Remember the early days of e-commerce when a stock image, a brief product description, and maybe a few text-based reviews were enough for consumers? Back then, online shoppers made purchases without much more to guide them.
That's not the case these days.
Consumers are now holding brands to higher standards. Stock photos, company-written product descriptions, and text-based reviews are just not enough any longer.
Millennial consumers, in particular, have high expectations before they buy. Having grown up with the Web and inseparable from their smartphones, they've grown accustomed to image-based communication that's ideal for today's shorter attention spans. In the age of the emoji, more than 2.6 billion photos are shared daily on a variety of platforms.
Marketers need to be cognizant that Millennials crave immediacy and authenticity, and brands need to convey it—show it, literally—at every opportunity. They need to show that their label goes deeper and beyond the products they sell.
Here are three tips for marketers who are looking to gain credibility among the Millennial demographic.
1. Tap into the experiences your brand provides
By now, you're probably aware that Millennials are the driving force behind the experience economy. A 2014 Eventbrite survey found that 78% of millennials would rather put money toward a desirable experience than a desirable item. Marketers, therefore, need to do more than sell products; they need to sell experiences.
How can you do so effectively? Sourcing content from fans is just one of the many ways you can provide potential customers with an experience and create an authentic view of your brand.
Take a cue from athletic-brand Mizuno. On Instagram, Mizuno shares photos of people relaxing with a cup of coffee post-run, meditating out in nature, and happily running with friends. The brand is showing potential customers that running is more than about buying the right pair of sneakers; it's about being at peace with one's self. Its message, put simply: Mizuno is a passport to an experience.
Many of Mizuno's Instagram photos come directly from consumers, but the brand has also mastered developing its own content that fits the experiential vibe.
2. Highlight what makes your brand unique
What makes your company stand out from others? This is a core element you need to express to millennials in your imagery.
This generation of consumers is likelier than older generations of shoppers to seek out one-of-a-kind products. Illustrate what makes your brand special, and how your products reflect that uniqueness.
Does your company produce clothing from recycled material? Show a snapshot of how you gather those materials. Do your products come with a backstory? Illustrate that for your audience.
Airbnb is a brand that does a great job at showing off its one-of-a-kind products to consumers. It uses Instagram, Tumblr, and its own site to showcase the most unique spaces in its inventory. Such content strikes a chord especially with millennial travelers (but not only them, of course). The opportunity to stay in a space with character and history is incredibly appealing.
Certainly, not every brand can be an Airbnb with an inventory of products that come from a variety of people. However, the company is a prime example of how beneficial it is to demonstrate—literally show—the ways your products or services enable one-of-a-kind experiences.
3. Be transparent
The proliferation of platforms such as Tumblr and Twitter has opened millennials' eyes to social, economic, and political inequality around the globe, and enabled them to spark conversations. They are more likely than shoppers from other generations to associate a brand with its back-end practices.
If you've committed to responsible practices on the back-end of your business, let consumers know.
Brands such as Warby Parker and TOMS, which pledge to help a person in need for every purchase made, are a big hit with millennials. Those brands' imagery and language reflect that they are committed to being socially responsible organizations.
Apparel brand Everlane is another that's mastered what it means to be transparent. It breaks down the price of each product by illustrating the cost of materials, labor, duties, and transportation. The brand also provides in-depth looks into the factories where their products are made, giving consumers a holistic view of where their apparel is coming from.
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Authentic images are essential to reaching the visual consumers of today, and whether they come from you or your fans, the process doesn't end there. Photos are increasingly becoming points of purchase, and millennial shoppers expect to take action from your visual content.
Brands that don't act accordingly will lose engagement and revenue, to the benefit of brands that do.