The Millennial Generation, defined as people roughly between age 18 and 34, has overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation. Given Millennials increasing spending power, it’s a generation small business owners can’t afford not to reach out to.
Unlike their predecessors, Millennials are more digitally dependent when it comes to spending money and many are influenced by the experience of watching their parents shop during the recession of the early 2000s.
How can small business owners ensure they’re reaching this generation? We’ve got some ideas to help.
This one may be the most obvious, but the power of social media can’t be emphasized enough. Millennials use social media – a lot. Fortunately, creating a social media presence may also be one of the easiest and most cost-effective marketing tools your business can implement. If you’re a retailer, then Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are probably the easiest, most practical platforms to start with. If you’re in the B2B category, then consider swapping Instagram for LinkedIn.
How should you use these? Consider social media channels as an additional avenue for having a conversation with your customers. As one helpful article by consulting and research agency Accenture explains: “The goal [of your business’s social media] should be to create positive buzz, to be talked about by Millennials. Simply having a presence on social media isn’t enough – the aspiration should be to become the topic of conversation for all the right reasons.”
Some practical uses for your business? Post about an upcoming product launch, sale, customer testimonies, in-store event, or sponsor a giveaway.
Then, don’t forget to monitor and respond! Whether online or in-person, Millennials are used to a quick turn around. They don’t necessarily need a resolution to their question or issue, but they want to know you’re listening and looking into it.
Unlike previous generations, Millennials are less likely to be swept in by the flashy lights and size of big-box retailers or the traditional American shopping mall - which can be great news for small business owners. In fact, one study found that 37% of Millennials have “distrust for big business.”
Embrace your business’s local roots by putting a face and personality to your brand’s name. Invite customers to drinks and a Q&A or feedback session with the owner (be sure to advertise on social media), have a “meet the staff” board and rotate which staff member’s background and personal details are featured. (Starbucks does a great job simply by having a blackboard featured next to the cash register and updating the content with barista’s favorite books, music or movie and how long they’ve worked there.)
The desire and importance of frictionless purchasing and transactions to Millennials is likely a result of the smartphone. If you don’t understand the appeal of easy, online or app-based transactions, then try purchasing a few things from companies that do frictionless purchasing well.
Buy something off of Amazon, sign up for Starbuck’s loyalty “Star” rewards program (allows users to manage, track stars and pay for drinks without ever leaving the app), send money to someone using person-to-person payments, like Washington Federal’s Popmoney, or hail a ride using Lyft or Uber.
Not only will you have an appreciation for the ease, but you’ll hopefully also get some ideas of how you can update your business’s transaction processes. Consider upgrading your credit card payment processing system to include accepting digital wallet payments, like Apple or Android Pay, or implementing a digital loyalty program so that people don’t need to rely on the traditional paper “punch card.”
At WaFd Bank, we’re in the business of bringing simplicity to yours. If you’re looking for straightforward solutions to help you grow your business, contact your local small business officer today or open a business account online.