Seismic shifts in our interaction with brands over the past 15 years have caused marketers to consistently evolve their strategy and infrastructure to ensure they are addressing customers in the ways they want to be communicated with.
Generation Y, also known as Gen Y or Millennials (those born in the early 1980s to early 2000s), display specific behaviors when interacting with email. In both B2C and B2B marketing, understanding these behaviors and incorporating them into your email programs can help drive significant increases in email metrics and can positively impact purchase behavior.
Email usage data among Gen Y can be challenging to decipher as the social, economic and personal demographics of this generation span from the 15 year-old high school freshman to the 30 year-old CEO.
The New York Times reported that email usage is declining (“E-Mail Gets an Instant Makeover”). comScore shows visits to major email sites peaked in November 2009 and have since slid six percent while visits among 12 to 17 year-olds fell around 18 percent. The Pew Internet and American Life Project shows email is clearly not used as often for contacting friends. However, as the population begins to enter the workforce, email usage begins to increase.
One thing is certain; Gen Y could outspend the Boomers as early as 2017.
With this in mind, below are four recommendations to help develop email marketing strategies that cater to this diverse and lucrative segment.
1. Know That Subject Lines Are Gen Y’s Billboards
Unlike other generations Gen Y primarily engage by subject lines. According to Jason Ryan Doorsey, author of “Y Size Your Business” most Gen Y consumers browse subject lines similarly to how they view billboards. If you are not measuring the brand awareness metrics of placing a message into the inbox, you could be missing a lot of valuable customer information.
According to Litmus, 43% of emails were opened on a mobile device in Q1 2013. With the proliferation of smartphones and mobile devices, quick and clear subject lines and pre-header copy have become the barometer of engagement. In the email industry, we have about three seconds to grab a consumer’s attention in the inbox. With smartphones, we have even less time. When consumers are in their inbox on their mobile device, they’re typically multitasking. They’re not sitting at a desktop computer sorting their inbox. Email marketers today need to ensure they’re making email subject lines and pre-header text easy to decipher with a clear call-to-action and value proposition.
Due to Gen Y’s email behavior and the growing percentage of consumers who view messages on mobile devices, email marketers need to determine a new means to measure engagement. Even if a customer does not open an email, they have still been exposed to the brand. Therefore, marketers may try tying revenue to emails received against a holdout control group to determine success of a campaign.
2. Cater to The “Me” Factor
Living in an era of always-on and personalized marketing and advertising, Gen Y is used to being at the center of communications. They have come to expect brands to cater to the “ME” rather than the “WE” mentality. These consumers expect brands to know a great deal about them and their past interactions with the brand and to engage with—not simply talk at—them on a personal level.
At any given time Gen Y consumers are engaging with brands across multiple devices and marketing channels – desktops at work, smartphones on-the-go and tablets at home – from email to Facebook, to search and Twitter.
The challenge here is that only a very small percentage of companies have been able to integrate their multiple marketing disciplines along with their data to allow for a single view or and a single voice to the customer. Marketing teams continue to work in channel silos, thus creating a fragmented brand voice.
Additionally, companies have made very little progress on integrating customer behavior from multiple channels into a centralized, real-time database that allows marketers to make decisions about when and what to communicate at any specific point in time.
If Gen Y is “ME” then organizations should unify around the “ME” factor and rethink team structures and departments to align to the customer—not a division or product. While this can be difficult to achieve, it can be done and the benefits make it well worth the struggle.
3. Give Them a Bargain
Gen Y consumers also expect to receive a bargain. Remember, these consumers are still stinging from the Great Recession of 2008. Some started their careers amidst the worst economy in decades or purchased their first home just before the housing bubble destroyed its value. They have seen their savings and investments drop significantly and, as a result, they’re seeking deals. With access to bargain hunting resources, these shoppers have the tools to compare prices across a multitude of channels.
Since price point has become more transparent, reinforcing the value of your brand is the best way to avoid competing yourself out of business. This can be achieved through exceptional brand promises for satisfaction, including multichannel returns, product guarantees and creating a culture that puts the customer first. Brands need to ensure they are messaging to this customer segment in a way that reinforces not only the value of the offer, but the long-term value of the brand relationship.
4. Make Mobile Simple
Make it as easy as possible for email subscribers to convert. The Gen Y consumer has a limited attention span. It is up to marketers to make conversion as simple as possible, whether you track purchase, opt-ins or sign-ups as conversions. This includes:
- Mobile optimized emails with an easy click-to-purchase button
- Mobile optimized landing pages with functionalities that make it easy to navigate and purchase
- Integration of tools such as mobile wallet or Google quick action buttons to drive the customer experience for these early adopters
Mass mailings, or batch-and-blast messages, are a thing of the past. The better you understand your customers on an individual level, the more effectively you can market to them through relevance and personalization, to create a deeply engaging and loyal relationship that can lead to increased customer lifetime value. At Epsilon we recommend clients begin with the long-term value goal in mind. From there, develop an appropriate program strategy that will maximize the value.