6 Ways to Win Over the Buying Power of Today's Most Influential Generation

  •    Anne is a marketing consultant who specializes in content strategy. Before becoming her own boss, she led the marketing team for a Fortune 500 brand.

Millennial buyers (those born between 1981 and 1996) have more spending power than any other generation. They spend about $600 billion a year, and that's just in the U.S. By 2020, projections show millennial buying power growing to $1.4 trillion each year, or 30% of total retail sales. So, if you're not actively trying to understand and market to this generation of consumers, then it's time to get started.

Before we jump into some concrete ways to capture your share of millennials' spending dollars, let's take some time to understand this socially-conscious generation's consumer values. Nearly two-thirds of millennials are concerned about the state of the world and feel a personal responsibility to make a difference — and this influences their buying habits:

Keep in mind that millennials' concept of social responsibility extends beyond how your company treats its employees and the environment. It reaches into your sourcing practices and business partners as well. Are the vendors and manufacturers you work with ethical? Do they treat their people humanely? Are their operations easy on the environment and safe for their workers? While millennials are certainly at the forefront of this consumer mindset, one study shows that one-third of all consumers prefer purchasing from companies that prove they're doing right by society and the environment. So, aiming to appeal to millennial buyers will expand your appeal even beyond that generation.

How to Create a Millennial-Friendly Brand

Before you can successfully sell to millennials, you must build a brand that appeals to them. Here's how.

  1. Show your humanity. If you want millennials to identify with your brand, then they need to hear your story and see the people behind your products. Develop and communicate your brand story and consider highlighting your employees. Use your website and social channels to show behind-the-scenes views of your work and share how your brand's dedication affects positive change. You can also feature customers' stories, especially those showcasing the power of your products or services.

  2. Be good to our environment — in obvious ways. Communicating an environmentally-friendly pledge is a baby step. Go further by trying to find ways to clearly show your commitment. This could be through using recycled materials in all your packaging, planting a tree for a certain amount of product shipped or even implementing a recycling program in which customers can send back their packaging for reuse. Include directions for how to do so on your packaging – and make it free of charge or even reward customers for participating.

  3. Teach and inspire. This generation has been called the DIY generation. Creating content that teaches millennials how to do something can actually influence their buying decision in your favor. Need an example? Lowes' “How to Install Wood Look Tile" has garnered nearly 2.3 million views, evidence of the 70% of millennial YouTube users who watch videos to learn more about something that interests them. And it's not just how-to content that millennials appreciate. Almost 60% also claim that companies have informed them about societal issues.

How to Tap into Millennials' Shopping Habits

Understand how and why millennial consumers spend their money so that you can capture your share of their dollars.

1. Pay attention to (and include) customer feedback. Millennials not only want to feel heard, they also want to know that you value and use their feedback. More than 40% say they want to help businesses develop services and products. Think of it this way: they're a huge part of your customer base, and you're receiving free market research about how to be better and win their business.

How to do it: Find ways to gather, use and share the results of your customers' input:

  • Create a landing page explaining why you want to hear from customers. Include a contact form and share real-life stories about how customer feedback has influenced your designs or service offerings.
  • Use your social media channels to seek input, answer questions and respond directly.
  • When you've acted based on customer feedback, share the news on your blog and your social channels. If it leads to something entirely new, consider creating an entire campaign, including email, which shares the story of how it happened.

2. Publish user-generated content. Millennial buyers trust this type of content 50% more than any other type of media. Plus, 93% of millennials have purchased something based on a recommendation from a friend or family member and nearly as many trust these types of recommendations more than they do brand claims. While you can't influence all the friends and family out there, you can ask for reviews, and 85% of all consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations.

How to do it: Follow up with customers who've purchased from you to ask for a review that you can publish and share with prospective customers. With a Weebly site you can automatically request product reviews from your buyers, a feature that is now available for the Business Plan and above.

3. Be social- and mobile-friendly. More than 80% of millennials connect with companies via their social networks, and 62% say that if a brand engages with them on social, they're more likely to be a loyal customer. So, be where they are — and not just to spew promotional content, but to interact with them. Finally, being mobile-friendly isn't just about building brand loyalty on social networks, it can also lead to more sales. Almost two-thirds of millennials use their smartphones to shop every day. Responsive website design makes the shopping experience easier for customers using phones and tablets, and mobile pay provides a faster check out experience for these shoppers.

How to do it:

As millennial shoppers grow older and get further into their careers, their buying power only increases. Building a brand that will attract them and implementing practices to keep them as customers will not only pay off in the short-term but also far in the future of your business.