According to a recent survey by Zillow, millennials spend more time researching, shopping around for the best option and comparing prices before making a purchase. And while this new era of the ultra-informed consumer represents a major shift for brands and companies, it also provides a golden opportunity. While many marketers have shifted their marketing mix to focus on digital activities, it is equally important to take advantage of the same treasure trove of data that today's millennials are utilizing.
The use of recent advancements in research and data technology need not be limited to the consumer side. Companies can fight data with data in order to better understand their target audiences. By knowing how millennials are going through the research process, and what types of information they are consuming, marketers can adapt accordingly in order to appeal to this increasingly important demographic.
Give Them What They Want
Think about what makes a site like Amazon so compelling – it gets to know the buyer and can make tailored purchasing recommendations for that user. And there's no reason your business can't tap into this type of data analytics, even if you run a brick-and-mortar operation.
For example, we developed an algorithm with nearly 1,000 variables that helps car dealers understand the types of vehicles that their customers are most likely to buy. This considers factors such as past purchasing behavior, the brands that are popular in that geographic market, competitive analysis and much more. That way, after a millennial researches the type of car he or she wants, we ensure that this vehicle is on the dealer's lot so that they're ready to make the sale when the millennial shows up.
Millennials aren't visiting car lots to aimlessly browse around; they do that part online. They spend 17 hours shopping on the internet for a vehicle before purchase. In today's age, it's the dealer's job to make sure the lot is tailored to the millennial's tastes. Millennials are armed with data; you need to be armed with just as much data (if not more!) in order to be ready for them. One easy way to do this is by looking at historical sales data, and who you're making sales to. Are you converting millennial buyers? If so, what products or services are they gravitating to? By leveraging this information, you can design your optimal inventory and increase future sales.
Review the Reviews
A staggering 81 percent of 18-34 year-olds seek out opinions from others before purchasing, according to research from Mintel. And while a business owner may cringe at the thought of public-facing negative comments, online reviews provide an opportunity to get unfiltered, honest feedback about what your customers think of their experiences. Mine the reviews on sites like Yelp, Edmunds, TripAdvisor, Cars.com, Angie's List (whatever makes sense in your industry) and work with your team to troubleshoot any areas of concern.
But don't solely focus on the negative reviews. The positive reviews could actually be more informative, because they explain the perception of your brand and reputation. Are you known for excellent customer service? For great discounts? For a wide selection? When we work with car dealers, we identify what their strengths are, and work with them to design their marketing and businesses accordingly. For example, if customers love their prices, they might not want to advertise that ritzy BMW.
Assess the Mobile Experience
Just getting a millennial into your store isn't enough anymore, because the mobile experience is now playing a role with in-store purchase behavior. 57 percent of millennials use their phones to compare prices while in-store. If you have an item that catches their eye, and a helpful salesperson who answers their questions, you still may lose the sale if the customer Googles your competitor down the street and finds a lower price. They're also learning qualitative information – for example, if a car dealer goes on and on about how reliable a vehicle is, but then the customer reads all these reviews about the car breaking down, they're going to have questions.
The good news here is that the mobile experience can act as a form of data for your team. Conduct some mock shopping experiences and think about the things that someone might look up on their phone. Specific items in your store, local competitors, reviews, etc. You may learn that a competitor is showing ads for discounts every time someone searches for a popular product of yours. Or maybe your website isn't showing up when someone searches for that product, indicating that you may have some SEO work to do.
But this isn't just a defensive play – it could also reveal opportunities. For example, we have helped our dealer partners identify instances where their competitors weren't doing a great job marketing a particular make or model. This spurs our dealers to stock that model, perhaps at a better price or quality, and create more revenue.
Data is Everywhere. Use it.
The digital revolution isn't just about starting a Facebook page or running some search advertisements. The above examples represent just a few ways that you can tap into online information, and the user experience, to better understand your customer. By looking at the Web through your customers' eyes, you'll gain a sense of everything they're seeing during the purchasing process, allowing you to adjust accordingly in order to win their business.