Partner Voices: How to Optimize Images for Millennial Shoppers
Over the past few years, the media has painted millennials as a generation of high-maintenance, lazy and entitled people. Considering that there are more than 75 million millennials in the U.S. alone, it’s a bit faulty to lump them all together.
These consumers vary drastically from one another. They’re the most ethnically diverse generation of adults in the history of the U.S. (43 percent are non-white); they possess differing levels of education (one-third have at least a bachelor’s degree); and they're choosing diverging paths (many are parents, while many are delaying having children). It’s nearly impossible to produce wide-reaching marketing content that speaks to this demographic.
A more comprehensive approach is to evaluate how Gen Y interacts with technology. Millennials are avid users of digital devices. Some 85 percent own smartphones – a reality that's shifted how they're influenced by content and one another.
The prevalence of digital devices has made it easier than ever to consume loads of content, and that’s exactly what millennials are doing. This comes at a price, however. The wealth of articles, photos, videos, social media posts and blogs is contributing to everyone’s minimized attention spans. According to a study conducted by Microsoft in 2015, the average attention span is eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000.
The plight of content overload calls for an easier way to consume even more content. More than 2.6 billion images are shared daily, indicating how prominent the visual space is these days. The growth of visual-based platforms in recent years also speaks volumes. Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram were the three fastest-growing networks in 2014, according to data from GlobalWebIndex. The verdict is in: images are the new “language” of the millennial consumer.
Capitalizing on the Growth of Images
We’ve established that a one-size-fits-all marketing approach isn’t likely to perform well with this demographic, but there are specific strategies retailers can adopt to capitalize on the growth of this vast image consumption. These are the top three I’d recommend for your consideration:
1. Make it simple for consumers to take action on your photos. On average, millennials spend more money online in a given year than any other age group. According to Business Insider, these consumers spend $2,000 online per year. The takeaway for marketers is to make it as seamless as possible for them to purchase the products they want on platforms they frequent. On Instagram, for example, brands like Nordstrom, Target, Lilly Pulitzer and Forever 21 have turned their feeds into shoppable galleries. As a result, these brands are driving qualified traffic and revenue to their websites. Forever 21 found that mobile visitors referred from Instagram averaged 19 percent more page views than the brand’s average mobile user, and Moorea Seal saw Instagram become a top revenue driver.
2. Get inspired by lifestyle-oriented imagery. Some 68 percent of millennial social media users in the U.S. reported in a 2014 Webby Awards survey that they're at least somewhat likely to make a purchase based on a friend’s social post. With that in mind, marketers should really leverage millennials enthusiasm for celebrating their purchases and experiences.
User-generated content (UGC) can be harnessed to drive engagement on social sites, e-commerce pages, emails and other channels. The use of fan images has earned luxury retailer Rebecca Minkoff a 20 percent clickthrough rate and an 11 percent increase in time on site.
UGC has proven to be effective, but it’s just the starting point. Brands should also work to produce lifestyle-oriented images of their own. Alex & Ani is a great example of a brand that does this. Most recently, the brand shared photos on Instagram of people wearing Alex & Ani bracelets at a popular music festival. Although the photos came from the brand, they’re highly engaging and look incredibly authentic.
Consumers aren’t partial to the origin of the photo. As long as the images are lifestyle-oriented, they’ll strike a chord with consumers. An analysis of Curalate data found that consumers are just as likely to engage with a lifestyle-oriented photo that originates from a brand as they are to engage with one that originates from a fan.
3. Work with influencers. A survey conducted by Variety in 2014 found that YouTube stars are more influential with U.S. teens than mainstream celebrities. Millennials are slightly older, but the idea isn’t far off base. Brands are increasingly benefiting from working with self-made Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube stars. Sigma Beauty, for example, sees more than 16,000 image submissions per month from fans. The inclusion of these photos on the brand website have contributed to nearly a four time lift in on-site engagement.
Turning Pictures Into Points of Purchase
The vast amount of visual content shared today means that marketers need to work harder than ever to stand out. Millennial shoppers expect the images they encounter to be highly engaging and actionable in some way. Brands that don’t take note will miss out on valuable relationships with this demographic.