How to sell to millennials: 5 top tips for your business

The method to the madness of marketing to the me generation

★ 7 min read


Millennials. It’s a label frequently accompanied with a sigh, an eye roll, or a resigned eyebrow raise. Why? Well, it’s a word that comes with the baggage of a bad reputation. A simple internet search turns up a lifetime’s worth of reading expounding the defining characteristics of the so-called “me” generation.

Yep, millennials come with some hefty digital baggage - lazy, entitled, narcissistic, quixotic, and prone to bottomless brunches and quitting jobs. While at least one or two of these probably aren’t true, there are a few characteristics that capture the essence of this oft-ridiculed and largely underestimated generation.

Millennials are tech-savvy, the first bona fide ‘internet generation’. They demand the highest levels of speed and convenience when it comes to transactions, and tend to have short attention spans. Some (the writer of this piece included) are also terrified of answering phone calls.

We could spend all day shrugging our shoulders and debating the validity of these stereotypes, but the truth is, it might take another two thousand years to get a consensus. And what we’d rather spend our time doing is helping you understand how to sell to millennials.

Why? Put simply, it’s huge business. Millennials account for around two billion - or 27% - of the world’s population. That’s a huge chunk of your revenue if you’re not using the right techniques and strategies to sell to the millenial. And if you don’t respect millennials – what they do, what they stand for, and what they like – you won’t be selling to them at all.

So where to begin? We’ve got five tips to get you started.

Jump to:


Quick facts

  • Millennials are those born c. 1984 - 1996
  • By 2025, they’ll account for 75% of the global workforce
  • They make 54% of their purchases online
  • They account for trillions in revenue worldwide

Keep it simple

With Twitter bombarding them with bite-size chunks of content and Instagram providing a stream of scannable snaps, it’s no surprise millennials are thought to have an attention span of eight seconds – or about the time it’s taken to read this paragraph.

So how do you navigate that eight second window to get your message across? How do you keep millennials on your website and capture their hearts and minds? Well, you’ll have to brush up on a little thing called UX (User Experience). It’s how you lay out your website to make it easy to use and pleasant to look at. You’ve got eight seconds. How do you use them wisely?

Well, keep it short and sweet. Don’t overload the millennial browser with text. Keep your web presence simple and engaging, with eye-catching colours and use of negative space. Millennials will scan. They will skim. They will scrutinise. And if you don’t give them what they want, they will skedaddle.

There’s also no excuse not to have a website that looks amazing. There’s loads of free sites that let you build a website by dragging a few pictures on top of each other. Why not give one a try?

Just remember, less is more. Bad UX is bad for business. And if you’re not careful, millennials will bounce right off your walls of text and into the embrace of your competitors.


Make it snappy

Millennials get a rap for being the “me” generation, one defined by entitlement and instant gratification. While this may be a little harsh (I mean, who doesn’t love a bit of instant gratification?), when it comes to buying things, they don’t mess around. What does this mean for your business?

Newsflash: no one pays with cash anymore. Especially not millennials. In fact, 24% of them would rather throw their pennies away than spend them. Convenience is the currency of this generation, and contactless is the new cash. Whether it’s with a watch, a phone, or a mate’s bank card, millennials expect to pay with a tap, so your business needs the technology to keep up.

Millennials online shopping

Tapping the trends of a generation; 46% of millennials are put off buying from a cash only business


Source: Expert Market


A merchant account lets you accept card payments online, over the phone, and at the point of sale. An Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system is the set of hardware and software making it simpler to take card payments from your store or restaurant. Having both empowers your business to manage your staff, keep track of your stock, and provide a more streamlined service, while never missing out on a sale.

And if you sell products online, you’ll need to make sure that millennials have all the prompts they need to follow a purchase all the way to the end. Around 70% of online shopping baskets are left high and dry. How do you combat this?

For starters, don’t make any of your users – millennials or not – need to set up an account to purchase. The quicker the process, the smoother the journey – and the less time they’ll have to renege on that impulse to buy. For this, make sure you have a capable payment gateway that offers speed for the buyer. It also needs to sit seamlessly within the look and feel of your website, and integrate with your online shopping cart system.

