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To Sell Products to Millennials, First Invite Them To Help Develop It Young consumers have distinct patterns for developing brand loyalty, beginning when the product is just somebody's good idea.

By Christie Garton

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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With more than $1.3 trillion in direct annual spending, the millennial consumer better be on the radar of every brand considering the launch of a new product.

Millennials have an unparalleled thirst to participate and co-create with the brands they love. They are they the most digitally engaged generation, which makes them influential beyond their own purchasing power. Their need to have an active "voice" during product development is good news for companies that want to develop better-fit products and a loyal consumer base, all in one fell swoop.

Related: Marketing to Millennials? Make It Personal and Customized.

Consumer brands thrive when they successfully tap into and channel the millennial desire for product development participation. Focus on these three tips to better conduct and utilize effective market research with influential millennial consumers.

1. Understand their motivators. As a millennial, I know first-hand how much our generation desires to have a "voice" in the world. Thanks to the technological advances over the past decade, we have more vocal power than generations that came before. From presidential campaigns to regime changes in the Middle East to new product design, millennials are changing the course of "business as usual."

From our research, we know that millennials average 200 more friends on Facebook than older generations. They are more likely to use social media to express their feelings and opinions. All of that makes them more influential by increasing their ability to spread the word farther and faster.

As consumers, millennials' purchasing decisions are also more likely to be influenced by what their peers have to say. It's critical for companies to figure out how to be a part of these conversations. One way is to ask millennials to help "co-create" the products they want.

2. Use the right tools and techniques. Online surveys and community engagement strategies (i.e., posting questions on Facebook or Twitter) are some the best and most cost-effective tools for conducting market research with millennial consumers.

Related: Millennial Misconceptions: How You're Totally Wrong About This Generation

From my research, millennials like to weigh-in on the market research process, another example of their desire to have a say in the world. Whether it's simply positioned as an "exclusive opportunity" to be a part of a new product launch or tied to an incentive like a gift card, millennials are open to being engaged in this manner.

Better yet, figure out a way to follow up with them for additional feedback once the product has launched. Asking "did we get it right?" opens the door for additional engagement and feedback that benefits future product development, and strengthens your relationship with those millennial consumers.

3. Be transparent. When it comes to product development, the desire for instant gratification in the digital age can make the millennial consumers' expectation quite high.

If something goes wrong – and yes, even Facebook can get it wrong at times – millennials are more likely to share their angst on social media. Because of their larger and stronger social networks, their despair can travel wide and far, becoming viral within a few hours of the first unhappy Tweet. Companies can manage these higher expectations by being transparent from the start of the product development process.

Millennials are a powerhouse generation. If your company can successfully harness their enthusiasm, passion for innovation and desire to co-create, you'll develop a strong, loyal following that will positively impact your bottom line.

Related: Millennials Check Their Phones 43 Times a Day. This Is What They're Looking For. (Infographic)

Christie Garton

Founder of 1,000 Dreams Fund

Christie Garton is an award-winning social entrepreneur, author and creator of the 1,000 Dreams Fund (1000dreamsfund.org), a social enterprise which empowers young women in the U.S. through scholarships and life-changing advice. Garton is the author of the best-selling college guidebook for women, U Chic: College Girls' Real Advice for Your First Year (& Beyond!) (4th Edition, Sourcebooks 2015) and co-author of Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever(AMACOM 2013). Garton has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post and U.S.News & World Report. She holds a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

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