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Top 5 Hits & Misses When Targeting Millennials

What companies need to know—and avoid—when making loyal customers out of Millennials

Millennials’ spending habits are changing the ways entire industries operate. Any retailer wanting to stay current and competitive with this generation needs to take notice. Millennials are an enormous generation, with unparalleled buying power, so winning them over now could mean dramatic growth immediately and in the near future.


Things Millennials Love and Hate

Many brands have successfully targeted Millennials by changing their advertising strategy or offering different products and services. But others have not been so lucky.

In a recent Business Insider article, Jason Dorsey, Millennial research expert and President at The Center for Generational Kinetics, explains the biggest hits and misses retailers have experienced with Millennial customers. Here are the top 5 for each to help you stay afloat with this choosy generation.


  1. A level of local exclusivity. “Millennials love exclusivity, limited-time experiences, and a local-centric feel,” Dorsey explains. Whether this means seeking out pop-up shops where certain brands are sold for only a short amount of time or attending a guest-bartending session by a celebrity chef at a local bar, Millennials constantly seek out experiences and products that no one else has.
  1. Gourmet pizza. Even Millennials on a tight budget will splurge for extra meat on a garden-vegetable-variety pizza. Millennials value stylishness in all aspects of their lives, and pizza is no exception. “You may have three roommates, you may not own a house, but you can splurge and get a really awesome pizza,” Dorsey tells Business Insider.
  1. Buying cars…online. “Traditional retail experience doesn’t play to how Millennials like to buy,” Dorsey explains. Millennials are now buying cars in record numbers online because they can do it on the terms they—not the pushy salesman at the car lot— Millennials feel safe when they can compare pictures, prices, and a myriad of other features from the comfort of their own home, or while on the go on their smartphone.
  1. Organic, local food. Millennials care where their food comes from. They believe that the ingredients you use in your food and the way they were sourced speaks directly about your character and your company’s message. Dorsey points out that, for Millennials, when you incorporate components like “gluten free [crust] and ancient grains…it almost represents what you believe.”
  1. Social conscientiousness. Millennials care where their money goes. Brands that forefront their “story” such as TOMS and Warby Parker thrive with this generation of socially conscientious consumers. Millennials like to feel their purchases are going towards the greater good… and it doesn’t hurt if the products you offer are on trend.


  1. Traditional car-buying experiences. Walking into a car dealership presses all the wrong buttons for Millennials. They don’t like being treated like a number or being hit with a barrage of high-pressure sales tactics. Millennials prefer a more relaxed buying experience, so “walking into a retail environment where people size you up and having a salesperson follow you like a shadow,” as Dorsey explains, directly counters Millennials’ consumer preferences.
  1. Not having free Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is essential in coffee shops, restaurants, and any other place where Millennials will spend an extended amount of time. If you’re thinking about charging for Wi-Fi, you can forget about growing your business with Millennial customers!
  1. Paper coupons. While Millennials absolutely love to get a deal, they “do not like having to carry or bring a printed coupon in order to get a discount. Millennials view this as not only a waste of paper but also outdated,” says Dorsey. The better option is to use an app or mobile-friendly website, where Millennials can access exclusive coupons or deals.
  1. “Cool–kid” mentality. The best reflections of “cool-kid” mentality are the rapid decline of the Abercrombie and Fitch brand and the negative feedback facing Victoria Secret. By catering to consumers only of a certain body type, Abercrombie and Victoria Secret are quickly being shunned by Millennials who value individuality and uniqueness.
  1. Being called a Millennial. A recent study from Pew Research said that Millennials hate being called Millennials, so retailers who want to attract them as customers should refrain from using that word in their ad campaigns. Recently, Macy’s introduced One Below to their flagship store in New York City’s Herald Square, a floor dedicated to all-things Millennial. The branding seems to be on point, if a little overwhelmingly “Millennial,” so whether Millennials actually take to it remains to be seen.

Interested in how you can make your brand more attractive to a huge Millennial consumer base? Read the entire article, The surprising things Millennials love—and hate, here. And if you need more help solving a specific challenge, contact The Center’s team for info about our custom research and strategy solutions that are designed to drive measurable results.

What do you look for in a shopping experience? Tweet us at @WhatTheGen and @JasonDorsey to offer your insights—don’t forget to include your #generation.

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