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How To Successfully Market To Millennials


by Kelly Morr, Senior Manager of Content Strategy at 99designs

Gen Y

There’s a lot you can say about the cohort born between 1982 and 2000. A generation brought up with constantly evolving technologies, Millennials are the most digitally aware and technically savvy of any preceding age group. Because Millennials participate so much of their daily lives online — from communicating with friends to reviewing restaurants — they represent a hugely lucrative market for brands.

But what makes Millennials so special when it comes to ecommerce strategy? Let’s take a look:

1. Millennials are social.

Although Millennials often have the reputation of not interacting with other people because they’re online all the time, the opposite is actually true. They share constantly. While chatting about a new product with a friend in person can carry some weight, sharing that same feedback with one’s social networks or online reviews can have much more significant impact for a brand.

2. Millennials heart online shopping.

Millennials are much more prone to shop on their phones than they are to hit up a brick and mortar — or when they do check out a record store or boutique in person, it’s often after they’ve scoped it out online first to find out if it’s worth their time. Millennials shop online more than Gen X’ers and certainly more than Baby Boomers, making them an obvious target market for ecommerce platforms.

3. Millennials are cost conscious.

Millennials are the children of the economic crisis, so they are much more discerning about the ways they spend money than their predecessors. Yet, with higher living costs and relatively lower salaries and benefits than the boomer generation, Millennials are buying products. They’re just doing so in a thoughtful way.

But getting Millennials to shop is not so simple. They engage with their brands in a totally new way, and they are impatient with marketing techniques that ring false, feel dated, or are too invasive. While Millennials know that they’re going to be targeted, they want companies to be authentic and transparent. What worked for their parents probably won’t work for them, and brands need to keep up with Millennials in order to get them to buy in, and ultimately buy.

Here are some tips to get members of the millennial market to add to cart!

Kill clichés.

If something is tired, Millennials with sniff it out faster than they can swipe left. Avoid common advertising tropes like overly gendered products that don’t need to be — laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, and even yogurt are almost always advertised with women in their campaigns (typically moms). Men do laundry. Men eat yogurt! Gender-splitting in advertising is something that socially conscious Millennials hate.

Instead of falling on clichés, try out an original concept. Instead of a busy mom rushing around with her kiddos, struggling to have the time to pour liquid detergent (so she opts for detergent pods, of course!), maybe a male apartment-dweller efficiently and one-handedly uses a detergent pod amongst a sea of his building-mates who spill powder detergents and liquids. Maybe.

When you’re thinking about advertising and marketing concepts, acknowledging and avoiding clichés is an important, critical step, but creating a truly original campaign isn’t easy. Test campaigns out before you run them, and know that a millennial audience is one that appreciates change and experiments.

Invest in design.

If you think your ecommerce site doesn’t matter, that mobile first isn’t necessary, or that design comes second to the product you’re selling, it’s time for a reality check. Millennials, who will soon make up the largest portion of the workforce (which means $$$), care about this stuff. They want an uncluttered ecommerce platform and to be able to make a quick purchase on their smartphones. They care about consistent branding, and they care about good design. Free clipart, Microsoft WordArt, and old typography like Times New Roman, Comic Sans, or dare we say Papyrus, are not going to win over any Millennial buyers.

The old adage, “you’ve got to spend money to make money” is especially true when it comes to ecommerce branding. Find yourself an excellent designer to help capture your company’s message.

bare soaps

Logo & brand identity pack by S.V ART for b.a.r.e. soap

Caption: The designer has used color, typography, and a graphic logo to effectively communicate the brand’s mission.

We recommend launching a logo design contest, which enables you to get dozens (or even hundreds) of great designs to help capture your ecommerce brand. Your designer can also provide a branding, packaging, or social media package to help aid your platform and your product’s needs. And with packages for every budget, even the most cost-conscious brand has room to make great design a priority for their brand.

Lean into social.

Millennials spend a lot of their time on social media platforms, so it’s imperative for brands to develop their own social handles. This allows brands to share their products casually, in a way that will reach their customers while they’re already scrolling through their feeds. Customers can also comment on an Instagram or Facebook post, and can communicate with the brand in real time. This breaks down the proverbial fourth wall of advertising, as people can directly respond to what they’re seeing.

But don’t overdo it.

As much as Millennials want to interact with the brands they like, they don’t want to be stalked or aggressively sold to. Millennials want to trust and respect the brands they buy from before they make a purchase. As such, aggressive selling methods like retargeting ads, pop-ups, and clickbait articles will likely push potential shoppers away. Instead, offer customers genuine content that adds value to your products. A well-maintained, relevant blog that is shared via a Facebook post lets customers dive into more about your brand on their own terms—it’s better than a pair of shoes following them to every site they visit for weeks!

Be authentic.

Remember when Pepsi decided to use the momentum of political protests and Kardashian-Jenner cachet with their protest party ad featuring Kendall Jenner? Well, it didn’t go over too well. That’s because Millennials (incidentally their target audience) saw right through their efforts, and they served them royally on social media.

Instead of capitalizing on causes, make caring a part of your business model. It’s true that Millennials care about a lot of issues. As such, they are likely to align themselves with brands that also care about issues too. If you make caring a part of your brand identity, it will attract the generation that cares. And that will help get them to support your brand with their dollars. Soma donates to global water charities with every filter purchase. Warby Parker donates a pair of glasses to someone in need with every pair purchased. These strategies help bring more buyers in, letting social impact and profitability coexist.

Millennials are allies, not enemies.

So often, the media negatively casts Millennials, which, considering how many Millennials there are (75.4 million!), seems like an odd choice.

Instead of falling into that trap, recognize that Millennials are ultimately going to help your ecommerce brand succeed. Instead of alienating them, market to them in a creative, thoughtful, and compelling way. They’re on their phones, and they’re ready to see your work.


kelly morr

Kelly Morr is the Senior Manager of Content Strategy at 99designs, the world’s #1 online source for crowdsourced logo and graphic design. Kelly manages the 99designs blog, which provides educational and inspirational articles to help people create and grow their small businesses.

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