Millennial 2020: Marketing In The Moments That Matter

All paths to purchase today start with a smartphone, panelists explained in a session at Millennial 2020 — but where they end is up to marketers.

With their estimated $200 billion in annual purchasing power, building relationships with Millennials matters to brands — but in the quest to connect, marketers often lose sight of the fact that Millennials aren’t magically a homogenous group any more than any other demographic.

“If you’re one month too old to be a Millennial, are you completely and totally different? Of course not,” said Alex Vaidya, CEO of Storystream, in a panel discussion at Millennial 2020 in New York. “This is more about technology and behavior simply evolving over time.”

In other words, the purchase journey has shifted across the board, and personalization on the individual level is what wins the day. But that said, younger consumers are, naturally, some of the foremost drivers of shifts in technology and adoption. As such, there are a few precepts that marketers should be aware of when it comes to reaching the youngest, most connected consumers.

Below, the major takeaways from the session.

It All Starts With The Smartphone

“All paths to purchase today start with a smartphone,” said Anthony Long, global e-commerce capability lead at Kimberly-Clark. “Where they end is kind of up to you.”

Marketers know that mobile is now the “first screen,” but it’s important to remember how diverse the journeys are that start there. Consumers could be inspired to seek out a product — either online or in-store — by a mobile ad, an organic search, a social post, or even a text from a friend.

“Everyone here knows you use your phone while you shop,” Long said. “What if your roommate texts you on your way home ‘buy TP’? That’s a [mobile] start of a sale, and we don’t have a way to track that at present. We’re getting there.”

In short, marketers need to bear in mind that not all mobile journeys resulting in a physical sale start from an ad or a purposeful post; rather, it’s about being present on a variety of platforms, and delivering relevant content that helps the consumer in the moment.

“We have to ask, ‘what can we do to help them?” Long said. “Not the other way around.

But Engagement Is What Matters — Not Mobile As A Channel

In a world where the consumer purchase journey may begin on mobile, cycle back to a desktop search, and then finally end up with an in-store purchase, silos are an impediment.

“We don’t think of ‘reaching [Millennials]’ as mobile versus in-store,” said Aubrie Pagano, CEO and founder at custom clothing retailer Bow & Drape.

But Pagano also discovered something surprising when it comes to thinking ‘mobile first’: “Actually, [‘traditional’] m-commerce, with customers having to go through five clicks to buy something, isn’t the best for us. But we actually host sales through Instagram Stories, and they sell out every time,” she said. Customers see the sale clothing items on Instagram Stories, and “then they DM us what they want. It’s about creating authentic engagement how [the shopper] wants to, when they want to.”

The Platform Of Tomorrow

“Mobile is important not because it is a technology; it’s because it’s a behavior,” Vaidya said. Essentially, reaching Millennials — or any demographic — isn’t about frantically inundating their newest device with messages. It’s about how certain technologies that take hold become major drivers of a shift in behavior.

So, what is the platform of tomorrow that Millennials and Gen-Zers will flock to? No one knows, of course.

It could be a social network in the vein of Snapchat; it could be something related to voice search. “Amazon is getting huge data sets when it comes to voice search,” Vaidya said. “I think they’re going to be able to do something major with that.”

But what truly matters is that marketers pay attention to where their consumers are moving, how they like to communicate, and that they seek feedback. “It isn’t for us to [push communication] on a new platform,” Long concluded. Instead, when consumers move there, “we’ll be there to meet them.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.