Merchandising to Millennials

So-called millennials make up the generation whose favour all marketers and retailers currently aspire to curry. At once terrifically misunderstood and patently simple, this cohort of young people is a box of potential just waiting to be unpacked.

Born roughly between 1980 and 2000, the count of millennials—or Generation Y—arguably exceeds that of the much-ballyhooed boomers, a fact not lost on merchandisers interested in reaching them. What’s more, millennials are trotting around with $600 billion in spending power (projected to increase to $1.4 trillion by 2020) in their vintage-jean pockets.

But what’s the trick for doing so, especially considering the reams of analysis that chokes the internet on precisely who they are?

Nine thoughts to bear in mind in your attempts to uncover it:

  1. This generation is suffering from some seriously strapped finances. They’re awash in school debt and they can’t even imagine a robust savings account. Frugality and fiscal conservatism are good platforms upon which to reach them.
  1. This generation is nuts for companies’ demonstrated commitment to the environment, animals and green building practices. If you don’t engage in such things, start; if you do, make noise about it.
  1. Millennials are connected 24-7 and are delighted to use their mobile devices to shop. Still, research shows that most of them would prefer to visit a physical store (a recent study by Cushman & Wakefieldsays 75% of millennial purchases are made at brick-and-mortar stores). That means achieving a smart balance between the two.
  1. This generation is a tactile lot, fond of employing their senses in pursuit of purchases. The more opportunity they have to see, touch and interact with merchandise, the more satisfaction it gives them.
  1. Millennials feel special, and so demand to be treated as such. They respond to efforts undertaken to give them personalized, unique experiences.
  1. Millennials love to share (great experiences and bad; great buys and bad; great customer service and bad), and have their digital devices at the ready to do so. Be cognizant of this, and you’ll see to it that it’s only good news making the rounds on you.
  1. This is a generation long accustomed to things being fast and easy for them. Shopping needs to meet the same bill. The stuff they saw on line needs to be in ready supply at the store, and vice versa. And payment and coupon-cashing should be simple and mobile-friendly.
  1. Millennials are fans of digital everything. That includes snappy advertising and compelling in-store signage. Don’t bore this group with static messaging. Stores might consider digital walls, and should maintain busy Instagram and Snapchat accounts.
  2. Millennials value philanthropy and appreciate companies that are similarly charitably minded. As one example,’s Amazon Smile program lets shoppers pick a charity to receive a small percentage of their purchase proceeds.

The bottom line about this crew of selfie-taking, Snapchatting, hash-tagging buyers is that connecting with them isn’t the tall order it might initially appear. In fact, these folks are just as receptive to buying your stuff as the folks that came before them were—merchandisers just have to go after them a bit more mindfully.

CBMS Millenial