It’s impossible to ignore the word 'millennial' in relation to marketing these days.

If I had a pound for every time I heard it during Millennial 20/20 – an event focusing on digital innovation and disruption – I’d have been rolling in it by lunchtime. 

Surprisingly, one time the term wasn’t bandied about was during a talk solely featuring this all-important demographic.

With insight from three entrepreneurs in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, the discussion focused on how young people are effectively driving change in retail and ecommerce – as both consumers and entrepreneurs.

So, how exactly are they changing the game? The panel included Tommy Williams, co-founder and CEO of All Shades Covered, Vivien Laszloffy, CEO of Áeron, and Freddy Macnamara, CEO of Cuvva. Here are a few key takeaways from the talk.

Innovation borne out of necessity

The panel began on the subject of motivation. When asked about the drive behind starting a new business, each speaker highlighted some form of frustration rather than any influence or inspiration from the existing market. And while the three companies are vastly different, this appeared to be a common theme.

Cuvva is a pay-as-you-go insurance app aimed at infrequent drivers. Freddy, its CEO, explained how the company stemmed from the desire to drive his friend’s car – and the sheer annoyance at the lack of options out there for quick and easy cover.

Similarly, All Shades Covered – co-founded by Tommy Williams – was borne out of the recognition that women of colour are incredibly underserved when it comes to hair and beauty products on the high street. Consequently, Tommy saw an opportunity to fill this gap, using ecommerce to fulfil the needs of consumers quickly and efficiently. 

As well as choosing to improve or bridge a gap on behalf of consumers, this drive perhaps also demonstrates their growing expectations, with a younger demographic demanding a superior customer experience across the board.

It’s about more than influence

Alongside an avoidance of the term millennial, one thing that really stood out from the talk was a distinct lack of interest in influencer marketing. While it's not a strategy that's been sidelined completely, it appears to be less of a priority for the young entrepeneurs. Interestingly, during the session before, I’d heard Boohoo’s Chairman mention how it has been an integral part of the brand’s recent success.

So, why are millennials choosing another route?

Perhaps it's a case of influencer overload, but from an entrepreneurial perspective, it appears to be a simple case of other strategies generating better results.

Vivien, the CEO of Budapest-based fashion retailer Áeron, spoke about the importance of working with women within the creative industry – but not just the standard blogger or model. Instead, people who fundamentally understand and appreciate the heritage of the brand are far more desirable, outweighing an influencer who might have a massive audience or even a reputation in the fashion industry. 

Meanwhile, Tommy says that his brand has seen far more success with offline and community-based marketing. He explained how tools like online video do not typically resonate with his core consumer in the same way as speaking and communicating directly, in the places where they live and work. While this strategy might be costly and much more time-consuming, it has resulted in much higher conversion rates for the company.

This demonstrates the importance of understanding how both the brand and consumer can align to build a longer-term relationship, rather than jumping on digital trends merely to attract the masses.

A point of difference

The final topic revolved around how new companies are able to compete with giants in the industry. Instead of striving to match them, however, the general consensus was that viewing big brands as competition can largely be a fruitless exercise.

Instead, it was suggested that brands in their infancy should remember the importance of establishing a unique and valuable point of difference when it comes to the product itself. Freddy highlighted Cuvva’s recognition of the supply chain, i.e. the underwriters who offer the insurance cover to drivers. In contrast to larger comparison sites that tend to focus solely on raising awareness to general consumers - Cuvva is able to offer greater value all-round.

The biggest takeaway from listening to millennials talk? If you've got enough common sense, age doesn't come into it.

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 8 May, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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