Millennials online shopping

A seamless online shopping experience is essential when selling to millennials


And if a purchase does get abandoned before payment, you can always send email prompts or use on-site reminders to lure your modern buyer back in. Amazon does it, and hey, it’s worked out pretty well for them, right?


Listen to them

Want to know the first rule for selling to millennials? Listen to them.

How?

Social media.

Whether you like it or not, you need to start using it. It’s a valuable resource, and one that most millennials have been using for the whole of their adult lives. And no… it’s not just a place where people post infamous tributes to their morning avocado and toast. Now more than ever, millennials are using social media to interact with businesses.

Millennials social listening

Social listening tools give you a closer look at your millennial audience


Social media is replacing traditional ways people complain about, commend, challenge, review, and ask questions to businesses like yours. So yeah, you’ll need some kind of social media presence. In fact, it’s so commonplace that people tend not to trust businesses they can’t find on Twitter or Facebook.

But that’s not all. Millennial customers aren’t just chatting to your business on social media - they’re chatting about you. Yep. The metaphorical ears of your business are burning day in, day out, in the wild, overgrown jungles of social media and online forums. And that’s where social listening comes in.

There’s a bunch of free social listening tools you can use to monitor what people are saying about your brand and industry. You can get alerts when you’re mentioned online, and keep tabs on keywords relevant to your brand and industry. And, uh, they’re free! Why not give them a browse? When you know how millennials feel about your business, you can grow it - and become even better at selling to them.


Sell them your ethos

Millennials, perhaps more than any other generation before them, crave purpose. They’ll sacrifice bigger paychecks to take roles where they feel valued, and seek out companies with social responsibility.

And this is no different when making consumer choices. Don’t just list the features and benefits: when you’re selling to millennials, it’s about the drive, purpose, and passion powering your product that matter. Not the pitch.

Millennials purpose

Sell the millennial the culture, values and purpose that drive your brand


Millennials flock to companies with a positive culture, that respect the world and its people. It's why millennial consumers are increasingly turning to products from ethically-sourced, environmentally sustainable businesses and away from production lines and big, tax-dodging corporations.

The take away? Develop the character and values behind your business – who you are, why you’re there, and what you stand for – and communicate this to your audience. When you do that, you’ll know how to sell to the millennial.


Make them feel beautiful

Millennials as self-obsessed and narcissistic is an overused trope we won’t go into. But we will say that they tend to have a certain... healthy sense of self love. They did invent the selfie, after all! So how can you use this to sell to them?

Put simply, it’s about personalising your service. If millennials feel too much like a customer - like they’re being sold to - then you’ve already lost them. One of the big mistakes online retailers make is trying to draw in repeat business by sending out generic, bulk emails. This… is a no no. But if your business relies on bulk email marketing, there’s still a way.

Millennials CRM

Don’t treat your millennial customers as just another number


Next time you send a marketing email to a millennial, try personalising it. Something along the lines of “Hi Bobby, you’re looking great today” taps into one of the great loves of most millennials - being loved. And you’ll get more engagement, more clicks, and potentially even more sales. Bobby agrees.

And with today’s tech, sending personalised emails en masse is actually much easier than it sounds. There’s loads of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) options for storing all your customer details in one place. They make it easy to track your team’s interactions and deals. And they make it even easier to tailor your pitch to the millennial, and whatever other generation you want to target.


Final thoughts

So what have we learned when it comes to selling to millennials? Well, maybe the biggest (albeit paradoxical) lesson is to… not sell to them at all.

That’s not a cop out. Millennials simply respond better without the pushy sales stuff. They’ve grown up in a digital age with banners and pop up ads demanding their attention and treating them like a number. Provide as much of a personalised approach as you can. Listen to them to understand their needs as people. And make their journey from browser to buyer a smooth one.

So if you want to sell to millennials, don’t underestimate them… they’re some of the savviest and most discerning customers you’ll ever have. Are we right? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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