Millennials are changing the way things work in retail to the dismay of many accustom to doing business with the generations before them. Generation gaps between parents and children are rough enough. So how does your home furnishings store start marketing Millennial shoppers?
That’s no easy feat. You don’t want to seem “outdated”. But you also know the dangers of trying to be “hip” to a younger generation or alienating longtime customers. Fortunately, you don’t have to try to be something you’re not to connect with Millennials. You just need to better understand what they expect and how they shop differently than generations before. Here’s what you need to know.
What do Millennial Shoppers Look Like?
Millennials are people born from 1982 to the mid-to-late 1990s. Most of them remember the days before the wide-spread Internet, fast computers, cell phones, and smartphones. But these inventions came around while they were still relatively young so they quickly adapted to the newer technologies.
Here are some quick stats to put this into perspective.
- There were 83.1 million Millennials in the US according to the last US Census
- 40% of them are parents.
- 34% have a bachelor’s degree, with many more having some college or trade school
- The average Millennial makes over $56,000 and spends over $47,000/yr. They have money and want to spend it.
- $600 billion annually is spent by Millennials
Within the Millennial generation is a subgroup called “bridge Millennials” or Xennials. Bridge Millennials are the bridge between Generation X and the stereotypical Millennial. This is the first connected shopper with the spending power of any generation before. They’re in their late 30’s and don’t connect with the social obsession of the younger Millennials but they’ve been around technology for their entire cognizant life.
How Millennials Shop
Julia Rosein of Restonic says that marketers are trying to figure out the pathways” millennial furniture shoppers may use in the future when they, themselves aren’t quite sure yet. They present interesting challenges for furniture retailers who are trying to capture the mindshare of a group that is on the move, growing exponentially and possesses huge buying power.
Risein poses the question, “how do you reach someone who isn’t marketable,” which is the subject of this eBook. We are learning a lot about where they do not shop (newspapers, TV, flyers), but are not sure how to reach them where they are which is obviously online, but that is such a huge “media,” retailers must decide where and how to reach them.
One of the most interesting facts that is coming to light about millennials is that they are turning to brick and mortar retail stores at some point in their buying process so retailers must develop an integrated marketing strategy that includes methods to drive them to stores and then make the buying process seamless for buyers who choose to place their orders online.
How Advertising Works on Millennials
Millennials have grown up in this less trusting world with “sleazy salesperson memes” and knowledge about exploitive sales practices. 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising. They instantly see through tried-and-true sales ploys to make them buy now or buy more. Millennials ignore this type of advertising. So how do you advertise to Millennials? Influence and social media.
The message of your advertising will be critical in targeting Millennial shoppers. Because Millennials value experiences and have a fear of missing out on life, you can use these motivators to create ads. If you’re carrying a collection that has celebrity endorsements, use that in your advertising. One of the biggest contributions to Magnolia Home’s success in the outset was the social campaigns. Joanna Gaines came with a reputation and every furniture shopper knew exactly what to expect from this celebrity brand because of the hit TV show. Find ways to incorporate those successful furniture lines into your advertising campaigns attracting Millennials.
Here are some other important advertising notes for marketing Millennial shoppers.
- Care about customer experience – You’ve already got that one covered. But after this article, you’ll better understand what kind of experience they expect.
- Share their values (e.g., healthy living, inclusiveness, eco-friendliness)
- Offer information/resources, expecting nothing in return. That’s not really true. But they like it to seem that way.
- Respect their ability to make informed decisions
- Seek to educate buyers about home furnishing and design rather than overtly selling
- Focus on offering experiences (more on that later)
Let’s dive into creating this trust-building experience by first looking at how they use mobile devices.
Market to Millennials through Mobile
If you had this perception of Millennials, you’re probably right. They do everything on their smartphones. They connect with friends and family. They find a place to eat. They stay informed about current events. They plan their day. They shop. They share their buying experiences. More than 85% of millennials own a smartphone. 39% of Millennials spend more time on their smartphones than they do directly engaged with people. Millennials are around 30% of the population. But Millennials account for nearly 1/2 of the total time we spend on smartphones.
How to Be More Visible on Smartphones
When companies enhance their customer experience through smartphone technology, they earn some of this smartphone time. It’s easier than you may think to start marketing millennial shoppers through smartphones with the right knowledge, tools and skills.
- Make your website mobile friendly, including mobile-friendly tools like a room design tool
- Apply local and mobile SEO strategies so that you appear high in local, mobile searches.
- Expand your presence on review sites like YP, Yelp, and Google My Business (GMB) by getting more reviews.
- Use SMS and text messaging to offer deals or stay in touch about future events
- Expand your organic social media presence
- Run ads on Facebook, Instagram and Google Ads
- Offer free wi-fi in your showroom to encourage Internet usage in your store.
- Integrate your website into the showroom experience with tools they can use while shopping
Note that you’re not just in one place. You’re in several places were Millennials are. This leads us to the next point. Not unlike you should diversify your retirement portfolio, you should diversify when marketing Millennial shoppers.
