The Do's and Don'ts of Selling to Millennials

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Millennials. The word we don’t really like being called. The word some generations say with a little bit of cynicism. Or, hey, maybe you don’t have any feelings on the subject either way. But, the one thing you can’t ignore is the fact that Millennials buy differently.

With Millennials expected to account for $1.4 trillion in spending in the U.S. by 2020, companies are adjusting their sales and marketing strategies to meet the expectations of this world’s most empowered spenders. A few of our Millennial marketers weigh in on what they look for (and avoid) when making their purchasing decisions.

1. It’s unanimous. Reviews matter above all else.

When this generation entered the world, it became bombarded with more advertisements than any generation in history. Millennials know they have options available to them, so they do their research, and when the time comes they will either confidently make a purchase or walk away. 

It’s time to ditch the cliché sales phrase, “What do I need to do to earn your business?” With Millennials, it’s less about asking and more about meeting the expectations of the Millennial before they ever step in the door.

I always compare pricing and read customer reviews. I do consider the scope of the reviews available because I understand one or two people having a bad experience does not equate to a bad product/retailer. However, if you have a lot of negative reviews, I will go elsewhere – even if it means paying a little more.

Jansen M. | SAGE Marketing Manager


2. The Millennial’s first impression of a brand often revolves around website design and functionality.

I recently purchased a car, so as you can imagine, a lot of research went into my decision. My family suggested a resource that’s been around for years and while I can appreciate their credibility, their website was incredibly difficult to navigate and their mobile app was just an afterthought that hadn’t been updated in two years. So, I went with a new kid on the block. The website I found offered a seamless user experience, a convenient mobile app, and email alerts on price drops on my saved cars.

With attention spans these days hovering around eight seconds (Millennials may only give you four seconds), you simply can’t forego a clean, convenient, and modern web presence.

In my opinion, the most successful websites and apps have easy navigation but keep it interesting with every button you click. I base my purchase on whether or not the website is up-to-date and if it has secure payment options, such as Paypal, just so I know it’s legitimate.

Brittany B. | SAGE Graphic Designer


Too much clutter translates as overwhelming and time-consuming to digest, and I will actively avoid it in any format – websites, emails or even a brick-and-mortar location.

Lafonso B. | SAGE Videographer


3. Avoid the hard sell. The Millennial craves personalization and collaboration.

Millennials are spending all of their time online, so online advertising is a no-brainer, right? So wrong. Only 6% of Millennials consider online advertisements to be credible. OuchThe Millennial’s trust is hard to come by, so put an end to the hard sell. Brands are finding empowerment through social media influencers – a more down-to-earth, relatable way to tell their stories. Add those stories with a chance to collaborate with customers through personalization, and you’ve got a winning recipe to gaining The Millennial’s business.

A brand keeps my interest when they share insight about their industry or stories about their products (they’re not just pushing products on me). Brands build trust with me through transparency and relationships. If I have a positive, personal interaction with a brand, I’m going to remember it and tell someone about it. Sharing in our generation comes at a premium – we value our time and our space.

Jeff T. | SAGE Graphic Designer


Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign really sticks out to me as a great example of personalization. It was a success because it was something you could share through social media, it was personal, and let people share their stories. I find it frustrating when companies compete for my business but don’t take into consideration what I want to share with others. Our social media sharing generation wields a lot of power, so if a brand can personalize my experience, they’ll keep my attention.

Estefania L. | SAGE Graphic Designer


I haven’t subscribed to cable TV in the past 4 years. You know why? Netflix. It’s no surprise that this mega-media-conglomerate has won the hearts of many millennials, but what makes me stick around for more is their tailored approach to enhancing my user experience. As soon as I log into my Netflix account, I’m greeted with a list of movies only I would find interesting.

Yuliya D. | SAGE Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Don’t underestimate The Millennial’s dedication to social causes.

We really don’t have to give examples of tarnished companies with bad corporate social responsibility because you already know them, you’ve read the horror stories, and then took some sort of action. That action for some of the previous generations is often to file away the “bad press,” whereas Millennials will immediately abandon those companies and take their business elsewhere.

Authenticity is paramount to Millennials, with 72% of them willing to spend more on brands that support causes they care about.

I want to know I’m getting the best product for my money and that I’m not being wasteful or harmful to the environment, people, or animals. I do my research, and if a company has a good product, is transparent, and practices social responsibility, they have my loyalty.

Rebecca H. | SAGE Marketing & Advertising Supervisor


Looking for a better understanding of Millennials and all of our quirks? The Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) has you covered with some extensive research. Here’s one of their infographics full of “Millennialisms.”


CMO: 15 Mind-Blowing Stats About Millennials
Bazaar Voice: Millennials Trust People Over Brands
Social Chorus: Millennials as Brand Advocates
Forbes: The Power Of User-Generated Content And Reviews Stimulates Millennial Purchase Behavior
PPAI: Diversity & Engagement

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