how brands can engage millennial consumers

The future of retail: How brands can engage millennial consumers

When wondering how they can engage millennial consumers, brands should consider the following:

  • According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, there were 83.1 million reported millennials—youth born between 1982 and 2000—representing more than one-quarter of the nation’s population. 
  • Research conducted by Accenture found that millennials spend approximately $600 billion each year; this spending is projected to increase to $1.4 trillion annually and represent 30% of total retail sales by the end of this year.

With millennials representing such a large percentage of the population—and their purchasing power increasing by the billions—brands should consider the desires of millennial consumers and how their marketing efforts can be improved to reach this powerful group.  

Why Market to Millennials?

Astound Commerce’s Global Brand Shopper Survey found that 45% of millennials expect a more engaging experience on the brand manufacturer’s website—as opposed to a retailer—where they can get a strong sense of the product and brand.

Tailoring your products and services to engage millennial consumers is worth your while for numerous reasons:

  • They’re a powerful force. Millennials account for nearly half of the American workforce. By 2025, they’ll represent 75% of the global workforce.
  • They’re earning more money than ever. The median income for a millennial household is $69,000. “Millennial households now earn more than young adult households did at nearly any time in the past 50 years,” says Pew Research.
  • They’re a great source of feedback. A report from Adobe Digital Insights found that nine in 10 people ages 18 to 34 said they would take an action after having a bad online customer experience, including posting reviews on a review site or social media. Millennials feel they have a strong voice in a relationship with a brand and they expect that relationship to be a two-way street. 
  • They’re loyal. Millennials seek out brands that offer unique and rewarding experiences. While 74% of millennials will switch to another brand if they have a negative purchasing experience, 60% of millennials say they prefer to stay loyal to the brands from which they purchase. 

How Brands Can Engage Millennial Consumers

Now that you’re familiar with the power millennial consumers possess, consider incorporating the following into your marketing strategy to gain their attention, respect, and loyalty to your brand. 

1. Leverage Social Media 

Millennials love to participate, share their opinions, and feel on top of a trend. Starbucks leveraged the power of social media when the coffee company launched its Unicorn Frappuccino in 2017. The drink—a color-changing beverage inspired by unicorn-themed posts on social media, including unicorn emojis on Facebook, and a unicorn filter on Snapchat—was available for a limited time from April 19-April 23. During that time, it generated more than 150,000 posts on Instagram because it was aesthetically appealing and bright with its fairy-like hues of pink, blue and purple. The number of shares and attention the product received caused Starbucks stock to rise by 1.8% to $60.08 in just one day.     

2. Offer Customization

learn how brands can engage millennial consumersMillennials like to be treated as individuals with specific wants and needs. When compared to previous generations, millennials are most comfortable with sharing personal information in exchange for customized offers and experiences. Tailoring your approach to the individual and maintaining the ability to flex your options based on consumer preferences can go a long way. Birchbox is a successful monthly beauty sample subscription box based on individual skin and hair types, concerns, and styles. There are plenty of curated beauty boxes, but Birchbox is unique in its plethora of customization options that allow subscribers to adventurously explore a sea of trendy offerings. The experience is easy, fun, and includes a few surprises. Brands like Burberry, Sephora, and Ikea all operate on similar principles. They understand that millennials will value the product more if they played a part in creating it. 

3. Have a Purpose

“Cause Marketing” took off several years ago when businesses found that inviting people to “round up their change” for charity was not only a way to increase donations but to increase brand loyalty as well. One study found that 81% of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship. In turn, this corporate social responsibility builds relationships with millennials who care about social causes. Use your marketing materials, landing pages, and social media accounts to “bake” a sense of purpose into your brand. A purpose-led campaign should encourage others to share and participate. In fact, many companies go one step further; rather than asking their consumers to donate to their cause, they encourage workers to participate in volunteer activities they feel passionate about as well.

4. Revamp Your Content

Millennials are among the biggest consumers of online content—spending as much as 18 hours a day reading—and 62% say content, specifically, drives their loyalty to particular brands. If you want to turbocharge your content to better appeal to these content gobblers, consider: telling a nostalgic story (examples: Pokemon Go, Disney, Full House); embracing multimedia like videos and GIFs (ex: Starbucks and Nike Instagram stories); teaming up with influencers (ex: NBA star Steph Curry, social media influencers King Bach, and Brita); encouraging user-generated content with hashtags (ex: #OreoHorrorStories or #UnicornFrappuccino).  

5. Go Mobile

More than 90% of millennials own a smartphone. Among these mobile device users, 68% expect a fully integrated shopping experience—which can be obtained by using a shopping app. Apps allow brands to control the mobile narrative. At least half of millennials already have a shopping app installed on their phones. Consider Shopkick, a mobile shopping rewards app, for example. Here’s how the rewards platform works: Shopkickers begin their purchase journey by browsing engaging in-app content from several brands and retailers, whether they’re at home or on the go. Users can check the Shopkick app to see which brands or retailers offer “kicks,” or rewards points, which incentivize shoppers to visit a store or browse online. In-store, Shopkick utilizes an engaging gamification strategy that drives shoppers to products at-shelf and encourages physical product interaction in exchange for kicks. This allows brands to boost product awareness when it truly matters most—in-aisle, with the product in hand. By offering users an additional kick incentive for making a purchase, Shopkick closes the loop and drives sales. Eventually, Shopkick users redeem their kicks for free gift cards, which builds a positive affinity and loyalty for the brands and retailers that awarded them. 

With their collective buying power and willingness to engage, millennials make the perfect marketing target.

With their collective buying power and willingness to engage, millennials make the perfect marketing target. Tweaking your current marketing strategy to cultivate their loyalty will ensure your brand continues to maintain prominence in the years to come. You may find that interacting with this generation continues to inject fresh ideas and life into your brand as well. 

Ready to appeal to millennials through mobile? Read our success stories or contact Shopkick to learn how to become one of our partners and start driving greater loyalty among millennials right away.


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Dima Volovik

EVP of Product and Engineering

Dima Volovik is the EVP of Product and Engineering at Trax Retail — Shopkick.

Dima Volovik is the accomplished product and engineering leader who led teams to deliver innovative and commercially successful e-commerce products, marketplaces, and enterprise solutions for Amazon, Comcast, Fandango, and Universal Music. Before joining Trax, Dima was the Director at Amazon, where he led product development and Engineering for Amazon Appstore and Amazon Prime Video, CTO at Fandango, and Paciolan, head of technology at Golf Channel/Golf Now, and Global VP of Direct to Consumer Technology at Universal Music Group. Dima’s expertise includes developing consumer products, marketplaces, and enterprise solutions.

Dima grew up in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he received his MS in Electrical Engineering from Azerbaijan Oil Academy, and he currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with his family.