Countless industry reports have made headlines by inferring that the Millennial Generation is less brand loyal than preceding age groups.

But is that really the case?

 

Based on data we’ve analyzed, we believe that Millennials can be extremely loyal if they feel they’ve been listened to and are treated right. And we’ll expand on what some of the factors are that can help retailers boost engagement with this generation later in the post.

But let’s begin by looking at a few data points that can cause concern and lead to the mistaken conclusion that brand loyalty may be harder to earn within this group:

  1. Firstly, Millennials are much more likely than other generations to spread their purchases over multiple stores according to Acosta’s “Trip Driving” survey. Within the grocery segment, 44% reported shopping at 3 or more stores, compared to only 29% of all other generations.
  2.  Secondly, when it comes to brand loyalty, a study by Daymon Worldwide showed that only 29% of Millennials usually purchase from the same brand, compared to 35% of Generation X’ers.
  3. Thirdly, while membership levels of Millennials in loyalty programs is up, their engagement levels in the programs is low. According to a 2018 Millennial Loyalty Survey by Codebroker, 70% of Millennials engage with less than half the programs they belong to.

So, what are some of the factors leading to such low engagement levels within retailer loyalty programs? Identifying these issues can gives us clues as to how to effectively combat their concerns:

  • The most important gripe amongst Millennials relates to information about the rewards they have earned, and how to access and redeem them. 30% stated that their biggest concern is that rewards expire before they can use them, and 28% reported that they simply don’t know what rewards they have, or when they become available. (Hint…could that be related to the type/size of screens that Millennials are viewing?).
  • Millennials also expressed frustration at having to carry a plastic loyalty card. That’s not surprising when you consider that 66% of consumers between the ages of 18-29 don’t even own a credit card! This is a mobile first, digital generation.
  • Finally, Millennials are telling us that generic, non-personalized promotions simply won’t cut it with them. Promotional messages need to be both highly relevant and timely in order to break through the noise.

As we mentioned earlier, some of the research conducted on this generation points to very encouraging signs for retailers who are willing to invest in tweaking their loyalty program to address Millennial shoppers. Here are some highlights:

  1. A study conducted by Accenture found that 95 percent or more of Millennials say they want retailers and brands to court them actively by engaging with them through promotional messages that are personalized.
  2. What’s even more encouraging is that 70% say they’re comfortable with retailers or brands tracking their browsing and purchasing behaviors in order to receive more individualized communications. They understand this is a “give and take” relationship…. you give your data in order to get more value.
  3. Interestingly enough, while low prices / discounts are considered valuable by this group, they also highly value other factors including availability, differentiated products perceived as healthier, items produced locally, ingredients for recipes they wish to prepare and more. All of these are inputs that can be personalized.

Based on the above, there are a few key best practices that we recommend any retailer adopts in order to increase chances of success with this generation:

First and foremost – smartphone access to the program is crucial. That includes registration, information about available rewards, and the ability to both accrue and redeem awards.

Secondly – the overall user experience needs to be simple, intuitive, and pleasant. This is a generation that has grown up consuming digital services for media consumption, transportation, vacations, financial services etc., and so have grown accustomed to smooth, well thought-out digital user journeys. This also includes ensuring that experiences are seamless for the shopper whether they are on a mobile app, viewing a website or are physically in-store.

Thirdly – offer experiences as rewards, not just discounts. Millennials have expressed time again that they are more interested in acquiring experiences than in accumulating goods. Participation in food related events, magazines with relevant content, even donations to causes that they identify with are all reward types that resonate with this group and can be personalized.

Finally – ensure that your media / channel is deployed to match the mindset of the shopper. As an example, social media is used by this generation not to demonstrate loyalty, but rather to gain access to offers or promotions. Don’t expect your Millennial shoppers to like or follow your page, but make sure you have transactional related content on the main networks that help them get better deals on relevant items.

To summarize… while the Millennial generation demonstrates some differences versus prior generations regarding what drives loyalty with them, they are just as open, if not more so, to developing relationships with retailers who they believe are listening to their needs and responding accordingly. And given that this group will soon hold the largest purchasing power of any generation, we think listening to them is a good idea.

Happy Trading

Chen Katz