Holiday marketing has transformed in the last decade as millennial-age shoppers started to overtake other generations in the market. As Millennials join the upper echelons of the workforce, they represent more buying power than ever. Businesses must leverage new tactics to reach these shoppers, especially during the holidays. Here’s how to market to Millennials during the holidays, creating campaigns that effectively target this unique population.
Rethinking Black Friday
Holiday shopping is no longer about Black Friday or even Cyber Monday. According to research from Yes Lifecycle Marketing, 60% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Black Friday, and 30% of Millennials shop for holiday gifts year-round. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still essential days for retail outlets, marketers should not spend all their energy (or marketing dollars) on these campaigns. Use shopping trends to create a shopping experience designed for the Millennial set – for example, by incorporating pre-Black Friday or even Black Friday in July sales. Amazon is already wise to this trend and recently introduced Prime Day, with exclusive sales for its Prime customers. Exclusivity, personalization, and Black Friday level deals in the middle of the summer are incredibly efficient; try using one of these ideas for yourself.
Content Is (Still) King
The same report also showed the most Millennials and their junior generation, Gen Z, continue to be heavily influenced by content. About 90% of Millennials reported that content changed their holiday purchasing decisions. By contrast, only a third of Baby Boomers admitted to the same. There are definite generational consumer preferences. If you want to market primarily to Millennials, your approach is going to be radically different than if you’re going to reach Baby Boomers. Marketers must leverage data to create relevant content for Millennials that inform their purchasing decisions, especially during the holidays.
Focus on Experiences
Millennials are an extremely “experiential” generation. Instead of spending their money on material goods, Millennials prefer to spend their disposable income on travel and entertainment, with a focus on personal fulfillment over excess. Research from PwC suggests that Millennial shoppers plan on spending around half of their allocated budgets on experiential expenses this holiday season. While these seem to be unwelcome news to those who sell tangible goods, retailers still have an opportunity to engage Millennial shoppers by offering interactive and innovative experiences in-store (or online)
Some of today’s most Millennial-friendly brands focus on co-creation, participation, and experiential marketing. Millennials crave additional freedom with their customer journey and interaction with the organizations they patronize. Brands can capitalize on this by creating experiences that allow Millennials to be actively involved in the purchasing process. This not only leads to more purchases but positive propagation of a brand through social media.
Nike has been particularly successful in leveraging experiential marketing and engaging Millennials with their brand, in spite of selling tangible products. They seamlessly combine brick and mortar, e-commerce, and mobile platforms to create an experience that allows their consumers to be on the cutting edge constantly. From personalized and customized gear, workout and training tips, and making friends through social media, Nike lets Millennials interact in a meaningful way. It should be no surprise, then, that they were ranked #3 on Moosylvania’s Top 100 Millennial Brands report.
Engage With Compassion
There is an increasing interest for Millennials to buy from brands who engage in socially responsible or philanthropic initiatives. For this reason, many companies are looking to make a difference while engaging millennial shoppers throughout the holiday season. Everlane, for example, donated its entire 2016 Black Friday profits to help factory workers in Vietnam. ModCloth, a retro clothing brand, took the opposite approach, shut down their website for Black Friday, and donated $5 million worth of clothing to the organization Dress For Success, which helps women transition back into the workforce. It also ran a social media contest that recognized and gave grants to people who make their communities better through their charitable work. If you want to engage Millennials with your brand, consider aligning yourself with a charitable cause – no good deed goes unnoticed.
Personalize the Experience
Rather than wanting the ability to touch and interact with products, Millennials report that the top reason they shop in-store is the inspiration for gift ideas. Almost 60% of Millennials report liking browsing for gift ideas in stores, and half of the 18-29-year olds report that thinking of gift ideas is a significant stressor during the holiday season.
This presents an opportunity for brands to make the shopping experience more enjoyable by alleviating stress. When creating your in-store displays and activities, consider getting your customers involved by creating surveys or offering helpful gift suggestions. Train your sales associates to come up with gift suggestions for moms, siblings, significant others, and more.
Guide Their Decision Making
The majority of Millennials research products and prices online before even setting foot in your store. One the reasons that Millennials journey to the store, other than gift ideas, is to experience something different than the product itself. Creating a festive holiday atmosphere can help your Millennials experience something enjoyable while testing out products for purchase – something no e-commerce retailer can offer. To engage Millennials, stores must create festive in-store experiences that keep them coming into the door through the holiday season and beyond. Make their purchasing decisions easy by decking your halls and staffing knowledgeable sales associates that can offer suggestions while answering questions about some of your most popular products.
Leverage Tracking Technology
A simple, yet essential component of eliciting holiday sales is keeping your store shelves stocked with all your products. Since Millennials are more accustomed to shopping online, consistent product availability is vital in keeping them coming through your doors. The holiday season has products flying off store shelves faster than normal, so it can be difficult to keep track of your merchandise. Thankfully, leveraging retail merchandising software is a simple way to streamline your inventory management and minimize the risk of fraud. If you don’t have it already, get it this holiday season.
Finally, remember that Millennials value transparency and authenticity. They want their opinions to have bearing on your business practices, which requires a little listening on your part. Post customer survey cards around your store and respond thoughtfully to any online reviews or social media posts. This will make them feel more valued, and hence more likely to patronize your store even after the holiday season is over. And if you promise something, deliver on that promise. Remember that this generation communicates quickly and through public spaces, so any miscommunication could result in negative reviews or a lackluster buying experience.
The Bottom Line
Millennials have set themselves firmly apart from the Baby Boomer parents. They want their voices heard and want to be a part of the buying experience. There are 80 million of them, so they represent a large chunk of a retailer’s consumer population. They also represent over a trillion in buying power. How you appeal to them will make all the difference in your holiday bottom lines. By focusing on experiential marketing and social consciousness, you can engage this generation into the holiday season and beyond. Use these tips to frame your holiday and year-round marketing campaigns – you’ll be pleased with the outcome.