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Catering to the millennial market
5 min read

Catering to the Millennial Market: Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

In recent years, the millennial generation has become one of the most important demographics for small businesses to cater to. Born between 1981 and 1996 – and currently aged between 26 and 42 years old – millennials represent a significant portion of the population and have distinct preferences when it comes to the products and services they consume.

As a small business owner looking to target this demographic, there are several cost-effective techniques you can use to market to millennials:

1. Embrace social media

Millennials are highly active on social media. In fact, one quarter of all social media users fall into the 25-to-34-year age group. This presents a unique opportunity for small businesses to connect with their target audience and build brand awareness. By creating engaging social media content and running targeted ads, you can reach a larger audience and increase your chances of attracting new customers.

Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok are hugely popular with millennials. Consider creating a strong social media presence for your business by regularly posting engaging and shareable content that resonates with this demographic.

2. Focus on sustainability

Another key trend among millennials is a preference for sustainable and eco-friendly products and services. This is a generation that is highly aware of the impact of their actions on the environment and they are willing to pay more for products and services that align with their values.

By incorporating sustainable practices into your business model and highlighting these efforts in your marketing campaigns, you can appeal to this important demographic and build a loyal customer base.

3. Offer personalised experiences

Millennials also place a high value on personalised experiences, whether it’s in-person or online. This means that as a small business owner, you should focus on creating a unique and memorable experience for your customers, whether it’s through personalised recommendations, tailored promotions, or customised products and services.

4. Prioritise convenience

It’s important to recognise that millennials are a generation that values convenience. Focus on making it as easy as possible for your customers to do business with you, whether that means offering online ordering and delivery options or providing mobile-friendly websites and apps.

5. Leverage influencers

Partnering with social media influencers who have a significant millennial following can be a highly effective way to reach this demographic. Look for influencers who align with your brand values and have an engaged following, and consider offering them a free product or service in exchange for a review or social media post (ensure your collaborations are in line with consumer protection law).

6. Embrace content marketing

Create blog posts, videos, and other content that provides value to your millennial audience. For example, if you’re a clothing retailer, you could create a blog post about the latest fashion trends or a video tutorial on how to style a particular item of clothing.

7. Encourage referral marketing

Encourage your existing millennial customers to refer their friends and family to your business in exchange for a discount or other incentive.

8. Get involved in your community

Participate in local events and community initiatives that are of interest to millennials. This can help raise brand awareness and build positive relationships with this demographic.

“We know that inevitably the millennials will get old and tired again, and then there will be the bilennials or trilennials, or whatever the next generation is, and we’re all going to end up on our lawn shaking our fists in a bathrobe yelling at the moon.”

Jon Hamm Actor

Key considerations

It’s crucial to note that not all millennials are the same. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy that will appeal to allmillennials, however there are several subgroups within this demographic that can help you refine your target audience, making your marketing efforts more effective.

For example:

Early, mid and late millennials: Within a generation, there can be subgroups that are defined by narrower age ranges. For millennials, this includes early millennials (generally considered to be those born in the early to mid-1980s), mid millennials (born in the mid-to-late 1980s to mid-1990s) and late millennials (born in the mid-to-late 90s). Late millennials are also referred to as “Zillennials” since they share characteristics of both millennials and the following generation, Gen Z.

Life stages: Over time, interests, priorities, lifestyles, values (and more) can evolve, so it’s important to understand the life stage of your millennial before kicking off any marketing activity.  For example, early millennials are more likely to be growing their families and settling into careers as leaders or soon-to-be leaders, while mid millennials might only just be breaking into the workforce, considering starting a family or purchasing property.

Evolution of technology: Another distinguishing factor between these groups is the evolution of technology. Early millennials would have come of age in the 2000s, and they may have experienced significant technological changes during their formative years, such as the rise of the internet, social media, and mobile devices. Early millennials will also remember a time when you had to decide between using the landline or the internet, and when you had to have a university email address to access Facebook.

For mid millennials, touchscreen mobile phones were the norm, not the exception at school. Facebook is considered mostly passé, turning instead to grandparent-free platforms such as Snapchat or Instagram for their social media fixes.

As the youngest members of the millennial generation, late millennials came of age during the rise of social media and the sharing economy. They have grown up with technology and are more likely to embrace new social media platforms such as TikTok and Twitch.

The 2007-2008 Financial Crisis: Perhaps most significantly for mid millennials, the financial crisis hit full force when they were entering, attending, and leaving university. They graduated into an economy that wasn’t hiring experienced workers, let alone graduates fresh out of university. Despite their idealistic upbringing by Boomer parents, they weren’t spared the bleak realities of entering the working world saddled with crippling university debt and no job opportunities in sight. Consequently, mid millennials tend to be more realistic and financially-conscious than the collaborative and optimistic early millennials.

Other millennial subgroups include:

  • Digital natives: Grew up during the rise of the internet and are highly tech-savvy. They are often early adopters of new technologies and platforms.
  • Health conscious: Place a high value on healthy living, exercise, and nutrition. They are often interested in organic, non-GM, and locally sourced food.
  • Socially conscious: Passionate about social and environmental issues and seeks out brands that align with their values. They are often interested in fair trade, ethical sourcing, and sustainable practices.
  • Urban millennials: Live in urban areas, typically in large cities. They tend to be more socially liberal and prioritise experiences over material possessions. Values walkability, access to public transportation, and cultural diversity.
  • Suburban millennials: Live in suburban areas, typically outside of large cities. They tend to have a more traditional outlook on life and prioritise stability and security.
  • Rural millennials: Live in rural areas, typically in small towns or farming communities. Tend to be more socially conservative and value community and family above all else.
  • Boomerang generation: A term sometimes used to describe millennials who move back in with their parents after initially moving out.
  • Foodies: Interested in food and often seek out new and unique dining experiences.
  • Activists: Highly engaged with social and political issues and are often involved in activism and advocacy.

These are just a few examples of millennial subgroups, and there are many other ways to segment this demographic based on factors such as income, education, and lifestyle. (It’s important to note that these subgroup examples are not universally recognised or agreed upon, and different sources may use different definitions or labels for millennial subgroups.)

Understanding the subgroups within the millennial market can help you tailor your marketing efforts to better resonate with specific subsets of this demographic.

However, make sure you:

Avoid Assumptions and Generalisations

Generational labels like “millennial” are broad categories that encompass a wide range of individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. While some common traits or behaviours may be more prevalent among certain subgroups, it’s not appropriate to make assumptions or generalisations about any individual based solely on their age, location, education, for example.

While it can be helpful to consider different subgroups within the millennial generation for marketing or research purposes, it’s important to approach such categorisations with nuance and recognise the inherent diversity within any given generation.

Why is it important to consider millennials in my marketing strategy?

Catering to the millennial market is an important strategy for small businesses that are looking to build a loyal customer base and increase revenue. With a growing population of over 14 million millennials in the UK, the potential for small businesses to succeed in this market is significant. (If your offering isn’t relevant to millennials, could you consider expanding your offering to appeal to this large demographic?)

By implementing these marketing tips – steered by your chosen subgroups – and staying attuned to the latest trends and preferences of this demographic, you can position your business for long-term success and growth.

Now, as an early millennial, I’m off to optimistically scroll through Facebook and reminisce about inflatable chairs, Tamagotchis and Um Bongo. (Good times.)

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Jenny Lambert

Jenny Lambert is a freelance writer, interiors blogger and Etsy shop owner with extensive experience working in marketing, digital and publishing roles.

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