How to market to millennials

Business owners increasingly are recognizing the need to market to millennials, young people ages 22 to 34 — as well they should.

“Millennials are the chosen generation for many marketers because of their sheer number and perceived buying power,” according to NPD Group, a market research company.

Millennials comprise nearly three-tenths of the adult population (29 percent) and are more ethnically diverse than Gen-Xers and baby boomers.

“Millennials are different from other generations for a number of reasons,” said Kirk Jacobson, managing partner of JW Advisors, a business financial consulting firm.

Among them:

• Millennials are tech savvy and embrace new technology quickly.

• They are better informed about products and services because they can quickly and easily research them online.

• They prefer brands that give back to society and are environmentally friendly.

• They are a social generation and tend to share everything, typically through social media. As a result, traditional advertising may not be as effective as blogs, Facebook posts or YouTube videos.

• They are adventurous and love to travel to exotic places.

As a generation that grew up with technology and easy access to products and services, millennials generally are harder to satisfy because they are better informed about products, alternatives and pricing, Jacobson said. They’re not afraid to get their hands dirty doing research.

“They generally trust and rely on feedback from other customers who have purchased the product or service they are interested in,” he said. “They have high social expectations of the companies they buy from.”

That mentality has influenced consumer expectations across the board, regardless of age.

“Consumers in general want online access to almost everything” these days, said Tony Caufield, information technology manager for Three Square Food Bank. “They shop online, schedule services online and research organizations online. Having a Web page alone doesn’t cut it anymore; a social media presence is a must as well.”

Quick bursts of information appeal to millennials in particular and have proven to be an effective way to communicate with members of that generation.

“Attention span is the key differentiating factor between millennials and other consumers,” said Ross Gdovin, vice president of marketing at Golden Entertainment.

Tailoring delivery mechanisms is key.

“Real-time offers and information, and ease of redemption are two areas a company must adapt to in order to hold the attention, and the loyalty, of a millennial,” Gdovin said.

And businesses have only a limited amount of time in which to capture millennials’ attention and dollars.

“They can be easily distracted due to this being the age of multitasking,” said Lisa Escobar, founder of Lisa Escobar Design, a Las Vegas interior design firm. “This is different from other consumers in that they don’t rely heavily on your reputation or time in the game.”

“They will expect that you have a strong presence on social media platforms,” added Valerie Parker, president of BGreen Branding, which sells eco-friendly marketing products and services. “With this in mind, your business should stay cutting-edge where technology is concerned. (Millennials) have less patience with out-of-date websites and/or technology. Be sure your site is mobile-friendly. They seem to do the majority of their purchases on their smartphones.”

Also, be ready for millennial customers to publicize their opinions, which can be good or bad for a company.

“Keep them happy,” Parker said. “They share their habits and thoughts about shopping experiences, restaurants, etc., with reviews on Yelp, Amazon, Snapchat and Instagram. They tend to shop in groups and seek the opinions of others. If they like you, expect the word to get out.”

Another concern of millennials is values, including those of the companies with which they choose to do business. Millennials particularly flock to organizations with a conscience.

Reacting to such generational shifts is and will remain crucial for any business that wants to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. If you’re not sure where to start adapting, ask a millennial.

“If you are looking to make positive changes in your company, reach out and ask for their opinion,” Parker said. “A great way to feel confident in any changes your business makes: Don’t become stagnant. Roll with the times, and you’ll be fine.”

On eating out

One way to get a bead on what millennials want is to look at their dining-out patterns.

As a group, they represent about 14.5 billion restaurant visits and $96 billion in restaurant spending, NPD found.

But older millennials, ages 25 to 34, who are more likely to have families, have cut back on eating out, making 50 fewer restaurant visits per person over the past several years, according to an NPD report. Younger millennials, 18 to 24 years old, made 33 fewer visits per person.

Among the reasons millennials are cutting back on visiting restaurants: it’s cheaper to eat at home; they like to cook; and they feel better about home-cooked meals because they consider them healthier and more delicious.

“Even with their cutbacks, millennials still make a lot of visits to restaurants, and to encourage more visits, restaurant operators need to offer them a ‘good deal,’ which to millennials means reasonable and affordable items that are of good quality and the right quantity,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “They not only want to get their money’s worth, they want good food and service.”

On housing

Many developers consider millennials’ needs and wants when building or refurbishing housing.

“As a significant part of our demographic and consumer base, we have tried to provide not only a great product but a level of service that I believe millennials have come to expect,” said Emily McCann, vice president of marketing and training at WestCorp Management Group, a local property management company. “Our amenities start with items like the clubhouse, fitness center and movie theater, but we have taken them to a service level as well and provide water and towel service in the gym, and popcorn and movies in the theater.”

“They want flexibility, and they want community,” said Scott Seegmiller, WestCorp’s chief financial officer. “We provide some interesting amenities for this group, like our coffee bar and computer center in our clubhouse. As long as we respond to them, they are easy. They want constant and quick communication.”

“The millennial consumer is more about instant gratification, rather than the long-term benefit,” said Christina Stanfill, director of business development at Associa, another property manager. “They care about what is up front, rather than the long term benefits.”