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Marketing to Gen Z and Millennials

17 Oct 2019
Sarah Marks

Millennials have received the lion’s share of marketing attention in recent years, and rightly so. In the U.S. the millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 2000, represented the biggest demographic in history. In 2017, there were 92 million millennials in the States alone. Even the Baby Boomers, the fabled Generation X, only reached 61 million.

However, in 2019, there’s a new target group that should be high on your airport’s list of priorities too. Generation Z, the post-millennial generation, includes young people born between the mid 1990s and the early 2000s. These teenagers and 20-somethings currently make up 25.9% of the U.S. population and are expected to account for 40% of all consumer markets by 2020, representing an enormous opportunity for sustainable business growth.

These younger generations are maturing, earning money and developing their own significant spending patterns. Research indicates that by 2020 millennials will spend as much as $1.4 trillion annually, while Gen Z has a buying power of $44 billion, expanding to as much as $600 billion when considering the influence they have on their parent’s spending. It’s easy to see why attention is shifting rapidly away from older demographics.

For forward-thinking airports, it is vital to put these generations at the forefront of their marketing efforts.

What do millennials want?

Marketing to millennials and Gen Z holds new challenges. These shoppers aren’t like any previous generation. They are experience hungry and reluctant to spend money on items such as cars and luxury goods that their parents might have viewed as essential, instead accessing things as they need them through what’s being called a ‘sharing economy’. They prefer use over ownership: Think car-shares and AirBnB.

Their affinity for technology is reshaping the retail space. As far back as 2012, AIMIA reported that 57% of millennials access a wealth of product reviews, information and price comparison online when viewing a product in store. These people are ‘digital natives,’ adapting quickly to technological developments. The Internet is their playground.

Fortunately, this experience-led culture is a gift for travel-marketers. The younger generation has a seemingly insatiable appetite for global experience. A decrease in social pressures to start families and a job market featuring companies who offer enticing holiday packages have contributed to an increased ability for young adults to travel without sacrificing work or personal goals. These travellers are on the lookout for cultural, culinary, natural and artistic thrills, and if that means forgoing the traditional tourist destinations, so be it. They’re also incredibly conscious of sustainability, and they expect marketing to be personalised to their interests.

The travel habits of the experience generations

Millennials are the generation that travels the most – 35 days per year in 2019 – but Gen Z is close behind, taking 29 days annually to travel.

Research also confirms social media as a key influencer in the millennial generation’s unique interest in travelling in the early stages of adulthood. 87% of millennials on Facebook say they use the platform for travel inspiration. Booking may happen on the spur of the moment as plans are triggered by posts from friends and influencers, while low cost flights, convenient mobile booking via AirBnB and wayfinding courtesy of Google Maps all make for an easy do-it-yourself experience. This digital generation is well equipped to personalise and optimise their own travel and the balance of power now lies firmly in the customer’s hands.

It is important for airport brands to recognise that for several years now, millennials have been the biggest travellers for business and pleasure. But that this is not in itself restrictive. A survey found that half of all business travellers extend their work trips to explore their destination, frequently with vacation days outnumbering designated business days.

And there’s a new trend worth exploring when it comes to stopover destinations during long haul flights. These used to be an unwanted part of the journey, but in 2019, airlines including Icelandair, Hawaiian, Emirates and TAP now offer a low cost ‘longtime stopover’ option to lengthen your stop over time, so that travellers can enjoy the destination.

An Expedia Media Solutions report shows that of the two generations, Gen Z spent about 25% of their budget on flights. That’s the most of any other age group. They also spend less on hotels than other generations and are more likely to consider alternative places to stay.

Another thing to consider as Gen Z nudges on the heels of the millennials is that Gen Y is growing up and for many that means travelling as a family, often with young children. 44% of millennials with children have travelled together, of these 62% did so with children under five years old.

Marketing to Generations Y and Z

In order to successfully market to millennials and Gen Z, it’s important to look at their key traits, needs and influences – to understand what makes them tick. Yes, they love to travel, but with so many options to choose from, how can you persuade them to travel with your brand?

1. Be authentic
According to EMarketer, affluent millennials spend an average of 53 hours per week online. Scouring blogs, websites and social media for information makes them feel empowered. They want content-driven media and they want value and authenticity.

Generation Y shoppers are directly influenced by people they know in person or online. They trust relevant, authentic opinions from real product users; people they can relate to. Authenticity comes from knowing your customer, their needs and how to speak their language, whilst representing your brand in an honest, direct way.

The digital, mobile and social behaviours of Gen Z are similar to those of millennials. Both groups are early adopters of things that will simplify their lives.

Make sure your airport website is a content goldmine for travel research, share informative, engaging information across your social media channels and encourage reviews and advocacy from loyal customers. And when it comes to the travel experience, it’s vital to deliver on the promises made in the digital landscape.

