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March 6, 2017
Digital Marketing  |  11 min read

5 Ways You Must Engage Millennials on Mobile

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Ben Snedeker

Millennials get a bad rap; they’re criticized for having Peter Pan syndrome, refusing to grow up. They want their workspaces to look and feel more like play spaces. And they constantly have a cell phone in their faces.

But these “kids” are all grown up now: born between 1984 and 2004, most of them are in their twenties and thirties. They spend $200 billion each year, and they’re flooding all levels of the workforce. So, it pays to understand how to market to them. Unfortunately, small businesses are—by and large—behind the eight ball. Only 15 percent of SBA’s market directly to millennials. That’s a huge missed opportunity.

As the generation that can’t recall what a pager is, naturally they’re way into their smartphones. That, it turns out, is not a cliche: 85 percent of millennials have a smartphone. And they will touch their smartphone 45 times a day! In fact, millennials engage with their smartphones more than they do with actual humans. Um. Wow.


If you want to connect to millennials, you have to have a strategy for mobile. Here are five important ways to get started.

Ensure you’re mobile friendly 

First and foremost, you have to be ready for mobile users. Your website, emails, landing pages, and all other digital content must be mobile friendly. Here’s why: 61 percent of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing, and 40 percent visit a competitor’s site instead. Long gone are the days when users would tolerate clunky website experiences from mobile.

The solution is to employ a design that recognizes whether or not the user is on a desktop or a mobile device, then adjusts the interface—or layout—of the page so the user can interact naturally.

Some things to keep in mind regarding mobile-readiness:

  • Adaptive v. responsive design. This is an important one to get right, so you should determine which is right for you. The good news is that if you use WordPress, Squarespace, or similar, it’s quick and painless to get your site mobile-ready. Otherwise, you should schedule a chat with your web developer.

  • Design your web pages with mobile users in mind first. Navigation should be clear and consistent. In addition, don’t overload your pages with content. Design for mobile is a big topic, so if you want to know more, here’s what it takes to optimize your website design for mobile.


Millennials want to interact with businesses via social media

According to Facebook, 55 percent of millennials use only mobile devices to access their profile or pages.

Yes, once again, they’re leading the charge in tech use, but just about everyone uses their phone to interact with social media. Marketing Land reported nearly 80 percent of all social media time is spent on mobile devices.

So, you might ask, how would a marketer think differently about social media on mobile?

First, it means that you will be rewarded with increased engagement when you opening up opportunities that invite interaction. Social media platforms have been developing features designed for mobile experiences, like check-ins, live video, and ephemeral—or disappearing—content (like Instagram Stories), to name just a few. The more you do to engage in social media interactions that are fit for mobile consumption, the more you’ll catch the millennial eye.

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Second, millennials use social to interact with the brands they love. Marketingsherpa notes that one in three millennials identify social media as a preferred channel for communicating with businesses.

Millennial users that interact with brands expect to get quick replies to their communication. This means you need to be poised to respond. You gotta be johnny-on-the-spot. Answer direct messages, reply to comments, and treat your followers with respect.

Above all, Millennials follow brands on their social channels with purpose. If they followed you, it’s because they are interested in what you have to offer, and they expect you to respect them as your follower. Stick to the rules of the road for the platform you’re using.

Integrate online and offline experiences

Millennials, more than any other demographic, freely include their online social networks in their physical experiences through updates, photos, and videos. Likewise, they love to engage with the experiences of their network through social media.

For example, take a simple day at the beach: there’s food, sun, and maybe a pickup game of volleyball. Within just a few hours, this experience is chock full of opportunities to share moments via text, picture, and video with friends and followers. It’s also full of opportunity for beachgoers to interact with brands. Maybe a selfie and a shoutout with a hashtag earns them a free burger. Or maybe you create a special Snapchat geofilter for an event you’re running.


Marketers, ever anxious to make an acronym for a new idea, call this “O2O,” which refers to marketing strategies that promote “Online-to-Offline” or “Offline-to-Online” customer experiences. For example, an O2O experience could look like this: the customer receives a coupon via text message (online) that they can redeem at a brick and mortar business (offline). Or, vice versa, it could be a special photo booth at a busy pedestrian intersection (offline) that encourages people to take a selfie and share it (online).

Through mobile, online interactions can happen anywhere, which means brands must find ways to seamlessly bridge the gap between online and offline experiences.

Go live and do it right

Social media platforms are tapping into the Immersive social media experience through live streaming video. The big players are Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Video Chat for Snapchat, and Periscope for Twitter.

Live streaming adds urgency to your interactions. When you’re live, your followers will want to be ready so they can watch, react, and comment. In fact, it’s the interaction that makes live streaming so interesting. As you stream, you can respond to your audience in real time.

Word to the wise: square away the tech ahead of time (things like wifi, camera, and lighting). Brian Fanzo at iSocialFanz has a ton of information about the best equipment for going live.

Live is great for ad-hoc, low-fi video, but when the tech breaks, it can ruin your effort.

Be ready for surprises, too. It’s live, so anything can happen. Don’t let bumps in the road (like troll comments, technical hiccups, or environmental factors, etc.) get to you. When you roll with little issues, your audience will notice, and they’ll cheer you on.

Millennials love to shop on mobile

Millennials are often criticized for being the “me generation,” obsessed with instant gratification. But can you really blame them? Amazon can deliver virtually anything to your door in an hour. Your phone is on you all the time; if you want to watch a movie, download it. With smartphones, everything you’d want to buy is at your fingertips; you don’t need to sit at your computer, let alone trek to a physical store.

On top of the convenience smartphones offer, millennials trust their phones will serve up the same information as a desktop. This makes them more likely to buy directly from their phone. Consider this stat as a case study in trust: “About two-thirds of younger travelers are comfortable planning an entire trip on a smartphone, compared to one-third of travelers 35 and older.

So, it’s critical that you find ways to make the buying experience convenient for mobile.


One of the most powerful ways for brands to connect to millennials on mobile is via shopping discounts and special offers.

It turns out that millennials follow brands on social largely for the direct benefits: Sixty-four percent of millennials reported following a brand on Facebook in order to get a coupon or discount on their next purchase.

And it’s not just a social media thing, either. The primary reason millennials sign up for brand emails is to receive discounts.

Take advantage of the convenience of mobile. When you design your special offers, make it easy to make an impulse buy:


Everyone wants to reach millennials because millennials are an ever growing segment of the economy. To do that, you have to understand smartphones from the millennials’ perspective: They grew up with smartphones. Smartphones act as the hub for their human relationships.  They interact with their smartphones more than anything, or anyone, else.

Millennials trust their smartphones.


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