Ready to speak Gen Y’s language? Millennial buyers and end-users want a lot from brands, including sustainable practices, products that last for the long term, great service, a track record of giving back and more. When you pitch decorated apparel to these buyers, you need to give them exactly what they want to score loyal customers for life. Here are 6 ways to bond with the generation that makes up the biggest portion of the world’s population.
#1 PITCH ECO-FRIENDLY APPAREL
Millennials prefer to buy clothes, workout gear and accessories from companies that use sustainable practices and materials—and share that eco-friendly message. Here’s a powerful stat: 73% of Millennials buy eco-conscious products and are willing to pay more to support environmentally conscious businesses, according to a Nielsen report.
The good news? There are many wholesale brands offering top-quality, eco-friendly apparel. And in turn, your Millennial buyers can feel good about gifting or selling these branded products, adding to their company’s Earth-focused mission.
Smartphones and tablets have radically shifted Millennials’ browsing and buying experience. When asked how they planned to make their next purchase, 81% of Gen Y said they’d buy online vs. 11% who’d visit a physical retail store to complete the transaction.
What to do today: It’s important to work with mills that produce apparel sustainably and ethically. If you don’t know much about your shortlisted suppliers’ production process, now’s the time to find out. Ask lots of questions—and do your own research so you can pass that knowledge onto your Millennial buyers.
Also, keep in mind what kind of apparel you’re sourcing and pitching. Is it organic? Is it made from recycled materials? Yes, your clients are paying attention, so give them a solid selection of eco-friendly apparel from suppliers doing their part to be environmentally conscious.
Plus, in your marketing, share important details about your Mother Earth-friendly apparel so your customers get even more excited to buy their decorated garb from your shop. Here are a few ways some of our favorite suppliers are acting sustainably:
- We love BELLA+CANVAS’s USA Strong initiative, where the team dyes and cuts all materials in the company’s Los Angeles-based factories. In addition, the company’s facilities are Blue Sign System Certified, signifying they offer the most eco-friendly products on the market. BELLA+CANVAS takes it a step further by using special machines that use seven times less water than traditional dyeing processes. This allows the mill to save 24 million gallons of water every week!
Millennial buyers gravitate toward more expensive, premium brands, since they prefer to use products longer without needing to replace them.
- Hanes, always with an eye on environmental stewardship, has a new sustainability initiative called Crop to Campus that’s focused on Millennials. The apparel giant opened its doors to three college students and gave them full access to its supply chain from crop to campus. You can follow their journey, from locally owned cotton fields in North Carolina to company-owned, energy efficient facilities El Salvador, to see exactly what goes into manufacturing a responsibly made T-shirt.
What to say to your Millennial customers: “We prefer to work with suppliers that are transparent about their manufacturing and sourcing processes. That way, if they make any changes to their materials or processes, you’ll be the first to know from us, and can decide how to proceed from there with your sourcing decisions.”
#2 SHOW PREMIUM STYLES
Millennial buyers gravitate toward more expensive premium and retail brands, since they prefer to use products longer without needing to replace them. In other words, they don’t want the ultra-basic tee that gets tossed into a landfill after a few wears.
While you should always offer a “good-better-best” selection around your client’s budget, focus on offering “better” and “best” quality garments. For example, let’s say a Millennial buyer at a tech company asks you for an outfitting proposal that includes a polo, a midweight layering piece and a jacket. Since Gen Y values quality, during your pitch, point out that premium or retail styles get worn more often and score their brand many more impressions than a cheaper garment.
To make it easier for our clients to know which of our many brands to pitch to clients, we’ve categorized them into easy-to-view groupings like “Corporate Cool,” “Corporate Classic,” “Performance Classic,” “Uniform/Work” and “Fashion.” Returning to our example, many of our clients pitch brands like Marmot, Spyder, Dri Duck, North End and Threadfast from our “Corporate Cool” category to more cutting-edge industries like tech.
What to do today: Make it a practice to pitch premium or retail garments designed for a lifetime of washes and wears. Whether it’s T-shirts or fleece, you can offer buyers styles that offer:
- performance features like moisture wicking, hydrophilic finishes, UPF protection, antimicrobial and wrinkle resistance
- upscaled or eco-friendly fabrications that are super soft and take prints well. Check out some styles from eco-friendly brand Threadfast.
- comfort-focused fits and silhouettes to fit this year’s work-at-home lifestyle. Show your clients Burnside Men’s Plaid Flannel Shirt (B8210) and Ladies’ Plaid Boyfriend Flannel Shirt (B5210).
- upstyled details like color blocking and special hardware like zipper pulls and drawcord ends. We like these color-blocked styles from Extreme: Men’s Eperformance™ Fuse Snag Protection Plus Colorblock Polo and Ladies’ Eperformance™ Fuse Snag Protection Plus Colorblock Polo and from Dri Duck: Men’s Denali Fleece Pullover Jacket (7352) and Men’s Horizon Jacket (5089)
What to say to your Millennial customers: “When you invest in a premium or retail garment, wearers immediately perceive the polo or jacket as being higher quality and higher value. They’re excited to wear a garment that looks and feels great, and they’re reminded of your brand every time they reach for it. This really increases your marketing ROI.”
#3 MAKE IT EASY TO PURCHASE ONLINE
Smartphones and tablets have radically shifted the Gen Y browsing and buying experience. When asked how they planned to make their next purchase, 81% of Millennials said they’d buy online (laptop or desktop computer, 32%; smartphone, 25%; and tablet, 24%) vs. 11% who’d visit a physical retail store to complete the transaction, according to a UPS report.
