How Retailers Can Earn Buzz from Millennial Shoppers

Why Read this Article

Not only are Millennials becoming the most important shopping demographic, but they have much different ideas and preferences than previous generations. How do some brands generate a surprising amount of buzz from this unique demographic while others are ignored? In this article, we explain how merchants can create advocacy for their brand from Millennial shoppers.


It’s a high stakes game with more than $1.3 trillion at stake annually… but the race to earn attention, trust, and ultimately business from Millennials is one you won’t likely win with status quo, impersonal, one-size-fits-all marketing strategies and tactics that have worked successfully on other generations. In fact, using standard tools of the trade can sometimes do more harm than good in your effort to influence Millennials. Here are several reasons why:

  • Millennials don’t trust interruptive marketing;
  • They’re equipped with acute BS detectors;
  • Their worldview (and skepticism) was shaped by the Great Recession.

To boost advocacy from Millennials you must connect in ways that inspire them to tell your story to those they influence. Be careful though; this is really easy to mess up. Even well known brands like Whole Foods have tried to target Millennials with what some suggest is a misguided strategy. The tools in this article will help you steer clear of these pitfalls, and facilitate incredibly positive experiences that your Millennial customers will genuinely want to share.

Intelligently Creating Advocacy

You’ve undoubtedly heard how difficult it can be to turn Millennials into brand ambassadors who are willing to recommend your offering to others. However, it’s your approach that can actually make it much easier than you might suspect, especially when you consider 1 in 3 internet users is a brand advocate and that 1 in 5 brand advocates are post-purchase reviewers.

You can inspire Millennials to recommend, promote, and tell their friends about your offering by creating highly personal, authentic, and interactive customer experiences that are memorable and relevant. Here are three actionable tips to help you get started:

1. Give shoppers an amazing experience that they’ll want to share

Here’s a dirty little secret about Millennials: many of them really do want to be loyal to a brand. In fact, more than half of the Millennials in the U.S. say it’s important to them to find brands to which they can be loyal. The more differentiated and memorable their experience is with your company, the more likely they will be loyal brand advocates who will want to share their experience with their networks.

Imagine increasing sales while simultaneously creating brand advocacy. That’s exactly what Runkeeper, a smartphone application and e-commerce store that helps runners stay motivated, track progress, and unlock rewards is doing. The company has earned the trust and loyalty of 45 million users not only because its site content, design, and UX reflect its target market’s personality, but also because of the way it rewards users. For instance, when a runner achieves a specific performance goal, reaches a personal milestone, or finishes a virtual race, Runkeeper recognizes the achievement by allowing the runner to unlock a specialty or limited edition piece of merchandise to commemorate the accomplishment.

The idea is to allow users to unlock rewards in the digital world that were earned in the physical world. Not only does using e-commerce as a reward increase sales for Runkeeper, but it also inspires runners to show off and share their limited edition merchandise with those they influence. For instance, the company’s last Global 5K, a race where users worldwide can run together virtually, attracted more than 100,000 racers, many of whom unlocked customized rewards like this t-shirt:


Image via: Twitter

Not only did people enjoy the rewards, but thousands of racers instantly became brand advocates. As evidence, Runkeeper published the following jaw-dropping statistics:

  • 7,196 post-race Runkeeper photos taken
  • 4,200 Runkeeper race shares on Twitter and Instagram
  • Countless social media mentions begging the company for more

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.06.22 AM

Image via: Twitter

Millennials also love choice and flexibility. That means another way to earn the loyalty of this generation is to help them make purchases whenever and however they want. For example, Millennials appreciate being able to select payment options that work for their budgets. As a result, e-commerce merchants that allow Millennials to pay over time with consumer financing options like Affirm may see their conversion rates and average order values increase among their Millennial customer base. And these customers may be more likely to come back and make another purchase in the future, not to mention recommend it to their friends.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.09.36 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.11.19 AM

Image via: Twitter

2. Create shareable stories with your shoppers’ help

People believe in stories they help tell. An audience that has contributed something to the story being told is more likely to take personal ownership of the story and share it with those they influence. Importantly, 43% of Millennials regard authenticity as more important than content. It means you can’t just throw up a blog post created in a silo, force feed it to Millennials, and expect them to share it as if it were their own.

One company that has mastered the art of co-creation is Pura Vida Bracelets, an e-commerce company that sells bracelets hand crafted by Costa Rican artisans. The company personalizes the user experience by offering visitors a 7-question quiz that invites them to interact with the brand and co-create the perfect bracelet:


Image via: Pura Vida

Nearly half of the more than 37,000 site visitors who have taken the quiz have also provided their email addresses, giving the company a chance to further build on those customer relationships in the future. This has resulted in conversion rates of 8% and tens of thousands of extremely vocal brand ambassadors willing to share the company’s narrative.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 4.29.16 PM

Image via: Twitter

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 4.29.50 PM

Image via: Twitter

3. Identify and leverage key influencers

Overwhelmingly, research indicates Millennials aren’t likely to believe a message coming solely from a brand compared to messages that originate from those they know personally or those whom they inherently trust.

In other words, a company’s use of testimonials from experts isn’t likely to cut it with Millennials. Especially when you consider research indicates less than half of Millennials trust experts, compared with 61% of non-Millennials. Therefore, it’s important to identify influential people already embedded in the social networks of the Millennials you wish to target. Partnering with these influencers will empower your storytelling in ways you simply can’t do on your own.

This is the exact strategy Mercedes-Benz used when it targeted Millennials with its new CLA model. The car company recruited five popular Instagram photographers with massive Instagram followers for its Take The Wheel campaign, which featured each of the influencers driving the new car for five days and documenting their journey with photos.


Image via: Mercedes-Benz

After this contest, the photographer who got the most “likes” got to keep the car while Mercedes-Benz got to keep the tens of thousands of new brand advocates created by leveraging these influencers.

Image via: IPG Lab

Final Thoughts

To inspire Millennials to become brand advocates and capitalize on the trillions of dollars they’ll spend tomorrow and beyond, it’s necessary to demonstrate that you understand Millennials — and don’t see them as monolithic. That means you need to:

  • Create amazing experiences that shoppers can’t help but share;
  • Personalize the experience by telling co-created stories Millennials are inspired to share;
  • Identify and partner with influencers who can help you tell your story via social media

Ultimately, you can increase brand advocacy from Millennials by creating authentic, interactive, and valuable customer experiences for all your customers.

DISCLAIMER: The views contained in this article are those of Affirm only. Affirm has not received any consideration whatsoever for creating this article. Any brands contained in this article are included as examples only. Affirm does not intend to endorse or promote any brands contained in this article.