FOR GRAYING BABY BOOMERS like me, the awesome power of demographics has in many ways defined our lives. There are a lot of us. We clogged our kindergartens, our universities, our workplaces, our media, our politics and our communities with sheer numerical might; and the retail marketing universe seemed to revolve around our needs and our sense of entitlement.
In his 1980 book, Great Expectations, author Langdon Y. Jones called this phenomenon “a pig in a python” – a rather visceral visualization of how the boomers’ demographic bulge has traveled through America’s culture, distorting as it goes.
Along the way we also had a lot of kids. So many, in fact that we engendered an echo boom that is numerically larger than our own. In case you haven’t noticed, those 75 million “millennials,” as the demographers like to call them, now largely dominate cultural, political and marketing discourse. Not to mention our consumer economy – the 18-34 cohort wields $2 trillion in purchasing power.
Nowhere is the millennial influence more clearly in evidence than it was at the recent Shop.org conference in Dallas. Dubbed, “Retail’s Digital Summit,” the three-day event brought together 5,000 online retail leaders and visionaries, with a cadre of experts and innovators in digital tech and Unified Commerce. From a look a the attendees, it was easy to observe that Millennials are the experts in these activities and the consumers they pursue.
In a presentation titled, “Beyond the Meme: How to Reach Millennials,” W. Hunter Thomas, a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP and Gabbi Baker, assistant account executive with OgilvyOne, delivered a Millennial’s eye-view of the Millennial cohort.
“We even have our own language,” said Baker, drawing both knowing and puzzled smiles from audience members when she asked who was familiar with the social media shorthand, “BAE on fleek.” (For clueless boomers like me, BAE = before anyone else, or simply my babe; on fleek is to be flawless and sleek, or just worthy of approval.)
In crisp, tag-team fashion, Baker and Thomas presented five key observations about how to market to Millennials, in the voice of their Millennial peers:
- “I want consistency across channels, based on my smart phone.” Two-thirds of Millennials say they use mobile apps in stores. This presents opportunities for store-based digital platforms and interactive displays.
- “I want content that engages me, not pushes me to buy.” 31% of Millennials say they are more likely to buy if the content is not sales-y. This explains the popularity of live-streamed runway shows and new visual commerce platforms like Olapic and Curalate which enable consumers to participate in the visual storytelling.
- “I want to shop right here, right now.” 62% of Millennials already use their smart phones to shop, Thomas said. Innovators are responding by embedding shopping and commerce tools within social media platforms, to lessen friction.
- “I want this to be specific to my needs (which you should know).” 60% of Millennials willingly provide their personal preference information to sites they patronize, so they expect relevant personalization in return.
- “If I like you, I want a relationship.” Millennials are 1.5 times more likely to pay a premium for products if there is a mechanism for earning loyalty points.
“For Millennials, the best platforms will be the easiest to use,” said Baker. “They should accept all payment types and provide multiple forms of access, including the mobile phone, smart watch, email, and apps.”
Last time I checked, most of us Baby Boomers liked those things too. Just sayin’.
© Copyright 2016 James Tenser