How the Right Marketing Strategy Cultivates Millennial Loyalty

Strategies necessary to market to Millennials successfully mark the largest change in the discipline for the past 50 years. While previous generations have always required shifts in the types of messages that resonate with them, the fundamentals of how to reach them remained relatively unchanged. Tethered almost permanently to their mobile devices, Millennials are the first generation unlikely to be influenced by celebrity endorsements, broadcast TV advertising or print coupons.

Most retailers have become savvy about altering the shopping experiences to cater to Millennials online, but marketing has not kept up in many instances. Driving Millennial shoppers to convert requires marketing messages that are relevant, authentic and immediately actionable. Millennials expect to be spoken to personally and authentically, and that level of complexity is best solved by automating personalized email campaigns based on their buying patterns and preferences. That ensures you are sending the right message at the right time to your consumers.

Mobile cannot be overstated
Millennials weren't just born digital, they were born mobile. If you aren't equipped to handle mobile sales though a responsive site, solving that is definitely your first order of business. Even if your site is optimized for mobile navigation, know that most of your marketing materials are going to be accessed through mobile devices too. That means every email, every social media post, and every image must be optimized for mobile displays.

The entire shopping journey, from awareness to conversion, needs to be seamless on the mobile channel. Millennials expect to be able to “tap and go” from an interesting product in an email to the retailer's website. If the shopper has an account, the user should be directed to the checkout page with the item loaded into the cart. Every step between interest and transaction is a roadblock to conversion and should be eliminated. Mobile shoppers are often on the go, and will quickly bore of arduous conversion and abandon the process -- don't give them the opportunity.

The importance of dynamic segmentation
Every buying behavior impacts the best way to communicate with customers. Millennials expect retailers to understand them, and sending them an email featuring a sweater they bought last week is proof that you don't. That's why it is vital that your marketing automation solution is tied directly into POS and e-commerce sales platforms. Every purchase, and even website browsing, can impact which messages are most relevant to them. Those behaviors should influence the marketing materials they receive.

By using tools to track customer behavior and collect sales data, purchasing history, brand preferences, gender, geographic area and more, you can use that data to trigger the right email campaign at the right time.

Content works better than advertising
The coupons and TV ads that built awareness for previous generations do not reach Millennials well. Naturally skeptical of promotions originating from retailers and brands, they are more attracted to the authenticity that is easier to portray with content marketing. Retailers are perfectly poised to fill this need because Millennial shoppers expect you to be an expert on every product that you carry. In their eyes, you must believe in the product if you are selling it.

Highly personalized messages that showcase the merchandise in its intended function work well. If you sell ski boots, share a story of one of your employees wearing them on a recent ski trip and what her experience was. Millennials love to feel emotional connection to every item they buy, even the mundane, and it's up to you to help paint that picture. Building an emotional connection to the products you sell brings an added bonus -- emotional connection to your brand as a retailer.

After a purchase is made, the customer should be automatically invited to submit a review on the merchandise. Not only does this make them feel heard and understood, it also gives the retailer an opportunity to recover service if a customer is in any way dissatisfied.

A picture is worth a thousand words
The second most popular search engine in the world is YouTube. Snapchat and Instagram are more popular than Twitter, trailing only Facebook in popularity among Millennials. Sharing images and videos is second nature to this audience, and these channels should be used by retailers to reach these consumers

Include video and images in your email campaigns, and empower consumers to share your content with simple links embedded in the emails and on your website. Invite them to share their own images of merchandise they like on social media too. Tell them your story, but also engage them to share theirs back with you. Identify opinion leaders on social media channels and cultivate their loyalty -- they will bring their followers with them.

Be authentic and transparent
Millennials want to know everything about the products they buy. What raw materials were used? Is it fair trade? Does it contain animal products? Were the people who manufactured it paid fair wages? Share as much information as you can about the merchandise you sell, and explain why you decided to include it in your inventory. How does this product reflect your values as a retailer?  Millennials are expert at deciphering between sales pitches and true authenticity, so be authentic with every communication.

Millennials are unlike any generation that preceded them. With the right messages distributed the right way, they are known for being loyal customers and valuable brand advocates.

Ian Goldman is president and CEO of Celerant Technology and an expert software engineer with 25 years of experience developing advanced management solutions that offer integrated omnichannel capabilities for progressive retailers.