Selling to the Internet Generation

July 12, 2016

Millennials. The Internet generation. Generation Y.

However you describe the generation of adults born in the 1980s and 1990s, it is important to recognize that they have tremendous power and influence over the economic and cultural landscape. This generation of individuals makes up roughly one quarter of the entire United States population, and contribute $ 200 billion in annual buying power (if not more). The Internet generation has become a cultural juggernaut that is willing and able to spend money on consumer products. In fact, it is estimated that Millennials in total will be the largest consumer generation in history, spending $ 10 trillion over the course of their lives. But how does one sell to Millennials? As is often the case, things aren’t black and white. Though there may not be one single, all-encompassing answer, businesses could do worse than leveraging these strategies.

The Pragmatic Strategy: Use a Multichannel Approach

Not only do Millennials access the Internet more than any other generation, but they do so mostly from mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. In fact, approximately 20 percent of Millennials access the Internet exclusively via mobile devices – they simply no longer use or own a desktop computer. If your business hopes to sell to a Millennial audience, it is imperative that you utilize a multichannel marketing strategy. But what is multichannel marketing?

In plain terms, multichannel marketing is the process of utilizing numerous advertising channels for marketing and branding purposes. In the digital age, this may include pay-per-click advertising on search engines like Google and Bing; social media advertising on platforms like Facebook and Twitter; and video advertising on sites like YouTube. Additional advertising avenues include email and inbound marketing. Put simply, if you want to sell to Millennials, don’t throw all of your eggs in one basket (and consider nixing your television advertising altogether).

The Emotional Strategy: Be Communicative and Build Loyalty

Believe it or not, Millennials do have brand loyalty. In fact, studies have shown that they are as brand-loyal, if not more so, than their parents. But the key to long-term success for any business is nurturing this loyalty through communication. Social media platforms allow businesses to engage with consumers directly like never before, but perhaps more importantly, this communication is now out in the open. In the past, letters of concern or criticism could be ignored. After all, who would see the letter? What fallout could possibly occur? That is no longer the case. Twitter and Facebook (and Instagram and Vine… the list goes on) have put your biggest fans – and your most vocal critics – in plain sight. Rather than run and hide, leverage these channels to your advantage.

What specifically should companies do? Be open, be honest, and be communicative. Do so and the customers will come. T-Mobile has demonstrated this with its rather brilliant social strategy. Company CEO John Legere is something of a case study for using social media right. T-Mobile is popular for many reasons, admittedly. It’s T-Mobile #BingeOn program, which allows customers to stream from a wide variety of providers from their mobile devices for free certainly helps (especially with Millennials). But a key reason is because the company interacts directly with its customers on a daily basis. They make an effort to put out fires, are often forthright and vocal about competitors, and diligently right wrongs wherever they occur. Millennials like such a proactive approach to customer service.

The Philosophical Strategy: Be Authentic and Genuine

The Internet generation has something of a reputation for being highly critical of anything it perceives as lacking authenticity. Whether we’re discussing coffee or political candidates, Millennials seem to be attracted to the genuine article. With Millennials, you don’t get the benefit of the doubt. You have to “earn your keep,” as the saying goes. For businesses, this is important, as most Millennials view most advertising suspiciously. It raises a pretty fundamental question: How do you advertise to a generation that is immune to advertising?

In plain terms, be truthful. If you misrepresent a product, knowingly or by accident, Millennials will know. If you make a claim about a competitor that isn’t true, Millennials will know. If a product doesn’t work as intended or is poorly designed or manufactured, Millennials will know. Perhaps more damaging to your brand and business, they will let others know as well. For businesses looking to sell to the Internet generation, there must be a fundamental principle adhered to through all levels of the organization: Be authentic and genuine in your communication, and provide products and services that fulfill a need or desire in the marketplace. Do these two things, and everything else may just fall into place.

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