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8 ways to win ‘generation Y’ customers

As we get older, our customers get younger. Generation Y, born between 1982 and 2000, offer online retailers challenges and opportunities. Here are eight tips to acquire younger shoppers.

1. What Worked 10 Years Ago Doesn’t Work as Well Now

You’ve probably been sending your customers weekly or monthly promotions via email since the early 2000s; social media didn’t exist then. It’s unlikely you have the same customers on your database today, further, email open rates have decreased. Generation Y prefer text messages and rarely open emails.

  • Tip. Create an SMS marketing platform. SMS is ideal for confirming appointments, announcing shop openings, 24-hour flash sales, competitions, events, and other special offers.

2. Prefer Companies that Make a Difference

Generation Y are altruistic and enjoy making an impact in society. A company that helps others is one they’re more likely to support. “Green” credentials and “giving back,” whether it’s to a charity or another philanthropic movement, appeals to them.

  • Tip. If you sell anything that is handmade, recycled, up-cycled, reused or made locally — and if you have a charity or philanthropic campaign — highlight this in your promotions.

3. Small Is Beautiful; Community Is Cool

Generation Y roll their eyes at companies claiming to be the “leading XYZ” or “the biggest.” They support the underdog, the “under-the-radar” brand, the local artisan, and other young entrepreneurs. Don’t lie about your popularity. It’s fine to be a one-person company. One reason Etsy has done so well is its strong sense of community of artisans, which appeals greatly to generation Y customers.

  • Tip. Share a personal story about why you created your company on your About Us page. Strive for a sense of community with customers.

4. Craft Your Message in 140 Characters or Less

Get to the point. Generation Y skim-read copy, listen in sound bites, and are highly image-aware. Capture their imagination with a pithy 140-character pitch for a website paragraph, Tweet, Facebook post, Instagram entry, or SMS message. Use emotive, enticing word-picture adjectives to create desire for your product offering.

  • Tip. Create pithy copy for social media. Each post should include your website address and call to action.

5. Respond within Five Minutes

Generation Y are notoriously easily distracted. Capture them swiftly while they’re still in research mode. Apparently 82 per cent of those aged 18 to 29 have mobile phones within ten feet of them at all times. Text back immediately or they’ll think you’re not serious about your business.

  • Tip. Responding to a generation Y customer’s SMS query via text within five minutes increases her likelihood of doing business with you by 900 per cent.

6. Image Conscious

The highly visual Generation Y update their photos on social media on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. Online retailers with frequently refreshed images and user-submitted content score well with them.

  • Tip. How often do you add to or refresh your images? What programs and platforms do you use to encourage customers to provide photos of your products?

7. Use Photos to Win the Sale

Use multimedia marketing services to showcase, in a text message, how you can solve their problem. You could attach an image of your product, an accessory, your shop front, your hours, a calendar, or QR code, for examples.

  • Tip. Use a multimedia marketing firm like Twilio, Skycore, or Mobipost to get your illustrated message out.

8. Generation Y Has Cash; Avoid Low Prices

While Baby Boomers may have the highest incomes overall, Generation Y (many of whom live at home) spend more cash on a discretionary basis than Baby Boomers. No one wants to waste money, but don’t assume that younger customers cannot afford your products and services.

  • Tip. If you have a fully-booked calendar, or your clients tell you how reasonable your prices are, or they sign up fast, or they’re amazed your prices include free delivery, and free installation, then your prices may be too low.
Elizabeth Hollingsworth
Elizabeth Hollingsworth
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