Once Upon a Time

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When marketing to Millennials, it’s all about “storyselling”

There’s a lot of buzz in almost every retail circle about the Millennial generation and for good reason. They’re spending money in a big way and, if you market to them right, on home furnishings.

The numbers don’t lie. Millennials, those born between 1978 and 1995, are poised to become the largest percentage of homebuyers this year.

These new homeowners will be looking to replace older furnishings or fill empty rooms. The impact is already happening. Millennials spent 142 percent more on furniture and bedding from 2012 to 2018. Working with a company that’s predominantly made up of Millennials, I can attest to the amount of money they spend on a new place.

Marketing to Millennials is quite different from appealing to other generations. One-directional communications through a single platform won’t cut it with this crowd. They rely on multiple platforms. Television, while still important, is relied on less heavily by this age group. Moreover, this new demographic requires more personal connections with home furnishing brands. This will come in the form of leveraging social media, mobile and email marketing more than ever before.

However, it’s not just using different forms of communication that’s important, but also what you convey to Millennials that will change. Home furnishings stores can’t simply blast their products and services over the airwaves touting the best selection at the lowest prices and get Millennials to respond favorably. These younger consumers expect home furnishings stores and manufacturers to demonstrate how a comfortable home that looks great also enhances regular activities such as cooking and entertaining friends. Millennials are eager to find “everyday celebrations” as ways to connect and share experiences together.

One of the other things that makes this generation unique is how much more driven they are than GenX or Baby Boomers to their social, photo-driven culture. The notion of “looking better” is a natural motivator for Millennials. This includes their physical appearance as well as their possessions. Furniture retailers and home furnishings manufacturers must show these consumers how their products help complete the picture.

And herein lies the rub. Millennials attach a social value to home furnishings that depends on story more than price. How was each piece created? What was the designer’s inspiration and source of materials? This information gives Millennials something to share and talk about with their friends. Home furnishings manufacturers and retailers must respond with “storyselling,” the idea that every product has something important to add to the conversation and experience of the customer.

This is especially valuable to Millennials who live in smaller spaces in city centers or walkable urban neighborhoods. Furniture retailers must demonstrate to them how to make a home, large or small, the very best it can be. Because Millennials value creativity, they will appreciate educational tools and resources for putting a look together themselves; especially on tablets and mobile.

For many in this industry, this strategic marketing shift may require some retooling of tactics and techniques, both on the promotion and evaluation side. The ways home furnishings manufacturers and retailers can measure the success of these initiatives is plentiful.

The trick will be to look at the right information and take effective action to acquire, engage, convert and retain customers. Make no mistake, though. Millennials are not only a fast-growing segment of the home furnishings market, but they will be the dominant one in the not-too-distant future. There’s good money to be had by those who engage this consumer group effectively.

About the Author

Charles Wiedenhoft
Charles Wiedenhoft is director of strategy and planning for Red Door Interactive, a data-driven marketing agency with broad experience in the home furnishings industry. He can be reached at cwiedenhoft@reddoor.biz.