Going To The Chapel Of Millennials

Spring is in full bloom; summer’s right around the corner.

’Tis the season of the wedding industry, when retailers and brands of all shapes and sizes are jockeying for position — like unattached female wedding guests hoping to catch the bridal bouquet — to get a piece of the myriad commerce elements that surround the heartwarming, time-honored tradition of eternal love pledged between a couple of people in their late-40s.

Did that picture kind of lose its focus for you at the end there?

In all honesty, for two people of any age (provided both are north of the age of consent) — 40s, 50s, 30s, 90s — who wish to get married and do so is an absolutely wonderful thing for them. Whether it’s a bride’s and/or groom’s (or bride’s and/or bride’s or groom’s and/or groom’s) first trip down the aisle or twelfth, far be it for us to deny the fact that you cannot put an age limit on marriage.

When it comes to the wedding ceremony, though, you absolutely can put a price on it.

From a retail industry perspective, while the wedding of two middle-aged people is as blessed an event as any other, the specifics of such an occasion do not occur at a frequency that would justify a company building its business model around it.

You know what age group is getting married willy-nilly, however? Everybody’s favorite: millennials.

With a large portion of them now in their late-20s, the (collective) veritable Ark of the Covenant of consumer demographics for retailers has entered the sweet spot of the current median age for marriage in the U.S.

This presents a major opportunity for businesses that have any degree of overlap with the marriage industry (or even any who want one). They range from specialty retailers — many of whom already have a millennial audience but are now priming themselves to take advantage of that group’s wedding boom — to larger, more established companies, like Macy’s — whose average shopper age, Fortune notes, is 46 — that are turning their focus specifically to millennial wedding commerce in the hopes of building their own (non-romantic) long-term relationship with that prized demographic.

For all of these retailers with millennial marriages on their minds, there are a number of factors to consider in establishing a strategy to win those consumers’ hands in commerce.


What’s the “Real” Average Wedding Cost?

Yes, we know how averages work. The Knot used math to determine its most recent average cost of a wedding in the U.S. as just north of $32,000 — including the venue at about $14,000, the engagement ring at $5,000 and the dress at around $1,600.

However, given the fact that not every bride-to-be, for example, has the luxury of being Melania Trump and can shell out $125,000 for a wedding gown, there obviously exist wide-ranging price point extremes at both ends of the nuptial cost spectrum.

As Claire Daniels of Urbannella Bridal recently told PYMNTS: “[There are] brides that are paying $100,000 for couture gowns and brides that are coming in and paying $500 or less.” Thus her conclusion: “For every Kim Kardashian who gets married for a million, there have to be a lot of brides who get married for less than $100 to balance the average at $30,000.”

Given that the average millennial — just like the average member of any demographic (see? we’re great at averages) — is not a millionaire but millennials are, as aforementioned, currently getting married at a greater rate than any other consumer group, their generally DIY and tech-centric inclinations are essentially providing brands and retailers with a roadmap for making big bucks not from the single average of a relatively low-cost millennial marriage ceremony but from a lot of them at once.


Capturing Millennial Brides and Grooms

Many companies are finding that the best way to reach millennials that are planning to head down the aisle is, by no coincidence, through their hearts — specifically, their love of technological convenience.

The online wedding gift registry Zola has been employing that tactic for a couple of years now, using its entirely digital operation to sell to engaged millennials (or, actually, to their friends and loved ones who make the purchases) less of the old-school, tactile wedding gifts, like Cuisinart food processors, and more experience-driven products, like wine tastings, cooking classes or help with a down payment on a home.

Zola CEO and Cofounder Shan-Lyn Ma told Forbes that the service “is also different in the way we make life easier for busy couples through our experiences online and on mobile. Couples can easily control when their gifts are shipped, mark items as group gifts, virtually exchange gifts and pull in any item from any store online into their Zola registry.”

Not to be outdone, larger retailer players are ramping up their digital efforts to appeal to millennial brides and grooms.

For example, Best Buy, in promoting its online wedding registry following its launch last year, made no secret of its intended target audience with the headline, “The Millennial Wedding: Bring On The Tech.”

Meanwhile, Amazon — although it has operated a wedding registry for eight years, notes Internet Retailer — revamped that offering last month to include features like a gift-giver tracker, the ability to add products from non-Amazon sites to the registry and a gift guide — making the Amazon Wedding Registry, in the words of a company statement, “simple, modern, fresh and more relevant to millennial couples and their evolving needs.”


Getting An Invite (To The Registry)

Although to be the last remaining guest at a wedding — perhaps trying to get “YMCA” going for the umpteenth time, while even the bride and groom are attempting to leave — is widely viewed as a social faux pas, “overstaying their welcome” is actually a deliberate goal for brands when it comes to marriages; i.e., one that finds its way onto a couple’s wedding registry could earn lifelong loyalty from those consumers.

As the bridal registrations tracking service Bridal Monitor puts it: “Many brands see their first exposure to new households as wedding gifts. This is where true brand awareness and loyalty begin. Brand investments at this stage of consumers’ lives can result in [decades-long] returns in repeat purchase and brand loyalty.”

While Bridal Monitor sounds like it might not be a lot of fun at a wedding reception (although it can probably do “the robot”), the point made by the company rings true.

KitchenAid, for one, knows it; earlier this year, as The Huffington Post shared, the company began rolling out appliances specifically targeted to just-married millennials.

How can an upstart brand — or, perhaps even more pressingly, an established brand that is at risk of being viewed as outdated by younger generations — secure a position on millennials’ wedding registries, thus increasing its chances of becoming a part of couples’ homes for life?

Even if a retailer doesn’t have the traditional advertising juice of, say, a Macy’s or a Bed Bath & Beyond or a JCPenney (three of the “top bridal registry brands” last year, according to Bridal Guide) — or, heck, even if it does — social media is where it should be focusing its efforts anyway, because on social is where millennials live.

Getting its name out on Twitter, on Snapchat, on Instagram and — especially when it comes to being associated with weddings — absolutely, positively on Pinterest can put a brand front and center in the eyes of millennials that are planning their weddings … and that could very well lead to a lifelong commitment between company and consumer.

That’s something that could be especially beneficial to those brands when millennials are middle-aged and getting remarried.


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