There are several living generations of consumers, and each generation has its own preferences in terms of how they like to shop, how they spend money, and how they want to be marketed to. Younger consumers are always a topic of interest, because they represent the next generation of preferences as well as up-and-coming spending power. This article touches on the unique challenges associated with marketing to younger consumers. It also explores how direct mail can be used to engage these consumers and considers the vital role that inkjet technology plays.

Establishing the Base

A term like “younger” is vague and somewhat subjective, so it’s important to start by defining what is meant by younger consumers. In its annual consumer market research, Keypoint Intelligence identifies three primary age brackets:

· Ages 18-34: At this time, consumers within this age bracket are considered the youngest adult generation. The members of this group are primarily part of Generation Z or younger Millennials. Some of them are just starting their professional careers, but the older members of this group have been in the workforce for 10+ years.

· Ages 35-54: Members of this middle group are primarily older Millennials and most members of Generation X. These individuals have been part of the professional workforce for quite some time, and many are also caring for children in their households while also supporting their aging parents.

· Ages 55+: Members of this elder group are the oldest members of Generation X as well as Baby Boomers. Although some of these individuals have retired, still others remain a vital component of the workforce. They still have a tremendous amount of spending power and influence.

As consumers, we may not notice the subtlety of marketing campaigns that use age segmentation as a tool to gain our attention. Whether we notice it or not, though, age-targeted marketing has been around for years. When used correctly, it can provide a much higher return on investment than grouping all consumers into a single audience. For example, suppose you create a campaign that encourages consumers to seek financial advice. Whereas younger consumers might be just learning about financial independence and responsibility, more mature consumers may be in their peak earning years. People will have different financial needs based on their age and status in the workforce, so they should receive messaging and calls-to-action that reflect these differences.

More Is Better!

For many years, marketers have followed the rule that five to seven prospect touchpoints are required to convert a lead into a sale. With the constant barrage of marketing messages coming at us these days, though, some might expect consumers to prefer fewer touchpoints or contacts. As it turns out, however, recent research from Keypoint Intelligence reveals that the majority of consumers would like to be contacted by brands daily, weekly, or monthly. The key takeaway from the chart below is that regardless of whether a relationship with a business exists, younger consumers want to be communicated with more frequently.

Figure 1: Preferred Frequency for Receiving Marketing Communications

This might seem like a dream come true for marketers, but implementing a customer-first marketing strategy can be costly and ineffective without the proper planning and tools. Here are three ways to attract and retain the attention and spend of younger consumers:

1. Test Your Appeal. There was a time when print technology worked best for volumes of long print runs, but this is no longer the case. The barriers to cost-effective short runs continue to diminish with ongoing advancements in digital inkjet press technology. Marketers can now leverage digital print to grab the attention of a target audience with personalized and relevant direct mail. Although your company is undoubtedly concerned about the technology used to apply ink on paper, it’s important to remember that consumers don’t care about this. The things that capture their attention include the type of mail, its messaging, and a strong call-to-action. Savvy brand owners can and should experiment with oversized envelopes, standard direct mail, and postcards to determine which messages are the most effective. Information about response rates can be collected and analyzed to develop more relevant campaigns in the future.

2. Be Relatable, Not Just Personal! Thinking back to the example of a younger consumer who is just starting out on his or her journey toward financial security, the importance of relating to a consumer’s personal needs cannot be overstated. It is no longer enough to rely on generic forms of personalization like name and address; the financial services firm must demonstrate an understanding of that consumer’s specific situation. Younger consumers generally have much to learn, and many have no idea even where to start. In this instance, a series of educational direct mail pieces can elevate a brand’s value and demonstrate its commitment to strong customer care. Younger consumers identify with brands that stand for something beyond the products and services they provide. According to the USPS, the average American household receives only 454 pieces of marketing mail each year. In today’s era of digital overload, a tangible piece of paper landing in the hands of the right consumer can really stand out.

3. Create an Irresistible Call-to-Action. Convincing younger consumers to take action might be easier than previously thought. Traditional marketing wisdom suggests that action verbs like “download,” “reserve,” and “grab” can be effective, but modern marketers can appeal to an even greater tool. Generation Z consumers and Millennials grew up with screen time, and interactive direct mail can take them back to their screens. Although once perceived as a rather stale way to connect consumers to your website, quick response (QR) codes on printed documents have since experienced a resurgence as a more dynamic way to deliver marketing messages. Younger generations are also extremely open to video messaging. Digital inkjet print technology can drive consumers to an augmented reality overlay or interactive QR codes.

The Bottom Line

Younger consumers can represent a goldmine of opportunity for brand owners that strike a chord with them. A solid direct mail campaign must consider the likes, dislikes, and unique preferences of younger generations rather than attempting to lump everyone into a generic, all-encompassing category. Younger consumers expect and even want brands to reach out to them via multiple touchpoints, and this calls for new and innovative ways to stay connected. By combining digital inkjet technology, direct mail, and digital components, businesses can connect with the younger members of their audiences, add more value to the customer journey, create more leads, and ultimately drive more sales.

Karen Kimerer of Keypoint Intelligence has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She has developed a systematic approach to these opportunities, addressing the unique requirements of becoming a leader in our changing industry. She is well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.

This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2021 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.