Millennials take and consume thousands of photos and many of those photos contain the products they want to buy.

Oliver Tan, ViSenze

Oliver Tan, CEO, ViSenze

Have you noticed how millennials seem to have an abbreviation for everything? Most of us know LOL, IDK, BRB, TMI, and LMK. But how about “^5” (high five), “2M2H” (too much to handle), “BIB” (boss is back), “SSIF” (so stupid it’s funny), or my personal favorite among acronyms, “UNA” (use no acronyms). Most millennials don’t even use words to say what they mean… they have thousands of emoticons to choose from. ‍

Social Media & Social Status

This is a generation that doesn’t waste time on things that don’t interest them and they are driven to find the next cool thing. Millennials are the first digital natives (i.e. the internet has been available throughout their lifetimes) and so they have always had access to an incredible amount of information. And perhaps because of this, their social status is often tied to the knowledge of what is trending.

This obsession with trends and urgency has a name and of course an acronym: “FOMO.” Fear of missing out.

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Millennials will always use the tools that are most efficient for discovery, and marketers must adapt to their expectation of speed and preference for photos and videos.

Millennials must be connected at all times because trends no longer lasts months; the lifetime of some trends can be measured in hours. This is especially true when it comes to clothing and accessories (more on this in a minute).

Visual Communication is Critical for Millennials

The proliferation of social media is a result (or cause?) of the millennial FOMO psychology. Facebook made sharing ideas and discoveries easy. Millennials jump started it then abandoned it for platforms with faster and shorter content, like the 140 characters of Twitter. Remember though, this group is highly visual; so they quickly took to Instagram.

They still love Instagram, but perhaps the quintessential millennial social media tool to date is Snapchat. It combined visual content, instant sharing, and the privacy that all teenagers want. And use it they did. According to new research from SGC, 78 percent of high school and college students say they use Snapchat daily. 70 percent use it six times a day; over half use it more than eleven times a day.

Marketers are still trying to recover from the shock of learning that many 16-year-olds have sent 50,000, 60,000, or 70,000 Snapchats in a couple of years. Using Snapchat, millennials have a minute-by-minute update on what their friends are doing. That is unprecedented engagement, but makes perfect sense when you understand FOMO. Now every business and marketer is trying to figure out their Snapchat strategy (although by the time they do, millennials may have left the platform for whatever’s next).

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The platforms and tools may change, but the desire for inspiring visual content that makes them see and feel will not. Millennials will always use the tools that are most efficient for discovery, and marketers must adapt to their expectation of speed and preference for photos and videos. The logical evolution of discovery for millennials is through visuals, so for an industry as visual as fashion and accessories, it’s a no-brainer. Some early applications are already live in Pinterest Lens, Amazon’s Firefly app, Shutterstock, and (now largely defunct) Google Glasses.

Visual Search Will Pay Dividends for the Fashion Industry

The ability for millennials to use images instead of keywords to find items they seek to purchase will pay dividends for the fashion industry. Keywords can not do the job. Clothing and accessories don’t always have brand names readily visible and identifiable, nor is the language of the industry used in product descriptions (styles, fabrics, etc.) well understood, making visual content ideal for rapid discovery, increased conversions, and greater revenue.

Millennials take and consume thousands of photos and many of those photos contain the products they want to buy. The ability to upload photos from their phones to visual search engines offered by retailers will be extremely appealing to them. And with it, the time between the moment of discovery and inspiration and purchase can be seconds. It’s time to put aside drip campaigns, discount floors, and free shipping incentives and give millennials the tools they need to more quickly find the products they want to buy. By tapping into FOMO, and shortening the search process, retailers can substantially increase average order values, purchase frequency

ViSenze, based in Singapore, is a provider of visual search technology.

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