‘Millennials’ are the generation who’ve grown up online and their attitudes and behaviour are reshaping the way brands and businesses engage with consumers. Figaro Digital talks to Paige O’Neill, CMO at SDL, about targeting, loyalty and instant reward
Every post-war generation has been quietly – and sometimes noisily – convinced of its uniqueness and social significance. But the demographic labelled ‘millennial’ – loosely defined as those born between 1980 and 2000 – can claim with some authority to be living in a world dramatically different from that in which their baby boomer and generation-x antecedents grew up.
Connect to network
This is the first generation never to have known life without the internet, social media, mobile devices or instant sharing, and with new technology comes new behaviour. As millennials begin to wield greater purchase power, access to products and services takes precedence over ownership. Social media has made the line between the public and the private less distinct – and sometimes less discrete. This is a group with high expectations – of brands and employers, as well as for themselves.
Most significant of all is their constant connectedness: millennials are defined by their online networks and virtual activity. The demographic currently comprises around 20 per cent of the UK’s adult population. Since the future lies in their hands (and wallets), marketers are desperate to understand millennials’ attitudes and aspirations. So how can brands reach these unpredictable, highly aware, tech-savvy and very desirable consumers?
“Millennials expect a seamless and consistent customer experience across any device at any time,” says Paige O’Neill, CMO at SDL, which recently released a report entitled ‘Five Truths for Future Marketers’. “They also want any content delivered to them to be tailored to their needs, whether it’s personalised social networks, customised news feeds or music streams that constantly adjust to their changing tastes.”
That’s evident in SDL’s finding that 71 per cent of respondents are most likely to listen to hyper-targeted music streaming services like Spotify rather than non-targeted channels like local radio.
“Not only does the content itself have to be personalised,” says O’Neill, “it also has to reach them in the right way, which often means on social platforms. Another thing that we found is that channel preferences on social media differ according to which generation a brand is trying to reach. The baby boomer generation tend to prefer face-to-face meetings or a helpline, whereas generation-x like to contact with brands on online chat. The millennial generation is more disparate. Younger millennials like to engage on visual channels such as Pinterest, Vine and Instagram. They have a short attention span and want to watch snappy videos and have quick chats – long detailed exchanges don’t work for them at all. Marketers need to take note of this and work out the best way to engage with their different audiences.”
Social media is where the bulk of millennials’ content discovery takes place. “As many as five out of six millennials are happy to connect with companies on social networks,” says O’Neill. “These channels dramatically outpace online and customisable newsfeeds, email and search engines. Facebook is the most popular platform for content discovery in the UK. Marketers really need to get to know their millennial customers and ensure that social is integrated as a core component in their campaigns. Any content that’s going onto social channels needs to be personalised to this tricky demographic’s needs so that marketers can go about building up much needed customer trust and loyalty.”
Loyalty, of course, has always been a key plank in marketing strategy. Underpinning it is consumer commitment and repeated purchase. These generate perceived value and customer satisfaction. But for logged-in, linked up, hyper-enabled young consumers, a better offer may just be a swipe away. That means brands need to work much harder to gain and maintain consumer loyalty, particularly given current anxieties about privacy and the exploitation of data.
“A way for brands to start establishing a loyal customer base of millennials is to demonstrate greater transparency in their marketing,” says O’Neill. “Showing consumers how data is being handled and using it to offer them more can help drive loyalty. This is particularly true of US consumers, with 60 per cent of millennials happy to provide more personal data to a company they trust. However, marketers need to be mindful of how millennials across the globe react to their data being used and adapt their marketing strategies in accordance with this. Data privacy matters more to millennials in Europe than those in the US and this should influence how brands collect personal information to improve experience. Our research shows that the region most sensitive to the sharing of personal information is the Netherlands, with only 26 per cent of millennials willing to share their data.”
One of the consequences of constant connectedness is the rise of a generation primed for instant gratification. In the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it world of digital communication, it’s a sprint for brands to keep up with consumers.
“If a brand was to send a millennial an email,” says O’Neill, “it’s likely they’d see it that day – or even the very moment it was sent. This generation is constantly consuming content and sharing what they find relevant on their social channels. Marketers need to ensure content finds users on the right social platform and is appropriate to the way they want to engage. Millennials spot content almost instantaneously, and they expect brands to do the same. For these consumers, speed of response is very important when trying to engage or communicate with brands. Our research shows that instant gratification approaches – such as online technical support via chat – work well and brands need the tools to facilitate this.
“Capturing millennials’ attention can be a challenge. Marketers need to understand where consumers’ attention is directed. Since social media is often the first port of call for millennials, marketers need to look at creating content for these platforms around topics that resonate.”
Agents of change
By 2020, the youngest members of this generation will have entered adulthood, while the oldest will be approaching optimal spending power. In what other ways could they change the digital marketing landscape of the future?
“When it comes to something like purchasing power, we’ll only see this grow, particularly as this generation becomes more secure and mature in their jobs. Our research shows that 46 per cent of millennials are making over £44k a year and their purchasing power will increase as salaries grow. Given this trend, marketers need to learn how to best engage with this generation and evolve their campaigns accordingly.”
For the youngest members of this generation, traditional distinctions between channels – and even between online and offline media – may no longer make sense. Welcome to a world where users simply engage with the content they’re interested in, where and when it suits them, on their own terms, for as long as it remains relevant.
Article by Jon Fortgang
Image credit: waltarrrrr