There has been a lot of interest in understanding and relating to millennials across societal, economic, and relational dimensions. This is because of the significant impact that technology has had in their lives as they were growing up, which fundamentally changed the way they understand and think about their world. Millennials are also starting to reach that period of life where they spend and accumulate wealth, making them more important to marketers. Most importantly, they are defining a shift in worldview that will impact the generation that follows—and perhaps beyond.
While I won’t be a practicing sociologist anytime soon, I can point to two specific focuses of the millennial generation that marketers need to be aware of: authenticity and convenience. While both are appreciated by all consumers, they have a deeper impact on this generation. Of course, it (almost) goes without saying that value for money is also important.
A Sense of Authenticity
So how does a marketer engage millennials? Well, unfortunately you can’t just “act authentic”! If your brand wants to align with the needs of this generation, you need to look at your menu, ingredient sourcing (farm-to-table, all-natural, etc.), and other aspects of the in-location experience that align with these values. This may require real changes that challenge your business. However, it is an authentic conversion worth talking about! Also, does your website align with your in-store experience and story? Do all channels connect with the same level of authenticity?
Convenience Is Key
When it comes to convenience, free wifi enables your guests to share photos of food and fun at the table. Additionally, tabletop ordering, online ordering and delivery are some obvious tactical components that you can undertake, although each has complications and economic impact that must be weighed.
Where convenience really is important is the guest experience. How easy is it to engage with your brand? How many clicks does it take to get to an action? What do you know about an individual customer to make for a better experience? Understanding customers at an individual level gives you the opportunity to customize and personalize experiences. While this is true for all customers, millennials have the expectation, in their technology-enabled lives, that brands know who they are and are using that information proactively. Many will opt in to eclubs and loyalty if your brand appeals to them. This gives you the chance to track their behaviors and customize offers and communications to their habits and interests.
Return to Direct Mail?
It might seem to any marketer that reaching millennials requires nothing more than social media, an eclub, and a good website. These are critical components, and budgets spent on social media are typically great investments. These are also good channels for engaging or re-engaging your current customers. However, it has been fascinating to watch the response to direct mail by millennials. This channel works well because the volume of snail-mail has dropped so dramatically. Now, when a restaurant sends a postcard with a glossy picture and a great offer, with an introduction to the brand, it stands out like never before. If you have not experimented with this channel, this may be the time to start!
To summarize, be authentic, focus on the customer experience, and engage customers through multiple channels—be where they are (while being authentic), and you are on your way to building your business for generations to come.
Brad Rukstales is president and CEO of Cogensia, a data analytics marketing company that has worked with multiple fast-casual restaurant chains such as Houlihan’s, Landry’s and more.