3 Tips for Retailers on How to Engage Millennials Online


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Millennials - Depositphotos_46003515_s-2015

In Canada and the United States, millennials now make up the largest proportion of the workforce. Their spending power is huge and will continue to grow over the years, as this generation matures. This is exactly why several retailers have made significant investments in tailoring their assortments and marketing to millennials. Here are 3 tips on how to engage millennials online.


Millennials have incorporated social media into their daily lives, spending on average 5.4 hours per day on social networks. In terms of the type of content which engages them, studies have shown that millennials have a stronger preference for user-generated content (UGC)—any form of content created by consumers or end-users—over branded messages. From product reviews to selfies, millennials are posting all kinds of UGC on social media. They want their voices to be heard and look to their peers and other influencers for suggestions on products, brands, lifestyle, and entertainment.

UGC Campaigns

Retailers are finding creative ways to engage consumers with UGC campaigns. Two notable examples include Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” and T-Mobile’s “Break-up Letter.” These campaigns encourage “real people” to participate and share content on social media, and have proven to be very effective. Coca-Cola saw a 2% increase in U.S. sales after launching the #shareacoke campaign. T-Mobile reported an addition of 1.3 million monthly subscribers for its first quarter in 2014 after launching the #breakupletter campaign in January. The “social” nature of social networks—and the fact that millennials tend to be heavy social media users—makes these channels the ideal place to launch and promote UGC campaigns.


Screenshot of Coca-Cola’s “Share Gallery” at shareacoke.com: This is essentially the “home” for the ongoing campaign which has seen countless images of people “share-a-coke” online.


Social media marketing is great for generating awareness and promoting products, but retailers want consumers to come back to their websites where they can further interact with the brand, browse products, and make purchases. So, even if your banner ad or social media update generates a click-through to your website, there is a high chance that your webpage will be abandoned if it is not mobile-friendly.

This is of particular importance when targeting millennials since this group far exceeds its generational counterparts with mobile usage. According to ComScore, 21% of U.S. millennials no longer use desktop computers to go online!

Spending Shifts to Mobile

A study by MocoSpace and Social Lens Research found that 35% of millennials surveyed currently purchase products on their mobile devices, and 91% of that group make monthly purchases. The study also revealed that 35% of millennials “would like to buy more on their phone, but it’s too hard to do so.”

As mobile commerce continues to grow, so too does the need for retailers to have mobile-optimized sites and/or apps that are easy to navigate and have a simple check-out procedure. This is especially important for retailers that sell toys and hobby-related products; video games, consoles and accessories; and jewellery and watches. For example, comScore found that 37% of digital purchases in the Toys and Hobbies category were made via mobile devices in Q1 2015.


Source: comScore e-Commerce & m-Commerce Measurement, State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy in Q1 2015

As a final note, the chart above does not include mobile-influenced in-store purchases, which according to Deloitte Digital, reflected $0.97 trillion in U.S. retail sales in 2014. It is important for retailers to keep in mind that the benefits of mobile optimization go way beyond the idea of just “selling” on mobile. Shoppers are using their mobile devices to research products, search for coupons, and compare prices before, after, and during their in-store shopping trips.


It’s no secret that video dominates all other content online. According to Cisco, video will account for 80% of all global consumer internet traffic by the year 2019. Research from Animoto confirms that millennials have a strong preference for video content. They find videos helpful for initial research and comparison shopping, and are likely to watch company videos when shopping online.

Based on these findings, a suitable content mix to reach millennials must include video! Retailers Apple and Nike, two of the more popular brands among millennials, use video to engage consumers online.


Screenshot of apple.com – Apple uses video throughout its website to promote products and educate customers. In the image above, visitors can select to “watch the film,” “watch the keynote,” or “watch the TV ad” for the iPhone6S.


Screenshot of Nike’s official YouTube channel: Nike features several different channels on YouTube, divided by sport (e.g., Nike Basketball, Nike Football, Nike Running) and special interest (e.g., Nike Training, Nike Women), with each channel tailoring video content to its unique audience.

Facebook 360-degree Video

Facebook recently launched 360-degree videos, which provides an interactive experience by enabling users to view all angles of a scene within a video. While the cost of producing one of these videos is likely to be steep, this type of content could be helpful for marketing experiential store concepts, from pop-up shops to five star tourist destinations.

In summary, retailers of all sizes have found creative ways to reach and engage millennials online. Although opportunities continue to persist across all generations, retailers can’t ignore the growing buying-power of the millennial group. When it comes to reaching millennials online, the key is to know who they are and what they really need and want from retailers, and be forewarned: this generation is not easily fooled by marketing!

Written by: Naomi Turner, Analyst and Marketing Administrative Assistant at J.C. Williams Group


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