The struggle is real: Marketing to Millennials

Columnist Nicole Shariat-Farb shares some steps retail marketers can take to connect with this vitally important demographic where they live — online and on their smartphones.


The retail environment is crazily competitive. The old guard retailers have upped their game, and there are new startups coming online every day. In this environment, how do you stand out and grow your customer base? And most importantly, how can you reach the important demographic of next-generation shoppers — Millennials — in a way that speaks to them?

Most retailers need to rethink their marketing tactics when it comes to Millennials. In 2016, Millennials are moving faster than ever, and so is the landscape of media offerings marketers can use to reach them.

Here are five techniques all retailers need to employ to keep up.

1. Be where they are

You can’t reach Millennials if you’re not playing in their playground. Help them find you, and draw them back to you by hanging out where they do.

Of course, you already have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, but do you have Instagram and Snapchat and YouTube accounts? Do you have a Vine? According to a TNS Connected Life study conducted in mid-2015, Millennials spend at least 3.1 hours a day on their mobile devices — nearly the equivalent of a full day every week — and they spend 2.3 hours a day engaged with social media.

This is where your Millennial shoppers live, and at a minimum, you should have a brand presence there, but you can and should take it a step further and get really creative.

Do your millennial employees have any fun Dubsmash or accounts to share? Connect to those employees on your corporate accounts and repost them on Instagram. Millennials want to be engaged with content that makes them laugh, helps them learn something and connects them to interesting ideas and people, and that means the content is so much more than direct promotion of your products. Be where they are, and then have fun.

Keep in mind, we’ve been talking about Millennials for about a decade now, so “fun” content could be a video of how to get ready for girls’ night or fun DIY decorating ideas for a baby shower. On our own site, we’ve found that these short videos around weddings, nurseries and decorating (like this example) are popular and are engaging people at 10x the rate of static content.

2. Talk the way they talk

“I Can’t Even” emphasize how on fleek this point is. Did you understand that? Well, if so, great, you can talk the talk. If not, study up.

Talk to Millennials the way they talk, in a literal and figurative sense. That means using their language, but also using it in a way that makes them pay attention.

What does that mean? Millennials love video, they have short attention spans and they multitask. In fact, a recent study by Microsoft (PDF) made the bold claim that humans now have shorter attention spans than goldfish, thanks to smartphones. Whether or not you believe that to be true, the trend is definitely toward short, engaging (video) content.

Personally, I’m v excited to see how you do on this p awesome point. Did you get that? Here’s a cheat sheet: Millennials don’t spell out “very” or “pretty.”

3. Hire them!

If everything I’ve written so far seems overwhelming, then guess what? You need a few more Millennials on staff to help you with this.

They’ll keep you hip and relevant, and you’ll help them launch a career in the area they love most. It’s a win-win situation.

4. Leverage technology

What’d they say in “The Shawshank Redemption?” “Get busy living or get busy dying.” With Millennials and commerce, that saying should be “Get busy using Millennial technology or get busy being irrelevant.”

At a minimum, you must have an easy and fast way to make and post videos to all social media channels. Leveraging technology today means being fast and flexible.

Lush Cosmetics just recently launched its first US app, and a major component is social video. The brand integrates content that users have posted to Instagram showing how they use their Lush products directly from Instagram. It’s no wonder that upon launching, the app became one of the top-performing in the beauty and lifestyle category. Direct e-commerce almost seems secondary to engaging their users in interesting social content.  LushSocialShopping

There’s no time for production value or days of copywriting and editing. Millennials move fast, and so should you.

5. Be authentic and inspire them

So after these four tips, the one that should be woven throughout all of them is authenticity. Millennials love original voices and ideas — that’s why they eat up this new technology. So use the technology, and speak their language, but be authentic in the way you approach it.

There’s no tried-and-true formula for what works. You cannot plan to produce a viral video. Viral social media content comes from truly authentic ideas. Who would have ever thought that a mother sitting in a Kohl’s parking lot wearing a “Star Wars” Chewbacca mask would produce the most viewed video on Facebook ever? But it was authentic, and it captured people’s attention because of the sheer joy she was sharing.

So start by filming what looks fresh and funny. Write what comes to your mind. Highlight what you see that looks original. It’s in this approach that you’ll truly find your audience.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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