Digital Marketing: The Millennial Dilemma

1 year ago

At Red Ventures, we manage thousands of digital marketing funnels for more than a dozen national brands in a number of different industries. But there’s one key data point across the board that you don’t need a data science team to understand: To be successful in (most areas of) digital marketing, you’ve got to reach millennials.

For our insurance team, the opportunity is especially exciting. Of the 83 million millennial consumers shopping online the US, only 64% currently have auto insurance (compared to 84% of older consumers).

That’s a HUGE audience of potential customers.

But here’s the dilemma: Millennials came of age in a time of recession and massive student debt. They represent some of the toughest, most budget-conscious consumers in history. Many of them also grew up with Internet connections, which means 1) they understand that their options are literally limitless online and 2) they’re savvy to conventional digital marketing techniques.

We spent a lot of time researching the millennial gap specific to our insurance businesses, and not surprisingly, many of our findings are applicable to other industries as well. Here are a few reasons millennials make up a gap in your digital marketing and – most importantly – how to close it:

Waiting to “Adult”

Arguably, one of the defining characteristics of a millennial is a resistance to commit to traditional “adult” purchases like a house, a car, and yes – insurance – until much later in life. Why?

  • Economics: As we mentioned earlier, the economic landscape awaiting millennials after college is fundamentally different than the experience of Baby Boomers or Gen X. Many of them are saddled with high monthly student loan payments and feel trapped by stagnant wages. It’s no wonder they feel strapped for cash and are less likely to splurge on big-ticket items or even name-brand products.
  • Sociology: Raised by a generation of parents categorized by protectiveness, some millennials may feel less urgency to sever those ties and become independent consumers. (Plus, specific to insurance, the Affordable Care Act now allows Americans to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.)
  • Consumer behavior: Millennials tend to be more skeptical of traditional marketing techniques. In a 2015 survey, only 1% said that a compelling ad would increase their trust in the brand. Instead, they’re using social media and other peer-reviewed content to determine value.

Infinite Choice

OK, let’s pause here. If millennials aren’t interested in spending a ton of money, aren’t sold by brand-name products, and are totally aware of every digital marketing trick in the book – why are we so interested in marketing to them?”

Because based on our data, millennials are interested in shopping for insurance online. In fact, the 25-34 age group currently represents a huge portion of visits across many of our key branded sites.

It makes sense. Remember, this is the generation that grew up with the Internet, which means they understand the power it’s given to consumers. Even if they’re hyper-selective about what they actually purchase, they’re very interested in shopping for the best deals, finding the best online experiences and exercising the infinite choice presented to them by an Internet connection.

The solution? In order to truly engage this audience, you have to change the way you think about split-tests. It’s no longer a question of “Does Site A perform better than Site B?” It’s “For whom does Site A perform better? For whom does Site B perform better?”

At RV, we’ve engineered hundreds of thousands of unique online experiences, and our writers and designers are constantly optimizing those sites based on new data about our customers. True, RV’s insane commitment to granularity isn’t exactly feasible for everyone, but the underlying philosophy works for any digital marketer: Generating hyper-relevant content is key to customer conversion, especially if you’re targeting millennials.

It’s All About You

It’s up to you to collect and analyze data about your unique audiences, but here’s a quick rundown of how to start thinking about launching new millennial-specific experiences (or auditing current ones):

Embrace Diversity. Millennials are typically more socially progressive than older consumers, and more than 44 percent of this generation belongs to a minority race or ethnic group. So if the hero image on your landing page doesn’t reflect America’s increasingly diverse population, you’re missing a big opportunity to connect with your audience.

Sell incrementally. As mentioned earlier, student debt and other economic factors have had a huge impact on millennials as consumers. We recommend focusing first on inexpensive products (for our insurance teams, we start with renters and auto insurance) and using remarketing or other techniques to increase value later.

Be authentic. Learn where your audience goes for reliable content (social media, consumer blogs), and find ways to engage with them there (testimonials, reviews).

Offer more than a transaction: Find the bigger value propositions that live within your products, and play to your authentic strengths. For insurance, we emphasize making a connection with local agents; real people in the community with whom our customers will experience a valuable relationship.

Use geo-targeting: Add more context to your ads by tailoring the experience to the user’s location. We use geo-targeting to launch hyper-relevant experiences in cities with large populations of millennials.

Be device-agnostic. Millennials are leading the shift from desktop to mobile. If your experiences don’t work or don’t look good on mobile or tablet, you’re losing a lot of traffic.

Finding the “Why”

There’s so much upside to tailoring unique digital marketing experiences to millennials. Yes, it’s a smart way to incrementally increase sales. But for us on the insurance team, we also find a lot of value in helping the up-and-coming generation take that next big step toward “adulting:” protecting the people and things they love.

In other words: We love any opportunity to do well and do some good at the same time.

Barry Bridges joined Red Ventures in 2011 after a career as an award-winning newspaper journalist (third place still counts). He’s a Copywriter and Copy Editor for the Red Ventures Insurance team.

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