They make up the largest generation. Born roughly between 1980 and 2000, the generation known as Gen Y or the Millennials is bigger than the Boomers. Millennials are in the driver’s seat when it comes to marketing and merchandising not only because of their quantity, but because they know how to spread the word. And with their buying power increasing as they age, this generation will be the force that keeps our economy strong.

So, how best to merchandise to this group of selfie-taking, Snap-Chatting, hash-tagging buyers? We have a few ideas. We wouldn’t want to overwhelm them with more because they’ll move on faster than you can say Instagram. Catch the moving Millennial eye quickly with these three appeals:

1. Technology

Millennial Marketing Diesel Video Wall

It’s not a news flash that this generation is more driven by technology than any who came before them. They grew up in the digital age and didn’t have to adapt like other generations. According to, “Traditional marketing just doesn’t cut it with Gen Y, especially if it’s forced upon them – they consume what they want, when they want. Television, print ads and billboards are far too ‘in-your-face’ for the Gen Y consumer – they would rather use their favorite tools (smartphones, blogs, websites, reviews) to discover your brand or product.”

For retailers, combining physical and digital elements in displays is key to attracting and sustaining Millennials. Digital signage in retail has been steadily growing over the last decade as the hardware has become cheaper. With the ubiquity of digital, content is crucial to grab & keep Millennial attention. Diesel, known for being edge, is utilizing a video wall to introduce new collections and campaigns. They don’t just show static images of models, they show them literally getting dressed – it grabs your attention and feels spontaneous and informal – unlike regular retail messaging.

2. Social Media

Millennial Marketing Macy's Backstage Pass

Millennials are social media savvy, and with their vast connections, they have louder voices that can make more of an impact than generations before them. And with 80 million members in Generation Y (who are having conversations online instead of in person) word is traveling faster than ever. This generation trusts their online friends more than ads or experts so it’s important to be on the grid, frequently. Merchandisers can tap in to this high-speed race to “what’s trending” by engaging with Millennials every chance they get.

Macy’s has been campaigning to rope in this generation and it’s working. The store has integrated technology into departments to satisfy immediacy, engagement and ever-changing content that Gen Y yearns for. They have developed the “Backstage Pass” program (along with free wifi in stores) that features QR codes in different departments that link to videos from celebrity designers, giving much sought after styling advice. This information can be posted to the shopper’s social media and shared with friends. In addition to enhancing the customer experience, each Backstage Pass user is also entered into a $500 shopping spree that day – not a bad incentive! Macy’s is also using companies like Shopkick to entice younger buyers with location-based, in-store deals.

This generation is also known for over-sharing, and as they share with hundreds — even thousands — of their peers every minute, they also share with their Baby Boomer parents. These two generations combined make up more than half of this nation’s customers. So appealing to both generations is probably a #smartdecision that will bring about a #buyingfrenzy for your brand. 

3. Charity

Coined by some as the “me generation,” many others disagree and claim Gen Y is not a selfish generation but rather a giving group with ambition to make positive change.

According to varying research, between 75-87% of Millennials donated to charity last year. That’s a lot. And although naysayers will continue to dub Millennials as “slacktivists,” (ok, that’s a mash up we couldn’t help but include) others look at their giving as a philanthropic way to develop their skills. Either way you see it, this generation is smart, creative and they know what they want.

Merchandisers can benefit with the same way of thinking: market to Millennials by donating a portion to charity. This game is not new. In fact, it dates back to the days of I scratch your back…you know the rest. So the audience is different now, but this time around, that audience is bigger. So pick a cause, plan a party, and send out an Eventbrite or Facebook event. Millennials also love to party with a purpose – think about creating an exclusive after-hours event with a small donation at the door that pays for your first cocktail. Then, donate a portion of all sales for the evening. Just make sure your invitation is social media friendly. You never know, it might go viral. Which, we hear is a good thing these days.