Marketing to Millennials - Top 9 Things to Know to Sell

Who are Millennials and why should you care?

Millennials are the generation that was born in 1980-2000. Although there are experts who have synthesized that number more precisely to the years 1977-1997, but either way it's 20 years of babies. Some people have referred to this generation as Generation Y or Echo Boomers and occasionally as generation "ME".

According to the number of Millennials in the USA alone is nearly 80 million. It's important to understand that Millennials globally have very consistent behaviors and patterns. In fact the buying characteristics are more consistent globally for this generation than any prior generation. The most obvious use case for this fact is that once you create an effective system for reaching and engaging and ultimately selling a Millennial customer you can then, by in large, roll that strategy out globally. This follows the first nail it and then scale it business concept.

 Facts about Millennials:

  • In 2015 they spent 2.45 Trillion dollars in the USA alone
  • By 2018 they will have more annual earning power than baby boomers
  • They have more collage debt than any prior generation
  • They are technology centric (They adopt technology quickly to make their lives easier. Generation X used technology often just for the sake of itself and adoption rates were slower. Boomers were always skeptical of technology adoption in the past.)
  • Millennials have the highest lifetime customer value of any generation
  • Millennials are loyal to brands, but not loyal to transaction providers (e.g. retailers). Yet they are more likely to refer a brand or even retailer (transaction provider) if they have a positive experience.
  • They send 50 texts per day
  • Their life's experience has trained them to expect immediate gratification (due to technology making transactions so frictionless)


Millennials exist in 2 Subgroups

Subgroup 1 (YOUNGER): During 2016 Millennials A are in the middle or finishing collage and still waiting to stake their claim in the world. They don't have a lot of disposable income, but they do have a lot of collage debt and feel pressure.

Subgroup 2 (OLDER): During 2016 Millennials B have established themselves by leaving home, becoming financially independent, finding a significant other, buying a house and have 2 kids. They have more discretionary spending power and have different needs than their younger peers.

Despite the variance between these subgroups in terms of what they want and need to purchase at this stage in their lives the method to reach them, the way to engage them and ultimately the way to win them is the same.


  1. Communication is different
  2. You have to be different
  3. Mass Media is irrelevant
  4. Their favorite website is Facebook
  5. Apple is their favorite brand
  6. They transact differently
  7. Selling process is educational not hype
  8. Their phone is their best friend
  9. They are influencing other generational buying behaviors  


1. Communication

Millennials engage the world in their own unique and unprecedented way compared to prior generations. 

According to top resources here are the best communication methods in order of their preference. (First to Worst)

    1. Text. Millennials consider text the primary way to communicate. (sometimes between the same people at the dinner table.) Millennials use their phone and leading instant messaging (IM APPS) like WhatsAPP to conduct countless bite size communication bits each day.
    2. Email. Millennials use and like email. However, the subject line can be the make or break factor in the decision to open the email moreso for this generation compared to others. The sender is still the primary determining email factor, but even familiar senders are screen by subject line.
    3. Social Media. Millennials love to use Facebook and countless other social media. They make inquires to businesses using these platforms, they gain awareness and they leave feedback on these platforms. Their expectation is a quick response via the same social media channel. 
    4. Phone Call. Generation X would prefer to pick up the phone, but Millennials are clearly phone adverse unless it is absolutely necessary.
    5. In Person. Millennials understand that in person communication still has a place and they can be very good at it. However, due to their perception of time and the general feeling that technology makes everything easier and that the in person buying process is a final means to an end.

2. You have to be different

Sameness is the quickest path to irrelevance. If your service, store, website or people feel essentially the same to Millennials they will consider you a non-value add transaction provider. And the moment they don't need you to conduct the transaction: you're out.

However, by establishing a truly unique experience you can create a real brand impression and even loyalty. Your company must transcend the transaction perception and establish itself as a brand in the mind of the Millennial.

3. Mass Media is Irrelevant

More than any other generation the consumption of media has changed and it has changed forever. Spending money on tv, radio, cable, yellow pages or other traditional high impression media is not worthwhile if you are searching for Millennials. They have a DVR and they are not afraid to use it to skip every commercial possible. Even when they are exposed to commercials it is on services like Pandora, Hulu, Youtube and other online media platforms.

Go where the customers are. ONLINE!


4. Facebook is Their Favorite Website

It is probably not a surprise that Millennials log more time than other generations on Facebook. Their favorite subject after all is themselves. So the "selfie generation" will log lots of time on Facebook. They are also highly engaged with Instagram. The good news is that marketers can use one advertising vehicle to reach both audiences.

