To hear most people talk about them, millennials seem like a complicated audience. They crave autonomy, but need constant monitoring. They love brands, but don’t love advertising as much. They’re a frugal bunch, but will spend their money under certain conditions. So, how is one supposed to market to such a contradictory group?
It turns out, millennials aren’t so confusing if you begin to understand their habits. A quick glance beyond the stereotypes reveals a perfectly understandable generation with a unique means of communicating with itself. There is a learning curve, but once you’ve climbed it, you will reach the largest, most connected generation in history.
Who are Millennials?
Born between 1980 and 2000, and thus having spent much of their working life in the ‘Great Recession,’ millennials are, by and large, money-pinchers. Car ownership is down, as is home ownership – only 23% of millennials are married and living in their own home. But dreams deferred are not dreams cancelled – 93% of millennial renters plan on owning a home someday, although long term goals like home ownership are secondary to short-term goals like paying down student debt.
Having been advertised to their whole lives, millennials tend to be skeptical of pitches, preferring to either, research and figure things out for themselves, or take the advice of a friend. Nowhere is the skepticism more pronounced than in regards to investing their money, about which 81% of millennials are either cautious or averse. 49% say they prefer to do their own research on financial matters, without the help of an advisor, while 91% would use a social network to obtain opinions or commentary on financial matters.
Despite this skepticism, millennials are very brand-loyal, with 70% of them describing themselves as such. An impressive 80% claim they take action – purchase, share, or reach-out – on behalf of their trusted brands! And while 81% of millennials say they trust their bank, 53% don’t trust it any more than any other bank. Trusting, yet skeptical – not such a contradiction when you think about it.
Closing this trust gap is crucial – half of this generation are entering their peak saving years with an unconvinced attitude for banks and the financial services they can offer. The good news is that overcoming their skepticism and earning their trust is doable – you just have to reach them on their level, and find them where they ‘live’.
Millennials are sometimes called digital natives – the internet has been around for most or all of their lives. They spend more time online than any other generation – smartphones mean that they are nearly constantly online – and naturally, they respond to a strong online presence: 66% of those who trust their bank say they would trust it more if it offered more helpful and useful online content.
How to market Financials to them:
In general, millennials are frugal, skeptical, brand-loyal, and above all, online. So, what to make of it all?
Being online is good, but being on social media is even better.
Millennials use them all – Facebook is the most popular, but Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Snapchat are all major forces as well. These platforms are where millennials joke, share links, form opinions, and interact with brands. Most importantly, they’re often their first stop when looking for information on a possible purchase or decision.
Online interaction is the premier way to reach millennials.
Websites, videos, apps, articles, and an active social media persona are all great ways to interact with millennials daily, building trust and brand loyalty in the long term. They may claim to not like advertisements, but they love brands – 34% of millennials like brands more when they use social media (compared to 16% for ages 26 and up). And of the brands that use social media effectively, the most effective speak in a lighthearted, personal way – as a friend, not a large institution.
When building a site to be shared, make sure it’s mobile-first.
21% of millennials accessed the internet through mobile (tablets and phones) exclusively in 2015, up from 18% in 2014. All it takes is a clunky mobile experience to drive away a major portion of a whole generation. You want a seamless experience from desktop to mobile, but also want to take advantage of what mobile devices have to offer. Make it rich but simple, engaging but not distracting. You want to leave an impression that your brand ‘gets us’.
Provide them the tools they need to do their own research, and share their findings.
Millennials are used to things being online and free. Encourage their inquisitiveness with quizzes, calculators, and other informational web apps – like every generation, millennials like to have enough knowledge to make an informed decision. Besides, once you know a little about financial planning, you know how much an advisor can help.
Enrich their experience.
Informational videos are a growing force in marketing – online video consumption increases every year, especially among millennials. Gamification will also help – making quiz results or calculator outputs shareable, rankable, or awards-based, are great ways to increase its likelihood of being passed around social circles. And after all, millennials aren’t just more likely to share things online – they’re more likely to pay attention to things shared online.
Millennials aren’t a mystery after all – they’re rational, social people, like every generation before them. They just have their own ways and venues of having ‘conversations’. Learn to speak to them, learn to get them speaking to you, and you’ll earn their trust, their loyalty, and the future.