Marketing to millennials: Harnessing CRM to build meaningful brand relationships

18 Jul, 2017
3 Min Read Dan Ward

Marketing to millennials: Harnessing CRM to build meaningful brand relationships


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Born between the early 1980s and the turn of the century, millennials (Generation Y) will soon account for the largest percentage of consumers worldwide. They are the most educated generation in history, and the first generation to have come of age in a time where technology reigns supreme and information is free-flowing and abundant. Millennials have been labelled “Generation Why?” by marketers, due to the way they judge brands, seek advice from peers and weigh options before committing to a purchase.

Traditional marketing methods are not as effective on millennials, simply because they’re not there to see or hear them. Commercial television has been replaced by YouTube and social media, radio by iPods, magazines by websites and direct mail by email. Instead of watching TV, millennials spend most of their time online. With a smartphone at arm’s reach, they keep up to date and informed, spending a combined average of three hours per day on social media (often in short bursts – changing between platforms multiple times every hour). As the generation ages, they not only seek to be entertained and engaged by the online world; they’re turning to it to make life easier. The speed of modern day communications has led millennials to expect instant, personalised experiences with companies who (they believe) should be able to understand and interpret their needs quickly and efficiently.

Popular companies like Netflix and Amazon lead the way here, with features such as “Suggestions for you” and “People who bought this also bought…”, which are based on a user’s previous choices and patterns of behaviour. This type of personalised, real time communication (otherwise known as segment-of-one marketing) leads to higher engagement and better conversions. According to Salesforce, millennials are the most likely of any generation to share personal data in exchange for personalised offers and discounts, in-store or online shopping experiences, and product recommendations that match their needs. Rather than being talked at, millennials like to feel involved and appreciated. They seek genuine, consistent experiences with companies that get to know them as an individual. And once they get it, they’re highly likely to become a source of positive user content and organic referrals, which is the most valuable marketing of all.

Put simply, Gen Y want:

  • Positive and consistent brand experiences
  • Personalised systems which make decision making easier
  • Opportunities to express themselves, and read about peer experiences
  • Genuine engagement with brands, leading to trust and loyalty
  • Seamless interactions across all touch points, including social media

From a marketer’s perspective, this all seems near impossible without an effective management system to tie it all together. Luckily, in this day and age, tech companies are catering to the needs of organisations with customer relationship management (CRM) software, which manages these social interactions and data points.

Ultimately leading to increased engagement, better experience, higher conversions, and improved brand perception, CRM systems make it easy to:

  • Access data on demand and deliver personalised communications
  • Track brand interactions at every point so you can link disparate channel actions back to a centralised customer profile
  • Automate time consuming sales and marketing activities (such as social media) so teams can focus on core tasks such as content creation and customer service.

Companies have become very creative at using CRM software to create personalised experiences. For example, online clothing retailer Nordstrom collects information about user behaviours and uses it to trigger emails after cart abandonment. The emails remind users that “This caught your eye”, which prompts the recipient to reconsider their decision to abandon the shopping cart a few days earlier. Liquor chain BWS uses geofencing and tagging to create targeted marketing messages when customers are within walking distance of a BWS store. While very effective, this strategy requires the collation and application of numerous data points including mobile number, liquor preferences, demographic and purchase history.

The possibilities are endless, and with millennials representing only the first generation to grow up in an era dominated by technology, it makes sense for organisations to shift their thinking and embrace a modern marketing approach. After all, it won’t get any easier with Gen Z…they’ve had smartphones in their hands since they were toddlers! For an in-depth look at how to use CRM systems to improve engagement and conversions, download our whitepaper: Digital Trends 2017: Harnessing data to build customer intimacy across the lifetime.