Millennials can be demanding – they want variety, they want value for money and they want everything to be “cool”. You can see this in every high street store – from fast-fashion clothing brands, such as H&M and Zara, who are keeping them on trend at affordable prices, through to mobile phone providers, such as Carphone Warehouse, where they can select from a huge variety of contract-free monthly plans, two-year contracts, special promotions, data bundles and much more to keep in touch with their friends without breaking the bank.
For some generations, this array of choice can seem bewildering - off-putting even. For millennials, it’s required. The rise of the millennial generation is forcing brands to adapt to an entirely new consumer model in which traditional customer loyalty seems to count for much less than it used to.
The biggest generation
Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, already account for 23% of the UK population – they are even overtaking the baby boomers. This generation is changing the way everything is sold, and companies are scrambling to figure out how to connect with a group that is typically seen as indecisive, unpredictable, and reluctant to commit.
Commitment-phobes and digital natives
As mobile providers compete for market share, they are playing to this audience by eliminating contracts. In the US, T-Mobile is paying for customers to break their contracts with other providers. In the UK we see this too, with every phone provider offering more data for less – or in Three’s case, a “feel at home” package, with free roaming and calls abroad. The average millennial consumer lives in a world where change happens fast, the customer is always right, and commitment is a challenge for most – for this reason, if they can’t get the best deal with you, they won’t hesitate to go elsewhere.
And their consumer behaviour simply reflects the very different world they’ve grown up in. Twentysomethings are digital natives, socially conscious, burdened with debt, highly educated, and born of tough economic times, so brands are understandably eager to lure them in. But once you’ve snared a millennial customer, can you actually keep them?
Death to the dinosaur brands
A survey of millennials found that three-quarters choose their favourite brands differently from their parents. Most felt that they’re as brand-loyal as their parents but, crucially, companies have to work harder to earn their loyalty.
The bottom line is that these attitudes may spell certain doom to the dinosaur brands out there that aren’t willing to adapt—and tread carefully.
But it’s not all bad news. Marketing to a consumer that is increasingly hard to market to may seem like mission impossible, but it can be done. Research reveals that this audience loves to be addressed in a customised, personal way—hence the vast array of customisable options that mobile carriers provide. You must have a deep understanding of who they are and what motivates them.
Top three tips for connecting with millennials:
1. Target consumers by life stage, not age: millennials don’t follow the well-worn path of their parents. Milestones like buying a home or marriage are being postponed or skipped entirely. They view life differently, and not in a linear way. Touchstones like family, career, and identity have myriad definitions in an era where many traditional cultural mainstays are becoming fluid concepts. One 27-year-old isn’t inherently comparable to another.
2. Be relevant and engaging: Research has found that millennials are bombarded with more than 5,000 marketing messages a day. They have learned how to tune out anything that doesn’t add value—and catch their attention, quickly. They connect with brands that address them in a thought-provoking, meaningful, and genuinely helpful way.
3. Authenticity matters—a lot: Millennials connect with emotions. They are passionate about causes, and a study found that 70% said that their main reason for sharing content was that it made them laugh. Find the genuine voice for your brand and the feelings that align with it. Be true to those values. Take a point of view; don’t be a chameleon. If there’s anything millennials despise most, it’s inauthenticity.
When push comes to shove, companies may be comforted to remember that millennials aren’t the first generation to confound marketers. Baby boomers were equally puzzling in their day. Brands are going to have to work hard to get inside millennials’ heads. The key is to recognise this difference, and instead of feeling daunted by it, use this knowledge to target them in a meaningful way. However, bear in mind that this cannot be a one-off engagement; millennials need to be constantly reminded of why your brand is so much better for them than your competitor if you are to keep this generation on side.
By Tom Eggemeier, Executive Vice President of Sales, Service and Support at Genesys.
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