If you expect to sell to Millennials you will have to create awareness when and when they want it. 

Using advance targeting you can customize your message between Millennials and Gen X'ers even when selling the same item in order to create a more personalized touch. 

You can even target the user's birthday and build campaigns around that! The targeting potential is infinite.


5. Apple is Their Favorite Brand

Millennials love the Apple brand because it is often the kernel that their social life is built around. Their iPhone is their best friend and constant companion and their Mac is the most chic way to keep up with their work. Millennials love Apple because it works. They don't need to worry themselves about the technical details, processor speeds or worry about blue screens of death. They just get to use their device as a nearly seamless extension of themselves.

Brands that can replicate, echo or otherwise adopt the aspirational parts of the Apple brand WITH the excellence in execution can engage Millennials in a compelling and meaningful way.

6. They Transact Differently 

Millennials don't like to use cash. Credit cards are the norm. Apple Pay and other methods that rely on their mobile device are emerging quickly. Do you accept Paypal? This question still perplexes millions of small retailers across the USA and tens of millions more globally. This is just one example of how Millennials want to conduct their financial transaction outside of the traditional channels.

Think they will just write you a check? Most of them don't use physical checks. They use online banking and send checks. In fact it's probably not an exaggeration to say that many Millennials have never written or perhaps received a physical check.

They get paid electronically, they bank online, use Apple Pay and they use paypal regularly and even bitcoin. 

How many retailers and websites will be surprised when Millennials embrace these new emerging payment methods? 

7. Selling Process is Educational not Hype

If a Millennial walks into a showroom to see a product and engage a sales process you can immediately turn them off by coming across as a used car salesman.

Because the Millennial will start their process online in the first place it is a big step for them to cross the threshold of a retailer. In mass consumer markets many Millennials use retail locations as showrooms. They find an item online they are interested in, but want to confirm the physical aspects of the fit and finish of the product. Once they verify they compare the price in the showroom to the online resource and the lower price will most often will.

In cases when the retail location is a standard part of the buying process for retailers that offer lighting, flooring, cabinets, appliances and many other home improvement related products the Millennial will absolutely start their search online, but are less like to try and showroom the item only to buy online mostly because of the complexity of the installation and or delivery of these considered purchases.

Millennials want to learn and be mentored in a sales process they absolutely don't want to be sold. If you come across as authentic and genuine you will win. If you appear phony you will lose.

8. Their Phone is their Best Friend

Millennials are constantly on their phones. Their phone represents the most meaningful relationship, at least when measured by time interacted with, that they have. 

According to USA today almost 90% of Millennials admit to taking a selfie daily or at least weekly. Further they will often take pictures while shopping of a potential item and share with the friends or family to share in the decision process.

Because the Facebook App is the most popular App for phones it is no surprise that Millennials are helping drive this reality.

Today mobile phones represent a lot more than phone calls or even selfies. They represent commerce. 

Amazon has reported that over 60% of their customer engage mobile devices in the buying process. This is up from 8% in 2013.

Mobile commerce is rocketing past desktop commerce and remains vital for retailers to consider how their website appears on mobile devices. 

Equally importantly to the local stores, their phones will tell them you star reviews on Yelp or Google when engaging the map apps. How many Millennials were about to chart a course to a local retailer and saw the dismal reviews and ratings and started their search over?

 9. They Are Influencing Other Generational Buying Behaviors

If all of the information wasn't enough to convince you that Millennials are critical to your sales and marketing process in the future perhaps this bombshell will help:

GEN X and BOOMERS are adopting the same buying behaviors!

It is not often that later generations will migrate towards the younger generation in terms of buying behaviors in fact historically it has been the opposite for the most part.

Today, however, GEN X'ers and BOOMERS are steadily adopting the technology and the social media at a rapid pace.

It is common to see multiple generations on Facebook and even engaging in texting. Although less likely to take selfies the reality is that these older generations are adopting all of the buying behaviors noted above at a faster pace than Millennials who adopted them originally. 

Although people often refer to them as lazy or entitled Millennials are coming into their own without worrying about others judging them. They are more inclusive when compared to the cliche driven Gen X and far less religious than Boomers. 

They are open and prefer to collaborate with those around them.

50% of Millennials report that their parents are their best friends. This unprecedented change related to the slower pace Millennials take when establishing their own lives, but it appears that both the parents and children are benefiting from that support and transparent relationship.

If you are marketing or selling any product through any venue it is critical to understand Millennials and how to reach them. The moral of the story is that any business ignoring Millennials will find themselves in the discarded scrap pile of other businesses before them like Blockbuster, Borders, Kodak and so many others.