It’s also important, if you claim to identify with eco and sustainability concerns, to follow through on those ideas ethically. Younger generations like to see authenticity between brand message and operative ideas. They’ll be quick to jump on anything they perceive as hypocritical, and to a large extent this will define their trust in your brand. Offer opportunities to carbon offset and engage with local brands for your in-terminal concessions.

2. Experience matters
Millennials live by the phrases YOLO (You Only Live Once) and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and marketing to millennials should reflect this experience-rich lifestyle. This means experiential marketing.

The power of this technique is demonstrated by a Factory360 survey, which found that a whopping 98% of participants were more likely to purchase a product when they participated in an experiential campaign.

3. Sharing is caring
Content plays an important role in marketing to younger generations, but even more important is the ability to share. Sharing content is a split second decision. The viewer clicks the share or retweet button, and the content is instantly boosted to their network of friends and followers.

There’s little prejudice in what’s shared. A millennial social-media user is just as likely to share a branded video as they are to share a friend’s photo. The common factor is that they identify with the content, it provides value to them, and it reaches them in an authentic, engaging and transparent way.

However, content does not always succeed in engaging the target audience. It’s important to note the findings of a NewsCred study, which discovered that 70% of its millennial participants would share content they found funny, while only 60% would share something because it was thought provoking or intelligent.

4. Content is king
Remember, content is about storytelling; developing brand and product stories into media that people will be compelled to share. Customer stories lend an authenticity to product advertising, and create an experience with that product rather than simple ownership of the item. And content marketing should be ultimately enticing, which is why travel brands are increasingly relying on customer-sourced media such as Instagram images to engage potential customers with their brand and location.

The idea of a campaign that focuses on value for the customer is not a new one. In 1966, Nike released a 19-page booklet called ‘Jogging’. It was full of advice on enjoying running as a recreational activity, including posture and striking tips. The booklet successfully brought running, as a sport, to America, and it never once mentioned a Nike shoe!

5. Get personal
There is increasingly little value in bombarding a customer with content if it is not specifically relevant to that person. But millennials and Gen Z are incredibly diverse, with equally widespread interests. In order to get the right message to the right person at the right time, content personalisation is essential.

Personalisation can take the form of targeted blog posts on specific interests, engaging with members of the community one-on-one through social media conversations and forums, e-marketing segmentation using customer data. The benefit of a narrow marketing strategy is that it has a much deeper impact on individuals who feel their needs are being met, and in this way it reaches much further into niche groups.

Engage the tools in your Rezcomm CRM system to develop sophisticated customer profiling, so you really can offer each individual a tailored travel experience.

6. Price vs brand
Because they have been brought up to constantly price-check online, millennials are very sensitive to price, and their purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by the cost of a product, outweighing factors like brand and retail channel.

However, across industries, Gen Z is driving a new view of brands altogether. The brands most admired by the younger generation are those that do more than just sell a product or provide a service for profit. Gen Z want to see companies that work towards a better future, particularly in terms of social and environmental responsibilities. In the same way that customers are willing to pay more for good customer service, many people are now happy to spend extra to support a brand whose ethos they respect. Look for ways to engage with issues that are important to your customers and build this into your long-term strategy.

7. Mobile is everything
Millennials are a tech-savvy generation. A millennial is quite likely to research a product, find the product, decide to price shop and see if they can find a better deal, and make a transaction all from their mobile phone. Your marketing strategy should keep mobile front and centre, your website absolutely has to be mobile optimised, and your mobile checkout must be simple and intuitive to ensure conversions.

92% of travel brands say having a mobile strategy is critical to their success in 2019, and mobile features are key for travellers: 52% want to or expect to be able to communicate with a travel brand using text or messaging.

8. Cut through the barriers
Ad blockers have become a common challenge for marketers. An October 2016 study from eMarketer showed that 64% of Millennials used some form of ad blocking programme across their devices. They wanted to see content not advertising.

Marketing in the mobile era isn’t about broadcasting content out; it’s about building a dialogue, a direct relationship with the customer. This can be done using responsive app content or building dynamic in-store experiences, but the simplest way to communicate is by email.

A survey from Alliance Data found that 34% of millennials and 25% of Gen Z actually want to communicate with brands via email, and a 2018 report from SendinBlue showed that 63% of 750 U.S. millennial respondents said email was their No. 1 channel for communication with retailers. In fact, email marketing is a great way to capture and maintain interest, it’s still the number 1 marketing channel, and it is safe from ad blocking. Keep email greetings personal, save time and increase personalisation by using automation, write snappy, relevant content, and encourage feedback from customers.

Rezcomm’s world-first combined omnichannel platform for airport sales, marketing and customer-centric analytics can help you build your airport brand long-term. We already partner with airports that serve a quarter of a billion passengers worldwide and are experts in helping your airport to engage with new target markets across channels. To find out more about how we can support long-term growth for your airport, contact us for a chat today.

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