it. Make sure your online presence is robust enough to meet and exceed these expectations by leveraging purchasing and customer service tools to automate processes as much as possible.


Kane Russell, head of marketing for Thanx, which builds apps for multi-location retailers, recommends a mobile first strategy. “Ninety percent of [millennials] have their mobile device in arm’s reach 24-7,” he says, adding that if you don’t have a mobile strategy in place, work to build one. Then make your content, including website, social media and emails, more entertaining.


Life cycles repeat themselves

Millennials are far more than “the young customer.”  More than half of millennials over the age of 25 are parents. The Zillow Housing Confidence Index, presented in partnership with USA Today, reveals that two-thirds of millennials are planning to purchase a home within the next five years. The pressures that come with parenthood and home ownership have shown to have some impact on millennials’ purchasing decisions.


MillenialBuyers_PQ.jpgJeff Fromm, president of FutureCast, a marketing agency focused on attracting millennials, characterizes these changes as pragmatic. Millennials seek deals, and make purchases that are useful and practical. When they do splurge, it’s on their children. There is less willingness among older millennials to pay premium prices for products that are environmentally friendly or socially conscious. Knowing this, as well as where your customers are in their life cycle and what events they’re currently navigating, will make it easier to craft marketing messages that really resonate.


Authenticity is everything

Millennials are notoriously resistant to hard-sell marketing. Instead, they’re seeking authentic, one-on-one connections with the brands they choose to do business with. Understand what makes your company unique in the marketplace, and communicate that consistently through all touch points. Follow through is absolutely essential. If your store positions itself as a fun, welcoming place to shop on social media, yet customers who come in find your staff to be hostile and snobby, this disconnect can be absolutely devastating for your brand.


Authenticity walks hand in hand with simplicity. A growing number of brands have had success reaching millennials with purely functional messaging. Busy millennials, perpetually overwhelmed by content, are seeking out low-stress shopping experiences. Make sure it’s easy for your customer to identify the path to purchase, particularly on mobile devices. Large buy buttons and smart page design are now more important than ever before.


Millennials are willing to share

Unlike previous generations, millennials are often willing to share significant amounts of personal data in exchange for perks, such as savings deals. Use this tendency to deepen your understanding of who your customers are. Going beyond generational traits into the nuances of what’s really driving your customers’ decisions right now means spending time looking at and understanding your data, but it’s time well spent. When millennials feel a brand really ”gets” them, they become loyal consumers and vocal advocates.


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