If you ask many of today's business-to-consumer companies about their target market, "women" and "millennials" are likely to come up a lot. The fact that marketers are going after these two segments should come as no surprise: The buying power of consumers who belong to these groups — especially those in the intersection — is rapidly growing as Generation Y continues to grow up and enter the workforce. But reaching female millennials successfully isn't always as easy as you might expect.
Where many marketers go wrong is casting too wide of a net with this group, and making broad assumptions about the individuals within them. In fact, two Advertising Week 2014 panels said that marketing strategies that rely too heavily on stereotypes about millennials and women are becoming less and less effective. Gabie Boko, executive vice president of marketing at accounting software provider Sage, agreed that these tactics need to be scratched from your playbook.
"When marketing to millennial women, one size does not fit all," Boko told Business News Daily. "Not every woman is a mom. Not every woman is a high-powered executive. Not every woman likes pink. Stereotyping in your marketing is one of the quickest ways to alienate potential buyers. Instead, you need to tap into their true buying needs and preferences."
"Marketers often loop all millennials into one large target group and make the assumption that they act and behave in all of the same ways, which is just not true," added Michael Dill, managing partner of integrated marketing firm Match Drive. "Millennials are like colors — they are all different shades, and marketers need to understand what particular shade they are selling to and why."
If you're trying to market to this fast-growing, highly coveted group, here are a few tips to keep in mind. [Marketing to Millennials: How to Capture Gen Y Consumers]
Research, research, research. In order to think beyond the stereotypes of millennial women, you need to do your research. Speak with them directly and learn about what they want — and whether that aligns with what your company offers.
"Narrow your focus to the women who will likely be the early adopters or best fit for your product," Boko said. "You must understand their community deeply and try to see your brand through their perspective. The effort you put into learning about and understanding the women in your market will show in your marketing."
Leslie Canter, a marketing representative for audience intelligence tool People Pattern, noted that listening to social media conversations is incredibly important in helping you learn about your target group and discovering what motivates these people.
"[Find out] what people are actually talking about," Canter said. "[In terms of] shopping habits, what really resonates and is important to these people?"
Think about the screen and context. One challenge brands face in reaching the millennial generation is the dramatic shift in communication habits ushered in by the digital age. Dill noted that marketers have had to rethink their traditional advertising and retail models and adapt them to the multiscreen world of Gen Y.
"When millennials watch TV, they don't just sit there, staring at the screen," Dill said. "They often watch two different screens or more, or they engage with their friends while watching. They stop, they go off and then come back."
Ilana Stern, founder of wedding fashion retailer Weddington Way, said that the context of brand connections — browsing on a smartphone while waiting for the subway versus shopping on a desktop during work, for instance — makes a difference in how you should choose to reach out to millennial women.
"Millennials are consuming content in a variety of [ways, and] their goals and mind-set change depending on the context," Stern said. "Brands need to meet them where they are, with simple and straightforward messaging and experiences that cater to these contexts."
Make a connection. As more millennials shift to online and mobile shopping, ensuring a seamless experience across all devices is important. But just as important is finding ways to authentically connect with millennials through your marketing efforts.
"Millennials interact with brands differently than prior generations," Stern said. "It's not about push marketing and brand endorsement. They value the opinions of their peers and community. Millennials wants to feel informed and involved, not just someone you're marketing to. Connect [with them through] values that drive them, such as happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery."
"Millennials care as much for what a brand stands for as they do for the product that the brand makes," Dill added. "To millennials, both the brand story and the company's integrity matter a great deal.Think about [millennials] first, rather than thinking about how you want to sell."