The secret to connecting with Millennials online? Give ’em something to talk about — and post, tweet, like and share.

A panel discussion on the online lives of the Millennial consumer returned several times to the importance of engaging with consumers in the social media sphere and giving them tools to connect in a way that serves the brand.

Katrina Lake, founder and chief executive officer of Stitch Fix, stressed the importance of storytelling and personalization. The Next-Gen retailer links customers with personal shoppers, who choose and send them five items that match their style.

“When you get a ‘fix’ of five things, those things were picked out just for you; you’re getting a note from a stylist that explains why you got certain things,” Lake said. “The fix itself is a conversation. [And on social media] you’re looking for feedback from your friends. You want guidance on what you should keep and what looks good on you. The fix itself is a way for [the stylist] to engage the customer and to have her engage her network and her friends.”

Lake said the company thinks hard about how it can help stimulate conversation around its products.
That social interaction also has to fit in easily with a brand’s other online efforts, said Milton Pappas, president of e-commerce at The Jones Group Inc.

“Millennials…really want seamless integration across all these [digital] channels,” Pappas said. “It’s really about how, if I can start a transaction on my mobile device, I may go to my iPad, I may go to my desktop, but then I want to have multiple options of how I want to get that product. Can I buy online and pick it up in the store? How can I get more information from my [social network] with sharing and advice.”

And all of these changes are starting to change who’s in charge.

Matthew Berglass, president of executive search firm Berglass + Associates, said the importance of digital is helping to push marketing know-how to the fore. 

“For a long time, consumer products, apparel, soft goods were merchant driven,” Berglass said. “[Now] the marketing role has emerged as a key role. The chief marketing officer’s not only a different type of person; I think it’s a person who we’re seeing transition into leadership roles, chief executive officer roles.”

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