With over 80 million Millennials in the US alone, brands recognize the importance of shifting focus to this group. However, doing so often proves challenging, because many of the selling tactics that worked in the past are turnoffs for Millennials.

To create connections with this increasingly important consumer demographic, CPG brands must understand the mindsets of Millennial shoppers and what influences their buying decisions.

When marketing to this digital generation, CPG brands must first understand that Millennials are far more likely to shop online for CPG products than older generations, which shop mainly in the store. In fact, more than half of online CPG transactions are conducted by Millennials, and the digital shelf may well be the only shelf where your products are seen by Millennials when they make the purchase.

CPG marketers should also be aware that Millennials don't like to be "advertised at," whereas generations before them were raised on television, radio, and print ads.

In the next 10 years, Millennials will spend $65 billion on CPG products, and they are more aligned with brands than with retailers. Here are five ways that CPG brands can maintain and grow that alignment over the next decade.

1. Prioritize mobile for everything

Today's consumers have their mobile devices with them at all times, and it comes as no surprise that Millennials make up the largest segment of smartphone users. Even inside a traditional supermarket, Millennials use their phones, where their shopping list is likely to reside; it's also a tool they use to learn more about products, deals, and reviews.

Marketing to Millennials means that mobile-friendliness is no longer optional; it's mandatory for CPG brands. In fact, Millennials are at least twice as likely to engage via their mobile device during the path from discovery through purchase than the population overall.

Convenience is key, and Millennials expect brands to deliver—at the click of a button.

2. Focus on content marketing

The coupon books and television ads that worked for marketing to Millennials' parents simply don't reach Millennials very well. Today, CPG marketing increasingly means content marketing, presenting relevant, valuable text, imagery, sound, and video to attract a clearly defined target audience.

It's not always easy knowing what type of content to create, but brands ranging from Coca-Cola to Microsoft to GoPro have embraced content marketing for reaching Millennials. Successful content marketing requires listening, understanding the target audiences and their unique needs, and creating genuinely useful, up-to-date content that meets those needs.

Tuned-in brands will create unique, compelling content that resonates with their target audience.

3. Highlight values

This generation is far more likely to make choices based on brand values, such as sustainability and corporate responsibility, than generations before them. In fact, values may actually be more important than product attributes, including price!

A 2015 study found that 90% of Millennials would switch brands to one that's associated to a cause. When CPG brands implement green practices, such as packaging improvements, shipping changes, and the like, these practices should be reflected in the brand's CPG marketing.

Millennial consumers want to live a sustainable lifestyle and will reward brands that reflect that desire.

4. Maximize imagery

Millennials share photos and videos all the time, with Instagram and Snapchat often their platforms of choice. When Instagram advertising opened up to the whole business community in 2015, it quickly became the essential platform for marketing to Millennials. While sectors like apparel and beauty seem natural fits for Instagram, CPG marketing stands to benefit, as well.

Sharing images of food and food prep, for example, is a phenomenon that has grown tremendously among young adults. Packaging and image are often the differentiating factors for CPG products—the reason that brands might stand out. Therefore, maximizing imagery will continue to be an important tool for CPG marketers.

5. Share information, and be real

Brand transparency is no longer an option when marketing to Millennials, who want to believe they are smart, responsible consumers.

Millennials are hungry for information surrounding the products they buy. The more they know about how their CPGs went from raw materials to the product they consume, the more they feel like they're making the right brand choice. They appreciate knowing the stories behind the brand, particularly about interesting people or practices—so share these.

As e noted above, Millennials don't easily trust advertisements or brands that are overly promotional; rather, they must have evidence that a brand is being authentic. Being transparent also means being vulnerable, and CPG brands that are honest with their consumers will come out on top.

* * *

We're living in a digital-first world where brands and their customers, particularly Millennials, are no longer as removed from one another as they once were. This new reality presents a huge opportunity for CPG brands to connect with consumers, and smart brand teams will tailor CPG marketing techniques to meet the needs of their customers.

By creating direct bonds with their shoppers, brands can—and will—build lasting and valuable relationships.

More Resources on CPG Marketing

The State of E-Commerce in Fast-Moving Consumer Goods [Infographic]

Three Ways CPG Companies Can Use Social Insights to Make Better Business Decisions

Consumers: CPG Sites for Info, Offers; Facebook for Connecting

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image of Jennifer Silverberg

Jennifer Silverberg is the CEO of SmartCommerce, where her international team provides simple tools to help major CPG brands such as P&G, Unilever, and Nestle own and drive their customers' buying experience.

LinkedIn: Jennifer Silverberg