Mobile millennials are falling in love with legacy channels against all odds. Here’s why

BY Suzanna Chaplin

esbconnect Account Manager, Sabrina Chisin, busts some myths about which channels millennials prefer brands to communicate with.

There’s a general belief that millennials like to do ALL of our communication using chat and messaging apps (Snapchat and Facebook messenger are two of the biggest players here), automatically rejecting any digital channels older than we are as outdated.

As a millennial myself, and a marketing professional, I believe this is (wrongly) based on two assumptions; firstly, that all channels have a shelf life, and secondly, that millennials don’t understand how to use different channels in different ways to communicate effectively with different people. (And that millennials are a homogeneous group who all think and act the same way – also wrong, but that’s a point for a different blog).

The thing is, these assumptions don’t actually hold up when you look at the facts. Yet they are widely accepted as fact by those who make decisions about how to engage with millennials. This seems problematic when these decisions involve huge ad budgets.

And millennials are no question a key audience for brands. With buying power of around $200 billion in 2017 in the US alone, we represent an extremely lucrative audience – and the power audience of tomorrow. No wonder brands are chasing our attention.

Let’s tackle some myths about how millennials like to communicate, by taking a look at the facts.

Fact 1. Millennials are the biggest users of email
In fact, millennials are the group who spend the longest amount of time checking their emails daily, compared to other demographic groups, as found by numerous studies. Millennials spend around six hours per day looking at their inboxes. We are the group most likely to check email in bed first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and even in the bathroom, according to a survey by Adobe. Email is absolutely central to our lives.

Fact 2. Email is the #1 channel for mobile users, and millennials are the #1 users of mobile
About 55% of emails (according to Litmus research) are now opened on mobile devices. Perhaps more significantly, 30% of that figure read emails exclusively on their mobile devices, and millennials make up the largest part of this group. Mobile email is a really big deal to millennials, whichever way you look at the numbers.

Fact 3. Millennials don’t have favourite channels
It’s not that we are dedicated fans of particular channels, it’s that growing up online, we have learned to switch between channels depending on what we want to get done. In fact, in one sense we’re pretty disloyal really. We’ll use any channel that delivers a great experience, and we intuitively understand how each channel works for us best. We rely on email for the best offers from brands (we would never book anything without checking for email subscriber deals or discounts first), and we have no problem with giving brands our email address to get these offers. We understand the transactional value of our personal data, and we’re comfortable with it. We use social channels to manage relationships with friends and curate our lives, and we use chat to get things done quicker.

So which channels really get millennials?
Perhaps one of the main reasons why social, chat, and messaging apps have had so much success in the sought-after millennial market, is that they work so hard to understand their audience, and constantly evolve their solutions to tap into this. Adding different features and functions (like new filters) to keep engagement levels high. The fomo (fear of missing out) element also plays a part in this. Millennials don’t want to miss out on the latest upgrade, the newest editing app, or just the latest deal, and these channels are masters of driving demand with these.

What many marketers looking to engage millennials might be unaware of, is that the email channel has also evolved, and is working hard in the background to deliver outstanding performance to advertisers targeting millennial audiences. Although email is not the only “legacy” channel to evolve, direct mail and broadcast channels like TV, have also made massive leaps forward with sophisticated data segmentation, and content streaming.

But email in particular, because of the flexibility of its format, has come a long way. Multiple sections of an email’s content can now be dynamically customised on a mass scale, based on rich (and crucially, opted-in) data known about a contact, and on real-time behaviour. It’s no longer a case of just personalising first and last names in an email greeting. And ultra-personalised content has a huge effect on open rates, pushing them up by more than 20% on average.

Email has also grown up in terms of functionality, to the point where email creatives can now act much more like a microsite than an ad. The days of static image plus text emails are gone, and interactive email technology has driven a step change in the email channel over the past three years. This allows advertisers to include functionality like shopping baskets, carousels, light boxes and buy buttons, directly in the email – so customers don’t even have to click out of the email to browse and buy. This has broken down purchase barriers by effectively delivering an advertiser’s website directly into their target audience’s inbox, and is a near-perfect way to deliver rich and relevant product information to millennials – at huge scale, with precision targeting.

This functionality is unique to the email channel, and being used to drive increased opens and clicks by brands including Burberry, B&Q, Pret a Manger, and many more, doubling open rates compared to a more traditional campaign. A great example of the effectiveness of interactive email design is a recent beachwear campaign I personally worked on with SimplyBe, which used an interactive carousel to allow customers to view multiple products in email – and drove conversion rates 12 x higher than an average retail acquisition campaign. A relevant offer, optimised audiences and send times, and great creative of course all played a huge part in delivering results here – but it was the interactive element that made the difference.

What’s clear is that whether they use enhanced ad functionality or not, advertisers must evolve their thinking about how to engage millennials, and on which channels, or risk missing out on a huge chunk of this market. And regardless of channel, if advertisers take the time to research and test what messages, offers and features their target audience will respond to, they will always be able to drive better results.


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