Ready or not, here they come. In 2015, Millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest share of the American workforce. Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials now make up over one-third of the American population and are the most diverse group in the nation’s history. They’re also the savviest. Which means, for businesses, they’re both an opportunity and a force to be reckoned with.
Millennials stand apart from previous generations of consumers. Over 60% of Millennials attended college and as a generation, they were the first to grow up with the Internet. As digital natives, many live in an always-on digital world through their smartphones, tablets and proliferation of social media accounts. In short, Millennials are smart and they’re connected with their peers and the world around them.
What does this mean for businesses, and for coffee brands in particular? For starters, Millennials’ affinity for technology is changing the retail landscape and how they engage with shops. Through the usage of reviews, product information, price comparisons and peer-to-peer recommendations via social media, Millennials are prioritizing brands and locations that can offer maximum convenience at the lowest cost without sacrificing quality.
Millennials are also connecting with brands like never before. No longer is a brand’s image solely what is portrayed on packaging and what’s in magazine or newspaper ads. A brand can now be comprised of everything from consumer reviews, product plugs in social media posts and #hashtags in selfies to (and this is if you’ve really made it into the public eye) Internet memes and beyond.
This changing landscape brings up three salient points when thinking about marketing to Millennials. First, companies no longer have complete control over their brand. Instead, the sum of impressions that make up the brand is an aggregate of both the company itself and the consumer. Because of this, it’s more important than ever for brands to be consistent in their messaging, creative and vocal on the web and social media. This is where the brand starts, and if done consistently and tightly, consumers will continue this message into their peer networks and around the web. If done inconsistently, the brand will come across looking like a disheveled mess and consumers will never truly see the brand as it was intended.
The second point is that brands must be interactive and adaptable with consumers. Having a social media account for a company and posting once or twice a week is no longer acceptable. Brands and stores need to engage frequently and in a manner aligned to their brand. If there’s a negative tweet, quickly respond to remedy the situation. If there’s a poor review, post a reply and try to get the customer to give the shop a second chance. In a world sped up with technology, when consumers (and Millennials in particular) do not receive a reply within 24 hours on social, they’ve not only forgotten your store or brand, but also moved on to a competitor’s.
The last area where shop owners should take note is in maintaining transparency and honesty. Nowadays, Millennials and tech-savvy members of previous generations can see through a façade quicker than the time it takes to pull an espresso shot. The marketing gimmicks and guises of old are now just that – old, outdated and unwanted. Time and time again companies are exposed for hiding or bending the truth from their consumers and when this happens, it is devastating for a brand. Word spreads via social media and the Internet and soon enough the shop may as well have caution tape around its premises. Because of this, it’s imperative that brands are honest and transparent with their customers.
The good news around the Millennial mindset and the changing landscape of purchasing is that if done right, brands will be valued like family. Though pickier and more scrutinizing than their parents’ generations, Millennials are very loyal customers if treated right. In fact, nearly 80% of Millennials reported participating in loyalty programs and similarly, 80% reported being more likely to purchase from brands with loyalty programs than without.
There’s no doubt that as Millennials enter the workforce and become the prevailing purchasing group, the retail landscape will change. Though myths abound regarding Millennial purchasing, studies show that Millennials are just as loyal, just as brick-and-mortar driven consumers as previous generations. The only difference? They’re smarter and more connected. And with that, businesses must be too.
Though born a Gen-X’er, Lucas Alberg both appreciates and identifies with many Millennial qualities. He puts these to good use as the Marketing Communications Manager for Hydro Flask in Bend, Ore.