With millennials accounting for over $1 trillion in spending in the US, the world's largest consumer generation is the topic of much conversation. But a new report confirms age is less important than life stage when it comes to determining their preferences and behaviours. 

The research "#marketingtomillennials: A guide to understanding today's millennials" from Texas-based marketing agency Epsilon claims the key to marketing to millennials is to let go of the idea that they are different.

By focusing on millennials as a general group, Epsilon says, retailers are potentially failing to cultivate life-long customers.

It sets out five key takeaways to guide companies towards successful marketing to millennials:

  • Forget targeting to millennials as a group

Epsilon says brands cannot hope to reach millennials with large-scale generalisations and should instead target them individually based on life stage and what they like, who they are and what they do. This group expects relevant, timely messaging – so retailers need to understand who they are, what they prefer and what life stage they are in.

  • Employ one-to-one strategies

The evolution of digital marketing strategies, techniques and tools now allows for one-to-one marketing. Epsilon claims successful brands are not just segmenting; they are creating "segments of one" to send personalised offers and messaging.

  • Millennials will grow up; don't dismiss where they are now

Just because those in multi-family dwellings are not yet home-owners, they will be one day, and Epsilon says just because millennials may not be a retailer's target population right now, it doesn't hurt to start cultivating relationships.

  • Even though millennials have less income than older generations, they still have buying power

And their power is perhaps even more influential because of their social media use. Epsilon encourages brands using social media channels and direct mail to create valuable long-term relationships.

  • The key is to embrace individual customers holistically

Brands need to be savvy enough to navigate a customer-base that is ageing. Epsilon recommends thinking about the customer experience and understanding how technology, combined with data and messaging, can play a role in driving conversions.

Epsilon says the primary myth of the millennials is that they're all the same, adding it's common to treat millennials like they are a foreign species, worthy of completely new and drastic tactics.

And it's a suggestion that has been heard before. In May, Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group, said: "Many retailers fail to understand is that not all millennials are created equal. Depending on lifestyle and life stage, millennials could be more – or less – likely to buy your brand."

Age not the only way to connect with consumers

Similarly, a study by AT Kearney and The NPD Group, 'Age Isn't Everything', found lifestyle, life stage and the shopper's general attitude towards fashion are all key to predicting behaviour.

Research earlier this summer also noted millennial consumers want more than just good products: they want brands that make a positive difference.

Social responsibility key to connecting with millennials