More than 83 million strong, Millennials (generally defined as those born between 1982 and 2000) account for more than one-fourth of the U.S. population and are becoming increasingly important as consumers. If you want your business to attract more of these influential customers, here are the seven things you should be doing.
1. Get reviews. Some 85 percent of Millennials research products and services before making a purchase, according to a report from Kissmetrics. That means they’re checking out company websites, as well as looking at online reviews, checking social media and asking their social circle for recommendations. Most (89 percent) Millennials trust recommendations from friends and family more than a business’s own claims, and 93 percent have made purchases based on these recommendations. However, recommendations from strangers are also important: 84 percent of Millennials say their purchases are at least “somewhat” influenced by user-generated content online. Make sure your business is on all the ratings and review sites relevant to your industry, and monitor your reviews for anything negative so you can quickly deal with the situation before it goes viral.
2. Be social. For Millennial consumers, it’s all about social media. They want to share what they’re thinking, doing and buying. Savvy brands are harnessing this social focus by creating “Instagrammable” products and services with visual appeal. (Facial masks, blue lipstick and rainbow-colored hair dye are all examples of beauty trends that have caught on with young consumers because they get lots of “likes” on Instagram.) Whether you’re brewing lattes at your coffee shop or creating hairstyles at your salon, think about how you can punch up the visual aspect of your business to create shareable moments. Then promote your business’ social media accounts and engage with your customers on them.
3. Be socially responsible. Millennials like to support businesses that share their values. That might mean your business taking a stand on a political issue, getting involved with a global charity or participating in local community events. Choose a cause that makes sense for your business (Millennials value authenticity—they know when you’re trying to fake it) and be sure to promote it in all your marketing materials. Think of ways your Millennial customers can get involved, too—they want to be participants, not just observers.
4. Offer convenience. More than any other generation, Millennials are all about convenience, reports PWC’s Total Retail Survey 2016. In fact, one reason this generation surprisingly actually prefers to shop in-store rather than online is they can’t wait for even one-day shipping! “Ease of checkout” is highly important to Millennials in the PWC survey. Since this age group is wedded to its smartphones, be sure to offer digital loyalty programs so they don’t have to fumble for a plastic or punch card. Consider upgrading to near-field communications (NFC) contactless payment systems like Google Wallet and Apple Pay or, at minimum, offer mobile payments via smartphone or tablet in your store, so impatient Millennials can pay anywhere without having to wait in line.
5. Provide free Wi-Fi. For a Millennial, a business without Wi-Fi is like a business without oxygen—unthinkable. Make sure your store, waiting area or restaurant has it. Eight in 10 Millennials in PWC’s survey use their smartphones in-store, either to look up product information or ask friends’ opinions of a possible purchase. Setting up a separate guest Wi-Fi network with no password required offers optimum convenience for customers.
6. Let them customize everything. Millennials expect what they want the way they want it, and they like to express themselves through the products and services they purchase. The level of customization can range from simply being flexible with menu substitutions in your restaurant to offering “build-your-own-breakfast-burrito” options (and don’t forget about gluten-free, vegan and Paleo choices). If you sell services, try offering different menus of mix-and-match services, or different packages (bronze, silver, gold-level) with different services included.
7. Emphasize your independent status. As I mentioned, authenticity is important to Millennials, and there’s nothing more authentic than a small, independent business. Your marketing efforts should emphasize this. Tell the story of how you started your business; share how your product is produced or where it’s sourced; let customers get to know you and your staff through social media. Getting involved in your local business community, such as promoting shop-local initiatives or organizing “First Friday” sales, will help raise your profile as an independent business owner.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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