Appealing to a younger generation of consumers

As a small business, consistently appealing to younger generations is an integral part of the ongoing relevance of your brand. Millennials and Gen Z have very different expectations of your business than their parents might. They want the companies they choose to support to be adaptable and able to embrace their needs and views.

“They’re used to a rapid pace of change, especially from consumer goods,” said Jonna Parker, principal of IRI’s Fresh Center of Excellence, in a recent article. COVID-19 has further accelerated the need to be everything your younger customers want. Businesses need to have an engaging public persona that can be communicated in a variety of ways, because, if you’re not meeting customers face-to-face, you need to show them who and what you are. This is a trend that’s only going to grow.

Branding was always important but now more than ever. It’s a highly competitive world for small businesses and a single image has to sum up your brand and everything it represents (in just a glance, no less) as it appears on social media. And that’s just the first point of contact — branding is so much more; it encompasses the language you use, your company’s personal ethics, where you advertise, the way you communicate with customers, and the imagery or ideas you share.

Stripping it down to basics, think about these questions:

  • Does your logo still represent you?
  • Is it eye-catching?
  • Does your colour scheme give the right impression?
  • Are you part of the latest trends or lexicon?
  • What are your values?

Knowing who you are as a business will shape every part of your branding and messaging, so these have to be aligned.

Honesty and transparency are extremely important to the younger generations and they will confidently call out any business they find hypocritical. Need a reminder on how observant today’s audience is? Stylenanda — a Korean beauty brand — put out a marketing campaign a few short years ago featuring a black person’s hand and white person’s hand, to signal that the brand was for everyone. Unfortunately, this message of inclusivity proved to be anything but, as it was glaringly obvious that the dark-skinned hand had been edited that way and it wasn’t, in fact, a black model’s hand at all.

This type of action is often called ‘woke-washing’, whereby a business claims to have inclusive ethics but does zero work to actually action them — or, sometimes, works directly against them. If you have any unethical practices in place, your Millenial and Gen Z customers will find out. If you are called out or want to be proactive, acknowledge the changes needed, and then set about openly actioning them. Being accountable to your customers is more important than ever.

According to DigitalMarketing.org, people aged 16-29 spend around three hours a day on social networking platforms, and older Millennials spend around 2.5 hours on them — so you need to be where that audience is if you want to target them. If they’re absorbing their news and adverts on those platforms, you need to have your voice heard there, too. Make sure your content is well planned-out, share images, and post video content relevant to their interests. Take the time to engage with them (or have your brand’s chatbot available to do this for you). Absorbing bitesize content and interactions is extremely popular in this age of TikTok, especially among young audiences.

Think about it, do you really know who your customers are and what makes them tick? Building customer personas that acknowledge your ideal customer’s lifestyle and personality (where they hang out, what they read, who they admire etc), is a useful tool for planning content, promotions, and communications that really speak to them.

Young consumers feeling they can reach out to your brand and engage with you as if speaking to a friend, can be invaluable. Having a solid social media presence is a large part of this but for 24/7 customer service, a chatbot can take over and direct the customer to the answer they want. Chatbots are highly customisable and can answer frequently-asked questions, direct customers to different parts of the platform they’re on, take orders, and provide other valuable business information. This makes your brand appear available and approachable.

Aesthetics are important to young audiences. With Millennials and Gen Z having popularised the ‘influencer’ lifestyle, they expect websites and social media platforms to be glossy and sexy, as well as simple to navigate. Making your web presence visually attractive is simply a matter of research and planning; put yourself in the customer’s shoes and ask whether your website or Facebook page is something you would be entranced by.

Appealing to younger audiences is ultimately about knowing who you are and what you represent — this is what allows the rest to fall into place and attract the next generation of consumers.

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