If the average age of your customer is 50 years and up and you’d like to stay in the game in the next few years, it’s time to re-define your strategy. “To stay on top (or to get there), you will need to understand younger audiences better. You need to know how younger consumers communicate and how they use Internet and technology,” explains Paivi Kankaro, Project Manager for the craft social sharing site Kollabora. “You also need to follow craft trends early in order to reach and engage with that audience.”
As the markets continue to change, companies will need to understand how to shift from a top-down to a more democratic approach in order to be competitive. But they shouldn’t just focus on selling products, rather they should strive to build community around their brands and offer relevant content to build customer loyalty. “Content marketing, native advertising, collaboration and engagement are all terms that should be integral parts of your campaign strategy,” Kankaro says.
But before we dive into the “how-tos”, we should re-visit a few facts: The 79 million millennials living in the U.S. comprise an estimated purchasing power of $170 billion dollars per year. According to a survey of 1,600 DIYers, makers under 35 are spending more than $1,000 a year on DIY projects whereas the over-35 crowd spends roughly half of that. And where do they spend those big bucks? Online.
“Internet users are productive: User-generated content has exploded almost 300x in the past 3 years, and video views have reached to over 4 billion per day,” Kankaro says. And while most companies’ offer paid video content, it’s the free video content that is unstoppable, and manufactures and retailers need to figure out how to catch up.
“It is important for brands to be where the consumers are, but not passively, as millennials expect the brands to be quick and responsive,” says Kankaro. When making decisions these younger consumers trust the feedback from their peers, which can come in the form of reviews and comments, but also “Like” and “Favorite” buttons. However, this feedback is a two-way street, “They also expect their questions and comments answered in real time via social media by brands,” Kankaro explains.
Roughly half of millennials surveyed want brands to allow them to influence their products in “co-creation.” And surprisingly, celebrity culture doesn’t appeal quite as much: Only 19% want brands to partner with a celebrity or public figure they admire. “With the exposure social media offers, this generation doesn’t want to mimic the stars, they want to be the stars themselves,” Kankaro says.
So what kind of actual steps should your company take to reach this new audience?
Paivi Kankaro shares a list of tips to take into consideration:
- Relevant content – Reflect the current trends and the general lifestyle of your audience.
- Video – The new generation is very visual: Video is the place where millennials get inspired and learn.
- Design Aesthetics – Make your visual style clear and recognizable. Customers enjoy detecting visual cues and messages; be on trend.
- Take time – Success does not come overnight, but commitment brings results.
- Dare – Have fun and be bold. Laugh with your customers. A little humor goes a long way.
- Be you – Be honest and open. Talk with a language that your customers can relate to, but don’t pretend to be anything you are not. Admit your mistakes. Be authentic.
- Go where your customers are – Don’t expect the customers to come to you. Go where they mingle and create needs.
- Dialog, don’t broadcast – Don’t just talk about your product, but engage in a broader sense. You are there to talk about what kind of culture and lifestyle your product represents. If your product is yarn, don’t just talk about things to knit, but how beneficial knitting is and how general trends are reflected in knitting trends.
- Community – Don’t build your own platform, but go where the customers already spend lots of time.
- Let others shine/make stars – Give credit to people who used your products. Encourage people to share their experiences and projects.
- Meet IRL – Meeting your customers not only makes you know them better but also ties them closer to your brand.
But before you get overwhelmed, Kankaro has a few last words advice. “Don’t feel like you have to be everywhere all the time. Instead, pick the medium that makes sense to your company and DO IT WELL,” she explains. “There’s nothing more sad than a dead Twitter account, or an Instagram feed with nothing new to show.”
Pick the medium that proves to be the strongest for your company and brand strategy and make it work. Experiment, try new things and remember that a one-size-fits-all strategy doesn’t work for social media. “Social media platforms differ from each other, so make sure your content fits each medium,” Kankaro says. “Pick the best channels for you, and make a commitment to post regularly. Consistency (and authenticity) goes a long way.”
Päivi Kankaro works as a Project Manager at Kollabora.com and CraftJam.co. She has been working in the digital world for the past 10 years and is en expert in online content production, video and social media, especially for the Craft Industry.
Lindsey Ibarra is digital creative, trend forecaster and stylist. She works with young, up-and-coming designers and ecommerce stores, as well as larger established brands, to help them make the most out of their visual and social presence online.