Effective email marketing for millennials: How to make the most of the opportunity

Effective email marketing for millennials: How to make the most of the opportunity Leading Return Path’s Professional Services consulting team, Guy has a knowledge base that spans over 10 years and has worked with a broad range of international clients to improve their email delivery, subscriber engagement and revenue. Outside of work, Guy has had long-term involvement with both the DMA and IAB email councils.

Millennials are a top priority for marketing teams. Their long-term spending potential makes them a valuable target, with World Data Lab revealing that global millennial spending power is set to overtake its preceding generation X by 2020. It’s subsequently unsurprising that marketers are recognising the importance of catching millennials’ attention early.  The big question is, how does this generation need to be marketed differently?

Born between 1980 and 2000, millennials are marked by an inherent tech-savviness, shorter attention spans and a tendency to expect immediate gratification. It’s therefore not an uncommon belief to think email marketing campaigns may have little impact. Indeed, social media is a central part of a millennial’s day-to-day life and has become a key channel for marketers to engage with them through advertising, sponsored posts and ‘influencer’ marketing. However, marketers looking to engage with millennials shouldn’t discount email from their future strategy. Instead, they need to think about how they can adapt their campaigns to keep up with these new and constantly evolving needs.

Adapting email marketing for smartphone

The growing popularity of the smartphone has had a significant impact on email marketing and it’s safe to say that those targeting millennials have benefitted from this trend. Per the DMA’s consumer email tracker report for 2019, 72 per cent of those aged between 18 and 34 use their smartphone as their primary device for email.  The prevalence of smartphones and social media has not lessened email’s significance, but rather shifted it from desktop and laptop into an ever-present means of communication.

Research from Adobe also shows that over half of 18-24 year olds and 43 per cent of 25-34 year olds check their emails in bed in the morning. However, those under the age of 35 only actually read 40 per cent of their emails according to the DMA report. The challenge for email marketers is standing out from the crowd as marketers send emails to capitalise on popular times of the day, particularly as smartphones make it easy to scroll past or delete uninteresting or unwanted correspondence.

This means that email marketers must work harder to engage with millennials, particularly when it comes to personalisation. Indeed, 34 per cent of consumers get frustrated when brands recommend items which are of no interest to them.

The two main ways to combat this are through richer content and personalisation. Millennials are three to four times more likely to like media content such as images and videos in their emails (40 per cent) when compared to those over 55. Millennials also tend to give more positive feedback to interactive features such as a competitions or quizzes.

18- to 24-year olds are also twice as likely to want the ability to make purchases without even leaving an email than those 35 and older, according to an Epsilon report from late 2017. Twenty-one per cent of the younger age group wants this, versus only 10 per cent of the older.

Listening and understanding their preferences in terms of email frequency has become a necessity, but by also noting the emails that garner more positive engagement, email campaigns can be much more targeted and effective.

Reclaiming abandoned carts

Abandoned carts are the bane of the online retailer. Barclaycard data shows British shoppers abandon online baskets worth almost £30 a month, potentially resulting in more than £18bn in lost sales every year. Abandoned cart emails have a much higher conversion rate and average value than average emails, at a rate of 1 in 40 with an average value of over $6 (Bluecore). This is significantly higher than the industry average for revenue per email.

Furthermore, according to research by ClickZ, 18-29 year olds are the most profitable segment to target with abandoned cart emails. ASOS is one brand that does this well. Analysis of ASOS’ abandoned cart campaign, by Inbox Insight, shows that read rates are 10 per cent higher for these emails when compared with a 90-day performance benchmark.

In fact, the online retailer represents the gold standard for specifically engaging with millennials through email on smartphone. A dissection of one of their recent email marketing campaigns reveals the simple but insightful tactics employed by the brand to raise engagement.

ASOS’ abandoned cart emails are created with their demographic in mind. Headlines such as ‘Don’t forget about me…’ are more likely to result in engagement rather than ‘You’ve left something in your basket’. They also jog the recipient’s memory with images of items that may be in their basket and highlight their free delivery and easy return process.

The retailer manages to convey this information with a very simplistic design which would be easy to engage with on a mobile device. This is a clever play by ASOS, as DMA research also indicates millennials are the age group most likely to purchase items on their mobile (15 per cent). That engaging nudge could result in a purchase.

Marketing to sub-demographics

However, treating millennials as one homogenous group and neglecting its diversity is a flawed approach. The millennial demographic currently spans from 18 to 38, with the lifestyles, incomes and tastes varying wildly across this range.

For instance, students live by a different schedule to most consumers. Christmas isn’t just once a year for student; it often comes three times in the form of a student loan instalment. Riding on the wave of this excitement is an email from ASOS, sent on student loan day, informing them that the student discount will be doubled to 20 per cent for a limited time. Forgetting that the loan is for important items like textbooks or rent, many students will be lured into purchases whilst they’re flush. ASOS has recognised that a key section of the millennial demographic may be more willing to make purchases at a certain time.

Protecting personal data

When targeting millennials, it’s also worth noting that they are keenly aware that they are providing brands with personal data, and they want to know how this data is used to drive marketing and sales. When they receive a marketing email, 22 per cent wonder how a company got hold of their address. If they are handing over data to brands they expect the company to be transparent about how they are using it and they want it to be used effectively. In fact, according to YouGov, 70 per cent of millennials expressed frustration when sent ‘irrelevant’ emails from brands.

Even against the backdrop of social media advertising, email marketing is still a powerful means of reaching millennials. However, brands must adapt their campaigns to engage them successfully. Millennials understand that the marketing material they receive is hugely influenced by the data collected from them across their online activity, so the standards are high. Personalisation is not appreciated, it is expected. Lifestyles among the millennials can be drastically different, affecting both the optimal material and timing of emails, but brands must realise that the volatile nature of these consumers means they must be constantly evolving.

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