Be Better on Social Media
Marketing Millennial shoppers is easier when you start with social media. It’s the easiest channel to start building trust because you already have a great brand experience. And part of their trust meter is filled simply by seeing you in several places. It shows you are a “real” company. It shows that you have a presence where they are. It gives them an opportunity to see how others interact with you.
90% of millennials can be found on Facebook.
So Facebook is a very good start. But it’s important to integrate Facebook into a more comprehensive online strategy including your website, email, online reviews, and local searches. In addition to diversifying across several strategic channels, diversify in the type of content you create.
- Live video
- Interviews of a local celebrity related to furnishings
- Video testimonials from real customers
- Podcasts about furniture trends, identifying quality, showcasing new lines, etc. 42% of Millennials on Linkedin say they regularly listen to podcasts
- A blog with lots of helpful visuals
- User-generated content (UGC). We’ll get more into that a little later.
Millennials Need to Believe in Your Message
You’re an expert. And before too long, your retail store will be marketing Millennial shoppers. You know everything there is to know about furniture. But an unfortunate side effect of the Internet is that anyone can pretend to be an expert at something. They trust influencers and people that are natural social authorities on topics.
Millennials are 44% more likely to trust experts, who happen to be strangers, than advertisements.
This generation is also 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites.
When marketing millennial shoppers, they want some proof that you know what you’re talking about. They want to know that you care about your customers as much as you say you do. They’re going to look for other customer feedback–some that you may not even know exist.
89% of millennials trust recommendations from friends and family more than what the brand says.
88% of consumers, of which a large number are millennials, say that they trust a real review as much as a personal recommendation.
Millennials make note of what customers are saying and how people interact with you on social media. If your marketing strategy is strong in this area, you can fill up the Millennial trust meter fast even if they’ve never heard of you. But this proof isn’t 100% organic. There are very ethical and customer-centric strategies you can use to build this social proof. Let’s take a look.
How to Create Social Proof
- Provide the Sales and Service Teams with the training and tools they need to create an amazing customer experience both online and in the showroom. This may include enhancing online chat, automating delivery notifications, educating sales staff about online tools. Your goal is to create a seamless Internet-real world customer experience.
- Automate your review request process. Use automated email to request reviews after every delivery.
- Respond to bad reviews. Millennials expect you to respond to bad reviews in a meaningful way. Millennials expect you to have some bad reviews. In fact, they’re often suspicious of businesses that have 5-stars. They want to see that you listen and try to do better.
- Get people engaged on Facebook. Build your organic following. Share content that people like, comment on, and share.
84% of millennials report that user-generated content on company websites at least somewhat influences what they buy. User-generated content is when you showcase the content created by actual customers. Not only does showcasing this content make the person who shared it feel more connected to your business. It builds social proof. Try these strategies:
- Track mentions. If someone mentions or tags your business, share it on social media, thanking them. You’ll get more people doing the same.
- Run a contest. Create a theme like “what I did this summer” or “family time”. Ask Customers to tag your company in a Facebook post that includes them demonstrating the theme with a piece of furniture from your store in the image or video. Offer a nice prize for a winner. A $100 or $500 gift certificate can get people interested and excited. The ROI on this little prize can be exponential if you effectively get the word out to generate some word-of-mouth momentum.
- Encourage customers to add pictures to review sites
- Integrate customer posts and images into your website
- Integrate reviews into your site and social media.
Millennials Want Experiences
Millennials are a generation that likes to feel like they’re a part of something positive very similar to the boomers during the ’60s. But you don’t have to start a huge social movement to tap into this. They want to help others. They want experiences. If you take nothing else away from this content, remember this.
Millennials want experiences. They value experiences more than materials. Marketing Milllennial shoppers means you need to think about the experience of buying furniture. You might think that seems odd to put in an article about selling more products to a Millennial. But it’s actually the best tip you’ll hear about Millennials all year. When you’re trying to sell your furniture to a Millennial shopper, you need to make it feel like an experience. From your website to your showroom, that shopper needs to feel that they’re getting something valuable out of this interaction.
Millennials Want to Buy Online
Your showroom is not obsolete. But it’s important to realize that almost 100% of Millennial buyer journey’s start online and 54% of them also end online. They buy online instead of in the store for convenience. So does that mean marketing Millennial shoppers starts online? The short answer, yes.
To address this, it’s important to invest in your online presence and set up an eCommerce site that allows them to view and purchase furniture from their living rooms, the grocery line, a soccer game or wherever they are on their smartphones.
Additionally, you’ll find this interesting.
41% of Millennials buy things online while they’re walking around your store.
40% check product reviews on their smartphone while in the store before buying.
If you don’t have an easy-to-use eComm site and free wifi that makes this possible, you could be missing out on sales.
Marketing Millennial Shoppers
Millennial shoppers are here to stay. They’ve officially aged into their money-making and money-spending years. They have a new way of relating to businesses and buying. In many ways, they’re savvier and harder to convince. But if you focus on trust-building first, you can win over not only a loyal customer but also your biggest promoter.
You don’t have to fundamentally change who you are when marketing millennial shoppers. You just need to understand how they think and what kinds of marketing and sales strategies work with them. If you need help cracking the Millennial code to get more Millennial customers, see what we can do to help you grow your furniture business.