The youngest millennials (age 18-24) rated their mobile phones as indispensable to their daily lives (96%), that’s higher than TV (54%), a car (80%), Internet access (88%) or their toothbrush (93%), according to a recent study from Bank of America on Trends in Consumer Mobility.

Millennials are more likely than any other age group to use mobile phones as their only Internet-enabled device. According to stats from comScore, 18% of millennials (ages 18-34) are mobile only web users, compared to only 5% of people ages 35-54.

So what can advertisers do to capture the attention of this crucial demographic group and speak to them in ways that are authentic and relevant? Here are 3 core tactics:

1. Choose the right channels

Millennials, especially young millennial teenagers, are often an elusive audience for mobile advertisers — it can be hard to find the right channels to reach them. Young millennials want exclusivity from adults and they tend to isolate themselves intentionally from social media that they perceive as being too popular with their parents’ generation. Even though Facebook is the world’s most popular social media site, it is losing millennials. According to the 2014 Facebook Demographic Report from iStrategyLabs, during 2011-2014, Facebook saw a 25.3% decline in users aged 13-17 and a 7.5% decline in users aged 18-24.

Mobile advertisers also need to remember that teenagers’ peak time of day for smartphone use is exactly the opposite of people in their 20s and 30s. Young millennials don’t talk about their latest favorite social apps with adults. So advertisers need to focus on trending channels and keep their eyes on where millennials are moving.

And an app that teenagers think is cool today might suddenly become obsolete tomorrow. So advertisers need to stay agile and be ready to move with the audience.

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2. Use mobile marketing to deliver tangible value

Millennials love to shop in stores, and smartphones are essential to the millennial in-store shopping experience – a study from Merchant Warehouse found that 69% of millennials use their mobile devices to read product reviews online, and 50% check in with location-based mobile apps to get store discounts.

However, even when millennials go to stores, they don’t always buy. According to stats from the NPD Group, millennials have the lowest in-store conversion rate of any age group, only making a purchase 57% of the time that they’re in a store (compared to 66% for Gen X, 69% for Boomers, and 72% for Seniors). In part, this is because millennials tend to be more price-sensitive – millennials’ purchasing power as a group is significant, but individual millennial consumers and households are often struggling with high levels of debt and lack of disposable income. This is an opportunity for mobile advertisers to deliver more tangible value to millennials while they are in the store.

Millennials don’t stop texting while shopping. They are constantly searching for information on products and prices — there is no information asymmetry anymore. Advertisers should embrace this reality and offer geo-located mobile ads to offer instant discounts, coupons, or product information to help millennials make a well-informed purchase.

3. Provide meaningful intangible value

Tangible value like coupons is a start, but you won’t reach millennials (especially young millennial teenagers) unless you also provide meaningful intangible value — emotional connection and a sense of fun. If it’s not fun, it can’t be cool. Traditional online ads and mobile ads are not fun at all, and teenagers ignore them.

Teenagers’ sense of fun might be as simple as the sense of freedom that they get from Snapchat, where everything is ephemeral — kids can send photos to each other even if they are silly or risqué — and those images disappear almost immediately. Snapchat has opened up a new intangible way for teens to have fun online, which adults might never have imagined.

Mobile advertisers need to take a lesson here. One example might be to do more in-app gamification, similar to what is available on platforms like Kiip, where advertisers can engage audiences by rewarding them for completing levels of a game or for achieving certain real-life accomplishments. Another example is an app network called SessionM, where advertisers like Nike reward consumers for engaging with their ads — the goal is to give people some intangible value in exchange for their attention, instead of merely interrupting the consumer’s experience like a traditional pop-up ad.

Mobile technology will continue to evolve, and millennials will be at the forefront. These digital natives have been early adopters and adapters of every digital technology trend since the web first developed. Companies need to keep looking for ways to build trust, create emotional connections, and deliver tangible and intangible value to millennials online and in stores.

Luke Ahn is the CEO of Fronto, an Android mobile app that just launched for the lock screen.


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