Serious business professionals have up until recently approached marketing to the millennial audience with a fair amount of skepticism. Although these youngsters (some now well into adulthood) have disposable income, they don’t seem to follow spending habits that previous generations embraced.

The problem isn’t that millennials aren’t spending, though. In fact, this generation (comprised of teens and adults born between 1980 and 2000) makes up a whopping 25% of the population, and while a small portion of this group has little income as of yet, the spending power of the group as a whole is estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

So what is the problem for businesses interested in nabbing a piece of this consumer pie? The main issue seems to be that it’s difficult to figure out what speaks to millennials as a group. Their spending habits and preferences often seem nonsensical to seasoned business professionals used to conducting businessĀ a certain way.

Is the internet to blame? That’s probably part of it. This generation of consumers has been raised on internet technology, with easy access to information and virtual connections. As a result, they tend to expect instant gratification.

On the one hand, they want total control of their shopping experience – they want access to help when they need it, but they don’t want to be pestered while they’re browsing. On the other hand, they expect an authentic, noteworthy, social experience of some kind as part of the purchasing process – something worthy of a selfie, a tweet, or a post on Pinterest. They want to feel valued and pampered.

The millennial consumer is a conundrum, to be sure, but business owners that take the time to understand these customers can gain major rewards and tap into a lucrative market as a result. The real question, then, is how to get these shoppers in the door. This begins with understanding how millennials find your business.

Brand Engagement

Millennials spend a lot of their time online and in the mobile space. Many do a fair portion of their shopping online and most have their first experiences with a business in a virtual format. What they don’t want to encounter is traditional advertising.

Instead, they want to engage with your brand as though they’re meeting a new friend. How can you make this happen while still promoting and furthering your agenda? Your social media efforts play a key role.

Millennials prefer an organic experience. They want to find you through likes, shares, and peer reviews, just for example. They want to follow and engage with brands that they find compelling and that share their interests. They want brands that are fun and quirky, that stand out.

Your social media efforts are paramount to reaching a millennial audience and you might be surprised to find the once you lay the groundwork, your followers do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, with the right motivation, of course.

Local Connections

Millennials are often interested in supporting local businesses rather than monster corporations. Regardless of the actual size of your business, you can play on this by creating and promoting a local presence.

You can start by playing up your physical locations, featuring them in your social media efforts, highlighting key employees in stores, and connecting with local happenings. Then encourage millennials to support local stores within their communities by offering special discounts and deals for residents.

Peer Reviews

By now no one is truly surprised to hear that millennials harbor distrust for the establishment (any establishment, really). This includes traditional, hard-sell marketing techniques that tend to feel more like an attack than a conversation.

So how can you reach new customers in the millennial marketplace? By gaining recommendations from their peers. They may not trust a company that they perceive as a soulless corporation, but they still have wants and needs your business can fulfill.

Since they trust the opinions of their peers, you can focus on peer reviews as a means of reaching others within the demographic. There are a couple of ways to make this happen.

You’ll want to start by providing excellent products, services, and customer support if you expect to earn rave reviews. However, you also need to make the review process easy.

Following a purchase, simply send an automated email asking consumers to rate their experience. Provide a button or link that takes them directly to a short, simple review form. As long as their experience wasn’t forgettable, they’ll want to share it with others, so make sure their interactions with your brand are positive and extraordinary.

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