Digital first: how to influence Generation Y

Traditional marketing tactics just don’t cut it with Generation Y, which makes them a tough crowd to sell into and a real challenge for companies looking to set up a life-long relationship with their brands and these young consumers.

Born between 1980 and 2000, Generation Y (also known as millennials) are unified by one thing - technology. Their lives have been shaped by technology and they are generally connected 24/7. To connect with them companies have to be more progressive in their approach and gain a deeper understanding into how they tick.

Some companies have struggled to connect with Gen-Yers because traditional methods of advertising prove ineffective and they are difficult to influence. The same companies have also swallowed the myth they are not brand loyal which is untrue. To recognize the buying power of digitally-enabled Generation Y, their mindset and expectations, you have to understand more about this tech-savvy sector that is forcing retailers to think on their feet when it comes to products, messaging and customer service.

Deloitte has referred to Generation Y as the “catalysts of change”, and there is little doubt they are making their presence felt.  Millennials want to innovate and improve society, but at the same time they have enormous buying power. 

“In addition to the growing inter-family wealth transfer, their cumulative earnings are projected to increase by 85% within the next 10 years, surpassing those of their Baby Boomer parents by as much as $500 billion. This segment is expected to have a higher disposable income than their predecessors,” Deloitte explained in a report. It cited Gen-Yers as “independently dependent, practically motivated, tech savvy, socially minded financial freshmen”.

Snapshot of a Gen-Yer

Gen-Yers are unique from other generations in their buying experience. They hate being actively sold things, they carry out research online, are more likely to buy from a friend’s referral than an advert and look to blogs for advice. They are quick to praise or criticize products on social media. They like doing business with ethical, environmental companies and expect exceptional service, including alerts to what they might like such as on

This is an impatient, instant gratification generation. According to recent PwC research if they want something fast they are happy to pay for expedient delivery.  They also look for activity in purchases.

How do Gen-Yers go about making purchases?
Gen-Yers have grown up using the Internet for everything from shopping and social networking to entertainment, chat and news - and spend a considerable amount of time online.

When it comes to shopping Gen-Yers prefer to shop online, but aren’t adverse to visiting bricks and mortar stores. But, they demand a seamless experience.  In a recent research, Accenture found that 68% of Gen-Yers expect a multichannel experience. This means transitioning effortlessly from smartphone to personal computer to physical store to find the best products and services.

Price comparison
Generation Y-ers are adept at using price comparison sites to get the best deals. Businesses can’t rest on their laurels if they want to retain their custom. Businesses always need to think one step ahead to satisfy their needs e.g. giving them VIP access to a new ‘must have’ product. 

Blogs: first stop for purchasing tips

Elite Daily and Millenial Branding, the voices of Generation Y research, highlighted in a recent survey that unlike previous generations, Gen-Yers rank blogs – 33% - as their top media source for purchases. Fewer than 3% rank traditional media sources as influencing purchases and only 1% said a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more.

Gen-Yers (58%) expect brands to publish content online before they make a purchase and rank authenticity (43%) as more important than the content itself (32%). Millennials don’t trust traditional media and advertising and look for opinions from their friends (37%), parents (36%) and online experts (17%) before making a purchase.

“If you want to connect with millennials, then you’re going to have to rethink the way you advertise and market your product to them. Instead of traditional advertising, which they ignore, brands have to publish authentic content as a way of building trust and loyalty with this extremely important and influential demographic,” explained Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding.

Power of the mobile
The smartphone is Gen-Yers window to the world. They have “higher expectations than prior generations, value transparency, favor convenience over price and shop via their mobile more than any other group - brands have to worker harder to attract and keep them,” explained Allison Stone, senior associate, retail and consumer at PwC.

PcW found that a third of Gen-Yers expect to use their smartphones as their main purchasing tool in the future.  Currently 40% make online purchases monthly and close to 30% weekly.  An astonishing 80% of Gen-Yers use their smartphone in store to access digital coupons, check prices, product reviews and pay for purchases against 55% of over 35s.

Power of the brand

Gen-Yers have forced retailers to reevaluate how they communicate with them through digital channels such as Facebook.  They have shown they need to be made to feel part of a trend, a digital community their friends belong to. Yet, surprisingly, they are more committed to brands than older shoppers.

Gen-Yers have “raised the bar for brands, but they are also more willing to pay a premium for perceived value. Brands have to work harder to attract and retain them, but those companies that make the effort will ultimately reap the rewards,” concluded Stone. 

Learn more about Orange Business solutions for customer experience.

Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.