The millennial generation is made up of the last two decades of the twentieth century – the first generation to grow up with the internet. Also known as Generation Y, these people range from secondary school children to adults just starting families.

Unlike the previous generation that worked long hours and were focused on achieving a certain status in their job, millennials expect flexible working hours and are more likely to leave a company if it is not interesting or does not motivate them.

Appealing to a younger generation with a short attention span can be difficult for retailers, as this tech-savvy lot are almost desensitised to advertising campaigns and are fully aware of how to turn off and remove intrusive adverts.

Yet in 2013, UK consumers made 150 million purchases via affiliate websites – three for every British adult – totalling £13 billion. This means that online performance marketing now drives about 10% of all UK e-commerce retail sales, a fairly significant figure.

So what does the milliennial generation make of affiliate marketing?

Live to work or work to live?

The millennial generation likes an easy life – perhaps why almost three-quarters of them own a smartphone – and 37% of them say they would ideally buy everything online. Despite being a generation that wants the latest technology as soon as possible, they are still happy to shop around for the best deals online and this includes affiliate websites.

For retailers that are embracing all things multichannel this is excellent news, because they are already reaching out to millennials across multiple channels; all they need to do is make sure that their performance marketing content is appealing for the under 30s.

Of course this is by no means an easy task, as millennials are used to constant connectivity and highly engaging content; they also expect information and offers to be easy to find and immediately available for use.

More importantly, as fewer millennials use laptops to browse the web, preferring to shop on-the-go from their mobile devices, affiliate sites need to be just as sharp and clear when viewed on a smartphone or tablet.

Online on the go

Constant connectivity gives this generation continuous access to the internet and the ability to purchase anywhere, anytime. One report by Cisco found that more than half of Gen Y students could not live without the internet. Surprisingly thrifty, this generation knows that there are countless product offers on the internet and rather than buying direct from a specific brand, they seek out the best deals elsewhere, using price comparison engines, review sites etc.

Even once a millennial has compared all available deals for the product they want, they will research further to see if they can find a code or voucher to reduce the price even further, before eventually buying the product through a cashback website.

Out and about, this generation will find a voucher or check-in using Foursquare to see if there are offers available as certain retailers are already using performance marketing to target users based on keywords or check-ins.

The irony is that this ‘must have it now’ generation is contributing to the world of affiliate marketing by its smart and savvy saving mindset, as well as its need to share everything with everyone. A staggering 95% of millennials expect brands to work for their business by offering vouchers or discounts and are unlikely to buy anything without first checking to see if an offer is available. Loyalty sites are therefore very popular with this generation who are likely to choose products based on cost rather than brand.

In fact, the annual Online Performance Marketing study showed that more than half of British adults have visited a price comparison website in the last six months and 90% admit to using vouchers and redeeming points to reduce the price of items.

Share and share a ‘like’

Another way that affiliates can capitalise on the shopping habits of the millennial generation is through social media. Millennials are used to a community and the practice of engaging in brand conversations on Facebook and Twitter.

They also follow influential blogs on fashion, sport and the arts as they rely on the opinions of other consumers; any site with user-generated content, e.g. blogs, reviews and comments, can be more influential than a brand, particularly if it is impartial and unique. If someone finds an interesting blog, or has a good or bad experience with a company, they usually share it on social media, which immediately influences friends and followers.

What affiliates need to do is ensure that they have a strong presence on social media, especially as millennials are three times as likely as Baby Boomers to turn to social media to find experts on product offers and discounts.

Talking about my generation

As the millennial generation have grown up with technology, retailers need to be targeting them in a variety of ways to successfully engage with them. As well as location-based advertising and interaction on social media, affiliate marketing offers a significant advantage because this generation are so keen to find a bargain.

These days there are so many different ways for consumers to find content and save money that advertisers can improve their ROI through an affiliate programme. Almost 60% of people will return to a retailer that they only came across through an affiliate site, making it extremely cost-effective.

The way that millennials shop is influencing the e-commerce world by forcing brands to consider alternative possibilities such as performance marketing via mobile and social media in order to target this generation. Campaigns also need to be engaging if brands want to appeal to a millennial’s instinct to share anything they find interesting with their friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter etc.

What retailers really need to remember is this generation expects content to be social, honest and engaging. As millennials have the entire World Wide Web at their fingertips – and within five years are set to become the generation with the most spending power – retailers and affiliates need to start appealing to them.