What to do today: It’s time to say good-bye to a clunky online buying experience. Use our handy checklist to audit your website to see if it’s optimized for an easy ordering experience on a computer or a mobile device:
It’s important to work with mills that produce apparel sustainably and ethically. If you don’t know much about your suppliers’ production process, now’s the time to find out.
✓ Does your site read 2020 or 1994? Younger buyers especially judge your site by how it looks and operates. This is the time to invest in good graphics and a user-approved online ordering experience.
✓ Do your online selling tools feel current? Check out providers like InkSoft, Printavo, OrderMyGear, DecoNetwork and Spirt Sale that offer great software solutions for decorators that make ordering a breeze. In addition, are you using additional prompts like product recommendation and abandoned cart reminders?
✓ How long does it take to load? If your site doesn’t load in seconds from your customer’s laptop, smartphone or tablet, you’re in trouble. Use this free Google tool to test your site loading speed.
✓ Do customers know what to do? Translation: When a buyer comes to your site, is it easy for her to figure out exactly how to place an order? If she needs extra help, can she quickly connect to a human via a chat box, email or a quick call?
✓ How do clients find your site? Do you use SEO? Do you share with customers how easy it is for them to order online? Do you constantly add new content so buyers find you online? Do your reps promote your company on social media like the post below?
What to say to your Millennial customers: “We’ve made it super-easy for you to order online from us. Want to take a quick tour of how intuitive it is? We can do it together or you can watch this video tour. But don’t worry, since we want you to also enjoy a personalized buying experience, one of our customer service reps is literally a chat, text, email or call away.”
#4 OFFER AMAZING CUSTOMER SERVICE
Here’s a customer service stat to take seriously: 74% of Millennials say they’ll switch to a different provider if they have a negative customer service experience. However, the great news is that they’re also more likely to share positive customer experiences than negative ones, according to American Express.
What to do today: Take a good, hard look at the customer service experience your business offers. Here are some areas to review.
✓ How quickly do you respond? Speed’s one of the most important factors in top-notch customer service. How fast does your team respond to chats, texts, emails or phone calls?
✓ Do you use your customer’s first name? This sounds like a small thing, but it’s actually a huge way to add a personal touch to a buyer’s experience with you whether it’s via email or on the phone. Millennials love personalization, so when you understand their wants and needs when they call, you’re creating a customer for life.
✓ Can they reach you the way they want to? Millennials want to be able to contact you via instant messenger, text messaging, emails and phone calls, so make sure you’ve got all those channels open and active.
✓ How quickly do you solve problems? If a customer has an issue with an order or an in-hand date, what’s your policy for rectifying the situation? Do you go above and beyond to solve it so you wow them?
✓ Do you send thank-you gifts? Dimensional marketing goes a long way these days, when you pack a 3-D promo item like a pen or even a T-shirt, with your holiday card or “thank you for being a great client” note.
✓ Do you take your client’s temperature? Ask your clients how you’re doing after every order. After all, 67% of Millennials believe they have a responsibility to share feedback with a brand about their experience, according to Edelman.
What to say to your Millennial customer: “We want to build a long-term relationship with you and your clients. That’s why we prioritize our customer experience and want you to be 100% satisfied. You can reach a rep for help via instant messenger, chat, email or phone and get a near-real-time response.”
#5 GET ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Gen Y is uber-comfortable with online socializing via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, among other platforms. This makes them one of the most connected generations that loves to find and share knowledge online.
The bottom line? Brands that choose to be active on social media and educate buyers engage Millennials way more than those that don’t. In fact, 83% of Millennials find online content useful in making purchasing decisions.
We make it easier for our clients to share exciting news about our brands via our Digital Lounge, where you can get grab-and-go social posts, great images and compelling videos that you can immediately use on your social channels.
Bonus: We just updated our content! Click here to find new posts like this one.
What to do today: Are you regularly posting relevant and compelling content to your business’ social media pages regularly to stay top of mind with clients and prospects? Creating a social media calendar is the easiest way to stay connected online. Here are five steps to get started.
Step 1: Brainstorm content ideas with your team that will appeal to your target audience. This can include the questions they ask you the most often or even how you’ve helped businesses like theirs. Featuring customer testimonials or how you’ve helped others solve their marketing dilemmas goes a long way with Millennials. Another thing to keep in mind? A majority of Gen Y expect companies to publicly commit to charitable causes and good citizenry, so share those efforts on social media, too.
Step 2: Decide what social channels you can commit to being active on and how often you’ll post.
Step 3: Use a spreadsheet or Google calendar to map out your content: copy, images and videos.
Step 4: Choose how you’ll schedule your content. You can use an aggregator tool like HootSuite or SproutSocial. Or, if you plan to post to Facebook and Instagram, you can use Facebook’s Creator Studio to schedule everything out.
Step 5: Respond to your followers who comment on your social posts. And of course, monitor your engagement levels so you can tweak your future content.
What to say to your Millennial customer: “We’re really active on Facebook and Instagram. Join us on our channels! You can check out some ways we help other businesses like yours. And, we even show you how we screen print T-shirts and even give you a behind-the-scenes look at how much fun we have.”
Connecting with Gen Y buyers should be at the top of your list. At least 60% of Millennials remain loyal to brands, according to Forbes, so it’s worth the time and effort you’ll put in to show them you care.
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Laurie is part of the marketing team for the leading supplier in the industry, alphabroder. During her free time, Laurie likes to ride horses, sail and spend time with her husband and her two children. Reach her at Lprestine@alphabroder.com