How to Optimize E-Commerce for Millennials

Millennials are highly interested in great deals, experiences and ethical business practices. When it comes to the latter, a majority of millennials are willing to pay more for products from brands that prioritize sustainability. Even so, they’re hard to pin down. According to MergeIn, price is the No. 1 concern for millennials, which presents a conundrum: How can you capture a millennial audience with low prices and sustainably sourced materials at the same time? Sustainable goods are costly to produce. The millennial market is rife with issues such as this.

The good news is, because you’re reading this, you’re truly interested in giving millennials a great e-commerce experience. With this goal in mind, consider how you present your offering, the authenticity of your brand and your website’s user experience.

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Presenting your offering to millennials

Everyone has something to sell. What makes your offering valuable? Or, how can you present your offering to emphasize its value?

One driving force for millennials is the fear of missing out (FoMO). The Hartford identifies using FoMO as a reliable way to attract millennial customers, given that 68 percent have made a purchase to avoid missing out. If there’s only so much of something, the product is exclusive, and there’s inherent social pressure to make a purchase. For example:

  • Email marketing company GetResponse offered 40 percent off new accounts, but emphasized there were only so many available
  • X Music Festival piqued curiosity by posting incomplete images of artists, then offered a limited number of VIP tickets to people who could guess who the artists are

Brands have been harnessing the power of scarcity for as long as brands have been a thing, but social media increases FoMO because millennials are influenced a great deal by their friends online.

The perception of scarcity is one of the cognitive shortcuts, known as heuristics, that influence customer purchases. Amazon uses price anchoring consistently. The e-commerce giant crosses out prices and lists the item at a lower price, which makes the buyer think the item is worth the crossed out price. Along with that, you’ll see there are only so many of each item available.

People stereotype websites based on appearance (another heuristic), and a website with an insecure domain can create the perception of contamination (I’ll speak to this more in the User Experience section).

For millennials, one huge aspect of what they buy comes down to social identity. That’s why, according to MergeIn’s research, 78 percent prefer spending money on experiences instead of things. Experiences speak to who you are and what you value. Additionally, what a brand stands for—the passions and causes a brand represents—is a big part of social identity for millennials.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Dropshipping is the Future of E-Commerce

Brand authenticity

As an entrepreneur dipping into e-commerce, you have a unique opportunity to attract millennials who want to support you for who you are and what you do. You are not a huge faceless entity, you are not Amazon gobbling up the marketplace. You’re unique and you have a story, just like each customer.

There are several ways to look at authenticity in the e-commerce sphere. The first is exemplified by Jane Lu, founder of Showpo, a women’s fashion and apparel site. In an interview with Online Retailer, she said:

“For both Showpo and my own personal brand, our key was the power of social media, which showcases our brand voice perfectly. The trick is to not care about pleasing everyone, we know who we are and what our brand is so we build on that. The market as a whole is far too big to target everyone so by having a strong voice in a target market, we’re much more likely to dominate.”

Lu’s strong voice for her brand speaks directly to her target audience on social media. Her story becomes Showpo’s story. People who shop Showpo know they’re buying from a human being thoroughly invested in her brand and her customers.

The other aspect of brand authenticity is supporting a cause that aligns directly with what your company does. Max Harris, VP of e-commerce for Gardener’s Supply Co. said:

“We were green before green was cool. To succeed in embodying such a visible attribute (being ‘green’), you have to be authentic, and sometimes you can’t be afraid to take bold stands against things you believe aren’t good for your customers.”

The employees at Gardener’s Supply bought out the founder of the company, whom Max describes as an “eco-warrior.” They continue his cause, in part by calling out a company like Monsanto (which sells genetically modified seeds). Through blog posts and social media, Gardener’s Supply gets vocal about the cause the company stands for.

In turn, how you present your brand in your blog and on landing pages is part of your site’s user experience.

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Finishing the deal with user experience (UX)

UX is like the clothing a salesperson wears and the attitude she has as the customer navigates their way to a purchase. You want UX to represent your brand aesthetic to a T.

Like a good handshake, start with the basics. Make an e-commerce site user friendly by doing the following:

  • Make each page a place where the user can accomplish a goal: For an e-commerce site, a landing page is typically one where the user can click to buy a product; think about how you can make each page goal-oriented
  • Make it easy to get around: Navigation should be intuitive and sleek; if there’s a blog, don’t make it hard to get there or get out
  • Makes pages readable: Cut down on noise and filler—present the content, the product and the product description in a clear, simplistic theme on the page
  • Present images and words in a clean, clear layout with solid colors that don’t overwhelm: The web is full of noise, so get to the basics in a clear and elegant fashion

Make it easy for people to checkout, and look into allowing customers to buy directly on the website through a software solution like Shopify. You must have an SSL certificate so that people feel comfortable making purchases on your site.

According to MergeIn, 63 percent of millennials make smartphone purchases. Chances are that number is low compared to the reality. Make sure your site is mobile friendly. Include an option for people to review products, as well—millennials love looking at reviews, and about 84 percent use their smartphones to look at reviews while they’re in a store.

You can differentiate yourself in multiple ways. One way would be by presenting blog content and videos front-and-center on the homepage.

Additionally, there’s nothing wrong with considering a recommendation engine once you’ve nailed the basics of UX. Millennials will be delighted to get relevant recommendations on your cozy e-commerce site.

Follow through with your branding on your site through appearance and blog posts, and make it easy for people to get in touch with you. They’ll love surfing back to your store again.

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