Millennials are all grown up. As a generation of approximately 50 million struggles to balance a difficult job market and entry-level salaries with the financial demands of expanding households, marketers must learn how to navigate Millennials' frugality and dependence on new media.
My most recent blog post took you inside the heads of Millennial shoppers with an infographic representing key findings from SymphonyIRI's MarketPulse survey. This quarterly survey analyzed shoppers' economic attitudes and behaviors, as well as the economy's impact on personal financial conditions, lifestyle, and shopping habits. From creating an engaging retail environment to developing messaging around Millennials' core values, here are five actionable tips to help you connect with these "always connected" shoppers.
Millennials entered their adult lives during the deepest recession in American history since the Great Depression. Due to high unemployment and underemployment rates and modest household income levels, many are struggling to make ends meet. In fact, 32 percent of Millennial shoppers are having difficulty affording weekly groceries, compared to 22 percent of the general population. SymphonyIRI's Shopper Sentiment Index revealed this generation's low level of financial confidence during the past 18 months, charting a more negative and volatile sentiment compared to other age groups.
Simply put, Millennials are strapped for cash and especially price driven. They've adopted frugal shopping behaviors to keep their budgets in check. Millennials are deal-seekers and coupon-clippers, and are more likely to give up their favorite brands to save.
Given this mindset, marketers should focus on building messaging around the notion of value and affordability to convert Millennial shoppers into buyers. Consider introducing an everyday low pricing strategy or expanding private label offerings. Promotional programs can also drive purchase behavior by encouraging trial. Splurges on at-home beauty products or fresh foods aren't uncommon for Millennials, but higher price tags must be backed by messaging to communicate superior quality or a significant value-oriented differentiator.
Make an emotional connection
Purchase decisions don't come down to price alone. Despite financial hardship, Millennials aren't sacrificing enjoyment. They seek products that promise fun and help them on their quest to live well for less. To save money, 52 percent of Millennials are eating out less often than before the downturn, but this generation is recreating the restaurant experience in their own homes. CPG marketers should introduce innovative products to bring the fun factor to Millennials' home-cooked meals. New packaging that makes serving easier for at-home entertaining or suggests added excitement could be especially eye-catching.
Additionally, engaging with Millennials on social media platforms can help your product hit closer to home. As opposed to traditional marketing, social media creates an avenue for two-way communication, allowing shoppers to feel a deeper level of connection to a brand. For example, Walgreens recently hosted a beauty-themed Facebook contest that let customers showcase a unique "look." Entrants submitted a headshot of themselves with a list of Maybelline or Garnier products used to create the look. This level of engagement is a great way to harvest an ongoing relationship and increase loyalty, as customers feel valued.
Retailers also have the opportunity to notch up the excitement by creating an entertaining in-store shopping environment. Millennials are more likely than other groups to choose retailers based on how fun they are, and they truly expect a consumer-centric shopping experience -- one tailored to their most pressing wants and needs.
Marketers should consider investing in additional end-caps or revamp messaging on signage, as 38 percent of Millennials are influenced by in-store signs or displays, compared to 28 percent of the general population. Adding the latest technology, such as touch-screen digital signage, can help not only draw Millennials in, but also provide additional services, such as nutritional information, recipe ideas, and complementary product suggestions to make shopping faster, easier, and more rewarding.
When launching a new product, offering samples at kiosks is a great way to reach the relatively less brand-loyal Millennials. They are nearly twice as likely to be influenced by in-store kiosks when making brand decisions versus the average shopper. An in-store kiosk trial removes the element of the unknown -- shoppers have the opportunity to try a product without taking a financial risk.
Although many purchase decisions are made at retail, Millennials use a variety of mobile and online resources to gather product and promotional information. Perhaps the most distinguishing quality of the Millennial generation is its affinity for technology. After all, this is the first generation to be "always connected." According to University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, 80 to 90 percent of Millennials use social media, and 80 percent sleep with their cell phones next to them.
And to take it a step further, Millennials are especially susceptible to digital marketing, for digital is this generation's medium of choice. Digital influences play a huge role in their purchase decisions. For example, Millennials are more than 200 times more likely than the average shopper to be influenced by smartphone apps when making brand decisions. In Eric Anderson's "The 5 myths of marketing to Millennials," he suggests that the group is still influenced by direct mail, but based on their digital dependence, Millennials may begin to see this as junk mail. All traditional marketing efforts to Millennials should be supported digitally, through targeted online campaigns and consistent conversation on social media.
Millennials as brand evangelists
When new mothers of past generations needed a diaper brand recommendation, they turned to a close girlfriend or even their own mother for advice. But today, with one tweet or Facebook post, Millennial moms can survey their entire social network. Millennials really do take advantage of their infinitely broad reference pools. They not only search product websites, but personal blogs and online reviews, which exist in turn, because Millennials actively broadcast their opinions over new media.
This creates a huge opportunity for marketers. If Millennials feel a strong connection to a brand, they can help amplify marketing messages because they're already engaged in online spaces. BzzAgent, a digital word-of-mouth marketing company, helps brands enlist ambassadors or "agents" to try products and start conversations about them across social media platforms. And in case you still question digital word-of-mouth's effect on ROI, successful case studies have measured as much as a 14.5 percent sales lift.
Despite their cautious approach to shopping, Millennials are expected to generate growth of an estimated $56 billion in CPG sales during the next decade. This group cannot be ignored. Marketers should implement digital campaigns to strengthen not only sales, but relations with consumers who aren't giving up their digital habits anytime soon. As Millennials stock the pantries of their newly established households, use value-driven messaging to create a new generation of loyal shoppers who won't be giving up your brand anytime soon, either.
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"Young woman shopping" image via Shutterstock.