Why Facebook May Not Be Enough For The Next Generation
This article is by Erin Nelson, CMO of Bazaarvoice. She was formerly CMO ofDell.
With thousands of “friends” on Facebook and a constantly connected lifestyle, you’d think the Millennial generation would trust their friends above all else. However, when it comes to making purchase decisions, young people are more likely than older generations to trust complete strangers as much as their friends – and they strongly feel that companies should go beyond Facebook and Twitter to offer more ways for them to share opinions and experiences online.
According to a new report by Bazaarvoice and Kelton Research, Millennials are less likely to trust opinions from friends and family than Boomers (56% vs. 69%) when making buying choices, and more likely to seek out opinions from “those with most relevant experience” (44% vs. 31%). A majority (51%) say user-generated content written by strangers is more likely to influence their purchase decisions than recommendations from friends and family, while just 34% of Boomers say the same.
As they research and buy, most Millennials (84%) are comforted that they have access to the opinions and experiences of strangers, and a majority (64%) of Millennials believe that companies should continue to offer more ways for consumers to share their opinions online in the future.
Facebook Is Not Enough
By now, every marketer knows the universal truth about Millennials: They are social, connected, and want to be entertained and engaged – not “advertised at [or “to”].” But this research adds a new wrinkle to the Millennial marketing conundrum. Many CMOs have centered their Millennial-marketing programs on social media – launching Facebook and Twitter campaigns to connect with the “always-on” generation. But it turns out Millennials don’t necessarily use these social channels to research purchases, preferring instead to seek expert opinions from people who have direct experience with a brand or product.
For example, if a 28-year-old backpacker is planning a trip to Mexico, she will trust the opinions of an outdoor enthusiast who has explored Mexico recently far more than she’ll trust her former roommate who spent spring break in Cancun five years ago.
So how can marketers adapt their Millennial marketing strategies to embrace this trend? How can they ensure Millennials hear about their brand from trusted experts – at the exact points when they’re making purchase decisions?
The first step in embracing the “voice of the stranger” in a Millennial-marketing program is to go beyond Facebook. Millennials still love social media – the new study shows that 80% actively use Facebook, 28% use Twitter, and 25% embrace Google+ – so these channels will continue to serve as key ways to reach young consumers. But, as the research shows, Millennials don’t always turn to friends for advice when making purchase decisions, so social networks may not be the best places to drive sales. Instead, marketers can best reach Millennials by ensuring consumers have an easy way to create and share authentic content about their brand and products.
The more content consumers create about a brand or product – and the more widely marketers distribute this content across retail websites, in-store, and via social and mobile channels – the more likely young buyers will come across this authentic content created by “strangers like them” during the exact moments they’re deciding what to buy.
For brands, this means making sure the voices of relevant consumers can be easily accessed anywhere a Millennial wants to shop. For example, Benefit Cosmetics recently introduced iPad kiosks that make it easy for in-store users to tap into feedback of shoppers like them – not just the input of the sales associates or a shopping buddy. Best Buy provides QR codes so customers can access product reviews while browsing in store, providing young shoppers with access to the opinions they need to make a purchase decision on the spot. According to another recent study, over 45% of Millennials use mobile devices to research product details before purchasing big-ticket items over $500. So if stores don’t offer young shoppers mobile-ready ways to get trusted opinions on the products they’re looking at in-store, they’re missing out on massive sales.
This has big implications for brands and marketers who still think their success reaching Millennials can be measured by Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or campaign traffic numbers. Instead, brands that can surface their most relevant and authentic user-generated content, and make it as pervasive as possible, will win the hearts and minds of Millennials.
For Millennials, the hierarchy of trust is strangers first, friends second, brand last. To connect with young consumers, brands need to unlock the voice of strangers – making sure Millennials can easily find authentic, user-generated opinions about their products and services when they’re ready to buy.