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How Travel Retail Should Market To Millennials

Millennials, or Generation Y, are increasingly important to travel retail; representing 50% of travellers and more than 50% of purchases made in the industry.

June 2016 | by Garry Stasiulevicuis, Managing Director

They are also relatively easy to define: Born between the early 1980s and the year 2000 (16-35 years old in 2016), Generation Y are hyper-connected, tech-savvy multi-taskers that seek authenticity, adventure and a greater sense of brand loyalty.

Yet, despite this, millennials are surrounded by many myths and misconceptions. This can make it difficult to truly understand them – particularly as their needs and desires are very distinct and dramatically differ to the preceding Generation X, and the proceeding Generation Z.

As we move towards the era of millennials in travel retail, here are our top 5 ways to target to the industry’s largest audience:

1. Make it exclusive

Millennials do not buy ‘stuff’; they buy experiences, excitement and entertainment. Every product goes beyond the point of purchase to represent something about the buyer; be it their style, beliefs or personality.

This makes millennials a lot more likely to be brand loyal, but it does not mean their loyalty is easily won. For instance, the discounted prices and offers we see very often in travel retail can actually devalue a brand’s image as this does not address the emotion that comes with true loyalty.

Brands and retailers need to retain and deepen existing loyalty with millennial shoppers. Each touchpoint in the passenger journey is an opportunity to motivate and engage with the millennial on an emotional level. Creating a series of unique privileges, or a choice from a range of perks, conveys a special status to millennials – which is more likely to be rewarded with loyalty.

2. Be authentic

As expected from a generation that reads blog posts and news updates within the same media feed, millennials rate peer reviews and consider them a trusted source of information.

Brands have successfully connected with the authenticity and simplicity valued by millennials by portraying ‘real consumers’. This involves talking like a ‘human’, not a corporate entity, using language that connects and starts a conversation rather than a sale.

The best-case scenario is that the millennial consumer becomes an advocate for the brand – but, to do this, the brand must offer something real and tangible. Millennials wants stories, not adverts, and expect brands to be candid when it comes to their offering. This includes a sense of corporate social responsibility (CSR) – millennials may be the ‘selfie’ generation, but they also very focused on creating social change.

3. Spark conversations

Millennials are the first generation to come of age during the digital explosion. They are used to using multiple platforms and mediums to research, communicate and shop.

Identifying the right, quality content and creating meaningful relationships with millennials is crucial in an era where the technology, and the control, is already in their hands.

If the content relates to their lives, interests and needs, it’s more likely to create a dialogue between companies and consumers – particularly if it’s entertaining, or presents information in a unique way.

Lonely Planet’s user-generated content is an excellent example of this. The company invites followers to share their tried and tested travel ideas with their peers across all the major social media platforms. This ultimately drives site referrals, enhances reputation and raises the profile of Lonely Planet.

4. Work efficiently

Millennials expect to access information and services from multiple devices wherever they want, wherever they are; 72% of travellers have a Wi-Fi-enabled device with them at the airport for this reason.

These increasing expectations translate into the service they want to receive: it needs to be fast and it has to be efficient. If this isn’t delivered, millennials will quickly move on, so travel retail needs to build the relevant, omnichannel platforms to meet demands.

5. Embrace diversity

Even though this is a generation that is easy to define and group together, it’s also a generation that wishes to be individual – and treated as such.

Today’s millennials represent a diverse cultural population, which is exemplified in travel retail. This presents brands, retailers and airlines with a great opportunity to identify preferences and provide millennials with the personalised experience they desire.

A ‘natural’ variety of body types, ethnicities and differently-abled people is appreciated by millennial consumers. Brands and retailers that speak to the multi-layered nature of millennial diversity will stand out amongst the clutter of marketing noise, as it implies that they truly understand Generation Y.

Sources: CiR data base, various studies, MillwardBrown Millennials Report,

Image: Racorn