Shifting Trends In Millennial Marketing

The long-foretold age of the millennial has finally arrived. With 50 million people born after 1980, they are now officially the largest generation in the workforce and have buying power unlike anything seen by Gen X. This is a complex generation, and communicating to them requires careful attention to the new rules of engagement.

Because millennials hold high-quality, personalized experiences dear, organizations leveraging behavioral marketing have reason to be excited. A 2016 BrightWave study of millennials provides new insights that may surprise you. For starters, millennials chose email over in-person interactions, social media, text messages, phones calls, online chat or postal mail. 

Be careful, though. As the chart above shows, millennials aren’t afraid to use the unsubscribe button, especially if you’re increasing frequency at the expense of relevance. To avoid this, make sure you’re using demographic and behavioral data to drive deep personalization. Intrigued? Let’s take a closer look at the study findings.

The BrightWave Millennial Email Study

BrightWave surveyed over 1,500 millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 years old via Google Consumer Surveys in April 2015 and February 2016. The results were weighted by gender and region. The study results, “Millennials + Email: How to Engage Email Natives,” is available for download. Five key insights:

1) Millennials prefer email for interacting with brands: Nearly one in three respondents chose email as the preferred method of contact – roughly the same as in-person and social media combined.

2) Emails are rarely shared: Only 8.7 percent say they’ll share engaging content. Sometimes, this sharing takes the form of a text message with a screenshot of the email.

3) Frequency is an issue: Millennials don’t like to be spammed – 47.1 percent say they unsubscribe because they receive emails too frequently. If you want to increase cadence without driving opt-outs, consider implementing more behavior-triggered, personalized email programs.

4) Increase images to drive engagement: Attention spans are shrinking and smartphone use is growing. Adjust by making your messages more visual – millennials are more likely to click on mobile-friendly emails that have great photography, animation or multimedia content.

5) Beware of social media overreach: Millennials enjoy access to brands but can grow frustrated with brands filling their social pages with generic promotional content. The study found 87.5 percent of millennials respond negatively to brands in their social feeds.

Understanding Why Millennials Like Email

In a world in which people are getting frequently pinged with “interruptive” advertising and marketing messages, millennials appreciate the ability to open and interact with email on their schedule, as indicated in the chart below. 

According to the study, special deals, timely information, unique ideas and personalized recommendations can move the needle with millennials. Emails that perform well often include a compelling subject line, relevant content, photography that connects, and a lower-commitment CTA (e.g., “Learn More” over “Buy Now”), so test these attributes and let the data guide your approach.

Building a Better Email Program

Based on the study findings and our experience with clients, here are a few millennial email communication takeaways to consider when tweaking your messaging:

  • Put email at the center of an omnichannel approach rather than making it a secondary consideration.
  • De-prioritize “time of day” testing. Instead, conduct tests that matter to millennials: subject line, photography and call to action.
  • Understand how your mobile design options impact the customer experience, and then be brutally honest with yourself.
  • Take the time to craft memorable content – millennials are waiting for it.

Email can be whatever you want it to be, and millennials value the channel’s flexibility and control. Email can be easy to skim or a gateway to a deep brand interaction. It can be read in line grabbing a coffee, in between meetings, or as a second screen while watching Netflix on the couch. While some marketers dread having messages delivered to the Gmail Promotions tab, millennials welcome the organization as a distraction, the same way our grandparents regularly sat around the kitchen table clipping coupons. 

The new generation of millennials represents a massive opportunity, but one that must be handled appropriately. The more effort and attention put into utilizing and gathering customer data, the more effectively you can craft communications and build stronger brand relationships.

Jen Coy