Millennials are the biggest spending power in the US market. There are 80 million of them. They make up 25% of the American population, and they'll be spending $200 billion annually by 2017.

There have been countless studies and articles trying to figure out how marketers can connect with these "plugged-in and fickle kids," but it all boils down to one simple fact: the days of brand-driven shopping journeys are over.

The brand-consumer relationship has changed, and the customer is in the driver's seat.

Segmenting Millennials

Let's start by saying that the term "Millennial" encompasses too many different types of people to be useful as a target market segment.

You can't target Millennials. A Millennial could be a mother of two or an 18-year-old college student. They're going to buy different items and respond to different messaging.

The usefulness of the term "Millennial" is in describing the shift toward a consumer-driven shopping journey. Interestingly enough, despite older generations grumbling about the plugged-in entitled youth, everyone is shopping more like a Millennial.

Millennials shop differently.

Brand relationships

The walls between brand and customer aren't relevant to Millennials. They want to know who your company is, not just what you sell. They're looking to develop relationships and conversations with brands.


For Millennials, shopping isn't just a transaction; it's an experience. And the experience of shopping at your store is just as important (if not more) than the price of your products.

Individuals, not segments

Marketing to segments won't attract Millennial customers. They see themselves as individuals first. And they expect brands to do the same.

Reaching Millennials by using gamification

So, what exactly is gamification? Put simply, it's the strategic use of game elements in non-game contexts to change consumer behavior.

When gamification is done right, it breaks down those rigid walls and humanizes your brand. It doesn't tell Millennials you "get" them. It shows them. And because gamification is interactive, Millennials feel like they are a part of a conversation with your brand.

Gamification also creates an experience. It makes interacting with your brand fun, and that, in turn, encourages a more positive brand experience.

Gamification works well for connecting with Millennials on an individual level. There are tons of gamification features that can customize a Millennial's experience with your brand. For example, product recommendation quizzes are a fun, interactive element that (when done well) show consumers that you get them while offering convenience and a personalized experience.

Avoiding lamification

Gamification provides an opportunity to connect with Millennials and provide a better customer experience. However, it's also easy to alienate consumers when executed poorly.

To avoid bad gamification (or "lamification"), you have to approach gamification strategically. Fun isn't a goal—or rather, it can't be the only goal. Gamification is most effective when it addresses why Millennials aren't behaving in a desirable way.

So, how do you use gamification in the right way?

1. Identify an area of strategic importance

Identify a strategic area of your business that you want to improve. Are you trying to sell more product sets? Increase social sharing? What is most important?

Then find out why your target consumers aren't performing the desired behavior. Why aren't they buying product sets? Why aren't they sharing? If you don't know why they aren't acting how you want them to, you can't change their behavior.

Find out what your consumers have been saying. Look to social media and your customer support teams. Are there common complaints?

2. Brainstorm ideas to solve the problem

Once you know what the problem is, think about how you can solve it. How can you make the solution convenient and enjoyable? You can't just add badges and points, and hope that makes Millennials act. Your solution has to address why Millennials aren't behaving how you want and make it natural to change that behavior.

For example, look at Sephora's new Beauty Uncomplicator campaign. It's a perfect example of gamification designed to solve a consumer pain problem. Sephora knew part of its Millennial audience was overwhelmed with the amount of beauty products it offers.

So, the company created a gamified experience to help consumers:

  • Find inspiration in a Tinder-esque product exploration app
  • Get advice on the best products for their needs in a product recommendation quiz

The company didn't hand out badges or points for exploring or purchasing products. Instead, it researched its consumers' pain problems and found a fun and engaging way to conveniently solve them. That's what good gamification is all about. It's not pandering and hopping onto the gamification wagon. It's understanding that gamification is a tactic, not a miracle solution, and using it strategically to improve your audiences' experience.

The bottom line

Millennials shop differently. And it's changing how everyone shops. To be competitive, you have to break down the walls between Millennials and brands, create positive shopping experiences, and treat consumers like individuals.

Gamification is an effective strategy to tackling these goals. But to do it effectively, you have to make strategic choices. Don't just do gamification because it's fun. Identify your consumers' pain problems, and use gamification to solve them.

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Gamification Can Help You Successfully Reach Millennials

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image of John Findlay

John Findlay is co-founder of Launchfire, a digital engagement shop that helps retail, restaurant, and CPG marketers drive engagement at every step along the path to purchase.

LinkedIn: John Findlay